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RHA president jumps into race for SA’s top job, pledges campus safety reforms

Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor
Student Association President Arielle Geismar sits in the University Student Center.

The president of the Residence Hall Association is looking to move into a new position, joining the race for Student Association president Wednesday.

Junior Arielle Geismar said if elected, she would organize the SA’s existing resources, like finances, increase student safety and spark a “cultural shift” by encouraging students to support one another after incidents of sexual assault on campus. She said in her capacity as RHA president, she was able to fill all of the residence hall’s council positions, host an event on sexual wellness and install water bottle fillers in residence halls.

“GW students have a lot of power,” Geismar said. “My background is in using that power and being one of the voices to uplift that to different levels of administration.”

Geismar, an international affairs major, will run against six other candidates in the upcoming presidential election – SA President Christian Zidouemba, SA Sen. Rami Hanash Jr., GWSB-U, SA Executive Chief of Staff Keanu Rowe, GW Entrepreneurship leader Redzuan Raffe, former SA transportation secretary Nathan Orner and former SA senior policy adviser Edy Koenigs.

She said she chose to run for president to ensure GW students feel confident in their institution and its future.

Geismar said she hopes to use her current relationships with GW administrators to provide students with a voice. She said the SA should take advantage of its connection to administrators to spotlight students’ interests and make students feel heard.

“I think the power of a Student Association president is to be able to leverage that,” she said.

She said she intends to raise awareness to prevent sexual assault and antisemitism on campus in hopes of increasing student safety and well-being on campus. She said she plans to elevate existing resources on sexual assault and make them more visible for students.

“A lot of what my campaign is built on, one of the main tenets, is not redoing what already exists and bolstering the resources that are already available to students,” she said.

Geismar said she plans to create more safe spaces on campus for LGBTQ+ individuals and wield the SA’s power to negotiate more mental health counselors for students.

Geismar said her time as RHA president and on the Student Health Advisory Committee as a freshman helped her foster relationships with administrators that gave her experience communicating with officials, like those in the Office of Advocacy and Support.

“I want to support organizations and give them resources to build connections and actually use the power that comes with being a part of the Student Association to directly influence what students want,” Geismar said.

Geismar said if elected, she would increase communication surrounding the University-Wide Programs Fund, which officials created this year with money that was previously part of the SA’s budget to fund events attracting 350 or more students. Officials announced the fund was depleted in late February with three months remaining in the academic year.

“I know multicultural events can be planned out,” she said. “If we know that they’re happening ahead of time, we should be planning those and budgeting for those in the beginning of the year.”

She said she plans to host workshops explaining SA financial policies to student organizations on campus. The Finance Committee hosted informational sessions in February to provide information on the general allocations process.

She said the top-funded student organizations are multicultural organizations, a pattern she hopes to continue.

She said she plans to audit the SA’s allocations process, if elected. The SA president does not directly control the SA’s general allocations process, per the SA bylaws.

She said she plans to eliminate fees for student organizations using on-campus venue spaces like the Jack Morton Auditorium, the Elliott School City View Room and Lisner Auditorium.

“The fees are not benefiting students,” she said. “And so I would seek to eradicate those.”

Geismar said she has been involved in collective organizing efforts since she was 16 by leading walkouts in New York City advocating for gun violence prevention. She said she took a gap year after high school to lobby for causes like mental health, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights on Capitol Hill.

“My experience, at its core, is working to represent young people’s voices in places of authority,” she said. “And I think that that experience is something that I could translate into this position.”

She said she has a “unique” perspective on what needs to be changed in the SA because she has no previous experience with the body. Geismar said students are aware of the power the SA holds and the changes that need to happen, and she hopes to use the SA to “uplift what students need.”

“I think a lot of students can articulate ways in which they need to see the Student Association grow,” Geismar said. “I think as a student that’s been affected by those, I have that same lens.”

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About the Contributor
Erika Filter, News Editor
Erika Filter is a senior majoring in international affairs from Carson City, Nevada. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editors and previously served as the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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