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After Nair resigned late Tuesday morning, the senior staffers rescinded their resignations and said in a collective statement that “GUSA is entering a period of deep introspection and soul-searching.”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 at the time of the meeting; The Hoya reached out to Rahman and Bennett for comment.
No complaints had been filed against Nair through the Title IX office or the Office of Student Conduct, he wrote in a May 28 email to The Hoya. A university spokesperson confirmed that, as of May 2019, Nair was not the subject of any complaints through either office nor had he been found responsible for any violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
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 was updated June 23 to indicate the absence of Title IX or Office of Student Conduct complaints against Nair and to include comment from Nair.
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.