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Student leaders call on SA president to resign amid claims of sexual misconduct

Editor’s note: This story includes allegations of sexual misconduct. If you have questions about the reporting behind the story, please contact the editor at [email protected]  

Student Association Executive Vice President Brandon Hill, three members of the SA executive branch and at least 10 other student organizations are calling for SA President Howard Brookins to resign, citing “credible” claims of sexual misconduct against him.

George Glass, the vice president for financial affairs; Karina Ochoa Berkley, the vice president for sustainability and a Hatchet opinions writer; and Anna Adler, the director of student engagement, published a joint statement Friday night calling for Brookins to step down. The statement comes less than a week after three members of the body resigned last Saturday, claiming that Brookins’ “conduct and demeanor” created a “negligent and careless work environment” in the cabinet.

It is unclear whether the cabinet resignations are tied to sexual misconduct claims. The members wrote that Brookins’ leadership has posed “direct harm” to the GW community, and SA leaders felt they “failed” to facilitate a safe community for students.

“To the survivors, we cannot begin to imagine your trauma and will continue to work tirelessly for you,” the statement reads. “To Howard, we call on your resignation – to not only bring peace of mind to the courageous survivors who came forward, but to all the survivors, and all members of our community.”

Kristy, a female student, alleged in a series of tweets Friday night that Brookins has touched her without consent on multiple occasions and has “crossed clearly set boundaries.” She declined to publish her last name.

The Hatchet does not identify people, outside of public means like social media channels, claiming to have experienced sexual misconduct without their consent.

Kristy said she “noticed a constant invasion of my space and my consent” when she and Brookins spent time together at events, particularly when there was alcohol present. She said mutual friends eventually attempted to “intervene” when the two spent time together.

“During our junior year, he invited me as a plus-one to Finale 2020 event,” she said in a tweet. “We attended along with a group of girls. At the event, he was under the influence and repeatedly groped me without my consent. I wanted to leave, but stayed to make sure he got home safely.”

She said after confronting Brookins after the event, he apologized and “promised it would never happen again.” When Brookins visited Kristy last Thanksgiving, he entered Kristy’s room “under the influence,” touched her thighs and stomach and attempted to get on top of her despite her saying “stop” and “get out,” she said.

“He is an abuser who uses denial, gaslighting and threats to avoid accountability,” she said in a tweet. “It was never my fault when I have been clear about my boundaries and intentions. It is not my fault when he should have known better.”

Brookins did not return a request for comment.

Hill, the SA executive vice president, said he privately called on Brookins to resign before releasing his statement, adding that he must take “accountability” for his actions.

“He has defamed the office of president of the Student Association, and his lack of character and professionalism has proven he is not fit to represent the student body,” Hill said in a statement posted to Instagram Friday evening.

The three members of the executive cabinet who co-wrote the statement urging Brookins to step down said they were “acutely aware” of controversy in the branch but chose to remain in the organization to continue their advocacy work, according to the statement. For instance, the members state that Glass’ position as vice president for financial affairs handles funds for all student organizations and must remain in the organization to carry out that role.

The members said SA leadership must be “strong” to support students, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Brookins is “not that strong leader,” according to the statement.

“We believe women, and we cannot remain quiet any longer while the Student Association has a credibly accused sexual harasser as its president — as some of the last remaining SA executive cabinet members we are calling on Howard to resign immediately,” the statement reads. 

Fifteen executive cabinet members have resigned between December and January out of 34 total seats in the branch, according to multiple now-former cabinet members, who chose to remain anonymous, and the SA website.

The Office of Advocacy and Support said in a statement Friday evening that the GW Sexual Assault Response and Consultation team phone hotline will remain operational during the weekend before the office reopens on Monday.

“In light of recent allegations of sexual harassment against prominent GW student leaders, the Office of Advocacy and Support would like to remind all survivors that we hear you, we see you and we believe you,” the office states.

At least 10 student organizations have also called for Brookins’ resignation.

GW College Democrats demanded that Brookins steps down, saying he is “morally and ethically unfit” to be SA president.

“We stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault,” the group said in a statement. “It is important we listen to survivors and make sure their voices are heard and respected during this difficult time.”

GW Black Defiance also called for Brookins’ resignation Friday.

“The leader of our student body should be someone we can trust, and it is clear that Howard is not that person,” the group said.

The Black Girl Mentorship Program also joined calls for him to leave the SA in a statement late Friday.

“The Black Girl Mentorship Program condemns the actions of SA President Howard Brookins III,” the group wrote. “We stand in solidarity with survivors. BGM calls for Mr. Brookins’ immediate resignation as SA president. Students and survivors deserve better.”

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual misconduct and are in need of support, please contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. For assistance from GW’s Office of Advocacy and Support, please contact 1-202-994-7222 Jan. 23 and 24 and at 1-202-994-0443 beginning Jan. 25. 

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