ANNE-ISABELLE DE BOKAY/THE HOYA

The Georgetown University Student Association senate demanded the resignations of acting President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19), Chief of Staff Aaron Bennett (COL ’19) and nine other senior staff members in a resolution passed at an emergency senate meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting of the 15 senators was called after the GUSA president, Sahil Nair (SFS ’19), resigned late Tuesday morning. The text of the resolution includes a provision that should Rahman not resign by the next meeting of the senate Sunday at 5 p.m., articles of impeachment should be introduced and debated.

Rahman and 10 GUSA senior staffers announced their resignations, effective Friday, on Tuesday morning, citing an inability to serve effectively in their roles, given the “present environment within the organization,” according to Rahman’s resignation statement, which was released on the GUSA Facebook page.

After Nair resigned late Tuesday morning, the senior staffers rescinded their resignations and said in a collective statement that “GUSA is entering a period of deep introspection and soul-searching.”

The GUSA Election Commission, which oversees student government elections, upheld the executive staff’s right to rescind their resignations in a news release Tuesday.

But at an emergency meeting of the GUSA senate Tuesday night, at least six senators said that Rahman, Bennett and other members of Nair and Rahman’s senior staff allegedly knew during the GUSA presidential campaign in February about sexual misconduct accusations against Nair but did not disclose them.

Nair did not respond to requests for comment. The Hoya reached out to Rahman and Bennett for comment.

The allegations of sexual misconduct raised at the senate meeting Tuesday repeated allegations in a letter circulated Monday among senior leadership of student groups and the GUSA senate that demanded Nair’s resignation due to the accusations that have been made.

According to the senators, Bennett briefed the senate in a private internal forum before the public senate meeting to inform them on the extent of Rahman and Bennett’s knowledge.

“The interesting part of this is those who knew prior to last Wednesday. As far as I can tell, that is limited to Aaron Bennett, chief of staff, and Naba Rahman, who is the current president,” GUSA Senator Sam Dubke (SFS ’21) said at the public senate meeting. “They knew at least in February about these allegations. Aaron Bennett spoke to as much in our prior meeting.”

According to the senators, in the earlier forum, Bennett said that Nair denied the initial allegations of misconduct raised during the election campaign and that Rahman and Bennett believed him. When the allegations resurfaced at the end of the summer, Nair was disinvited from speaking at New Student Orientation events, but Rahman and Bennett again did not disclose the allegations to the senate.

Traditionally, the GUSA president delivers a welcome address to new students during the welcome session of NSO, but Rahman delivered a speech instead of Nair this year.

At the emergency meeting Tuesday night, senators unanimously agreed that the current GUSA senior executives should no longer hold positions that represent the student body, after senators learned that Bennett and Rahman did not disclose the allegations of misconduct to anyone outside the executive senior leadership.

A majority of the senators agreed that they had lost confidence in Rahman’s and Bennett’s abilities to lead the executive and advocate for student issues, including advocacy for sexual assault prevention and student health.

GUSA Senator Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20) said Rahman and Bennett are unfit to lead.

“When faced with the ethical dilemma of being proactive about these allegations at the expense of their own campaign, they chose to conceal and withhold information, valuing their own positions over the safety of sexual assault survivors and the work of student advocates at-large,” Nugent wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I am not confident that Rahman and Bennett, when confronted with future situations like these, will make the right choice and promote the student interest when it jeopardizes their own standing in the GUSA Executive.”

GUSA Senator Chad Gasman (COL ’20) said the executive’s handling of these allegations has eliminated student trust in GUSA as a leadership and advocacy organization.

“Every senior cabinet official in GUSA needs to resign, effective immediately. What they, and everyone in GUSA, need to realize is that Georgetown doesn’t need GUSA right now; GUSA needs to earn back the trust of the Georgetown community, and that means doing deep and serious introspection,” Gasman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “If that means we don’t have a functioning Executive until February, then that’s what we need to do.”

Senators at the meeting agreed that the resignations of all the vice president and all 10 GUSA senior staffers who issued statements Tuesday morning should be upheld. In addition to Rahman and Bennett, the staffers include Communications Director William Nguyen (SFS ’20), Student Engagement Director Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) and Operations Director Elodie Currier (SFS ’19), as well as Deputy Chiefs of Staff Madison Alvarez (SFS ’21), Alejandro Garcia Escobar (SFS ’21), Emma Battle (SFS ’19), Sonali Mirpuri (COL ’20), Faye Al Saadoon (SFS ’19) and Jack Pelose (COL ’19).  

