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Student Bar Association Senate calls for leader to resign over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks

Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor
The Student Bar Association Senate called for the group’s president to resign Tuesday after she allegedly made an anti-Semitic comment last month. The senate barred photojournalists from taking photos of the meeting.

Updated: Oct. 25, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.

The Student Bar Association Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday pressing the organization’s top leader to resign over allegations of anti-Semitism.

After hours of debate late Tuesday night, the SBA Senate called for Ali Kingston, the organization’s president, to step down by Monday after members of the Jewish Law Student Association alleged that she made a comment last month referring to Jewish students as someone’s “Jew friends.”

Senators condemned Kingston’s alleged remark in the resolution, saying the comment was “tasteless and unacceptable.”

“Those comments have deeply hurt the members of JLSA and the entire George Washington Law community,” the resolution states.

Kingston declined to comment.

The resolution comes after more than a month of internal discussion between the senate and JSLA urging Kingston to privately apologize without publicizing the comment, students said. Members of the JLSA said that because Kingston did not apologize in front of the senate and JLSA in a private meeting, they deferred to the senate, which brought a public resolution to the floor.

Matt Sanford, the association’s executive vice president, declined to comment.

The senate barred photojournalists from taking photos during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We are doing the best of our ability,” Sen. Danielle Rodriguez said at the meeting. “We tried to come up with a solution, and I hope the public will understand that we’re really doing the best we can.”

Arielle Stephenson, the co-president of JLSA, said Kingston made the remark after the group violated a University alcohol policy on a poster promoting a welcome-back social. She said the paper did not include the proper language about alcohol being provided at the event.

She said members of JLSA attended a senate meeting Oct. 9 to discuss the postering violation and mentioned Kingston’s comment without using her name to preserve her anonymity. The group organized a private meeting with Kingston the next day, where Stephenson said Kingston admitted to making the remark.

Stephenson said members of JLSA called for another private meeting Monday – the day before the senate resolution passed – with the group and the full senate for Kingston to issue an apology. She said Kingston called the comment unacceptable but did not “sufficiently” apologize.

“That’s the highest position that a student could hold at our school, so that’s why accountability was so important to us,” Stephenson said.

In a statement Thursday, JLSA listed the series of events, saying that “from the beginning, JLSA wanted accountability and an apology from President Kingston regarding these comments but did not request that resignation or impeachment occur.”

“JLSA is disappointed with the arduous process of resolving this matter and the meager options that were available to the senate in choosing a course of action,” the statement reads. “Although resignation was never the JLSA’s goal or intent, we are satisfied with the resolution’s passing and its recognition of the Jewish community’s concerns.”

David Beiss, JLSA’s vice president of external outreach, said the comment made him “question my level of comfort on campus.” As someone who “wears my religion on my sleeve” and wears a yarmulke, he said the comments were “completely inappropriate.”

“They likely came from a place of ignorance,” Beiss said. “If the SBA president is making these comments, does the SBA – which is supposed to represent the student body – are they representing everyone here?”

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