The GUSA senate will meet Sunday at 5 p.m. Until then, senators are considering their options to replace Rahman, call new elections or ask the Constitutional Council, the board that settles intra-GUSA disputes, to consider stepping in. According to the GUSA Constitution, should a president resign or leave office, the vice president assumes acting presidential duties. If the vice presidency is open, the GUSA president can appoint a new president. If both the president and vice president of GUSA are incapacitated or resign, the speaker of the GUSA senate assumes presidential duties and can appoint a new vice president with senate approval. The vice speaker of the senate would then assume the speaker’s responsibilities.

This post has been updated at 10 a.m.

Resources: Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW. If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727. On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here.

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6 Comments

  1. What is missing is a demand for not only students, but also university administration, to be investigated. Sahil Nair was disallowed from speaking at New Student Orientation–does anyone believe that Georgetown admin had no idea? Asking the students on senior exec to step down is all fine and good, but who is looking into the adults “in charge”–the forty year old men and women who may or may not have helped overlook a sexual assault.

    • The Georgetown administration cannot discuss private disciplinary cases publicly, nor do they have a hand in choosing the student body’s elected officials. What do you suggest they do beyond prohibit him as an individual from taking part in certain university-sanctioned activities?

  2. Why does the withholding of information automatically mean that there was a disregard for “the safety of sexual assault survivors and the work of student advocates at-large”? Unless it can be shown that any of these people either actively or passively participated in the alleged acts of misconduct, I have reservations about claiming that these people had an obligation to take action. If they knew the names of the alleged victims (who I believe have not come forward on their own) does this mean that they had an obligation to make those individuals’ private matters public for the victims’ own good and the good of others? Respectfully, I don’t think so.

    The situation does not present any immunity from defamation for any individual who chooses to come forward. Coming forward is a brave act and not without its own consequences. First and foremost, the individuals involved are students who presumably have a right not to have their lives scarred by a witch hunt.

    The tenor of this article begs the question…if GUSA can function without an Executive Body until February, why is an executive body necessary in the first place?

    • I think the point is more that they selectively chose to come forward now as opposed to when they first learned about the allegations. This gives the impression that they were happy to ignore other’s suffering to get elected, but then they used the victim’s suffering to oust the president and get more power themselves. They made this an issue by threatening to resign; they can’t, therefore, have it both ways.

      • I suppose that is one way of looking at it. Objectively, I have to ask the question…what would be expected of them if they did not possess conclusive proof? Assuming that none of the people that resigned had first hand knowledge of misconduct, and at best had second hand rumor and innuendo, taking any public action would likely rise to the level of defamatory conduct (pre-election). Assuming post election that they only possessed similar information, they are then caught between their fiduciary duties and their own personal interest in avoiding defamatory conduct. I am uncertain what led to the resign/crisis moment, so it is difficult to comment. I’m merely suggesting that they were each in a very difficult position as the result of a situation that they did not choose to create.

        Public opinion and mob zeal are difficult to guard against when people perceive that a wrong has been committed. Blame is quickly spread.

        Ask yourself this question, if you had merely a suggestion or a rumor regarding misconduct, would you move forward by making the rumor public when you truthfully don’t know whether the rumor is true? If you move forward, you risk certain liability, especially in light of the allegations. If you don’t and the rumor proves to be true, the public is quick to condemn and you are powerless to explain.

        This is why there is a criminal justice system. If there is true misconduct rising to the level of criminal activity, it is the obligation of the victim(s) to come forward and for the system to investigate the allegations.

        This is student government. The mob mentality that is so quick and righteous to condemn ignores the effect that its actions will have on the lives of these students moving forward.

        The “power” associated with Student Government is minimal at best and meant as a training ground for other things. It’s ridiculous to believe that the thirst for power was so great that people “ignored’ allegations made against friends merely to acquire power unless it can be shown that those who resigned possessed first hand knowledge of the alleged bad acts, and not just rumor or unsupported accusations.

  3. Trump-Russia, now Nair-Russia, Special Counsel Mueller truly has his hands full!

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