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The GW Hatchet

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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

SA chief of staff challenges Zidouemba’s hopeful second term in race for presidency

Keanu+Rowe%2C+the+SAs+executive+chief+of+staff%2C+said+he+chose+to+run+against+Zidouemba%2C+his+%E2%80%9Cgood+friend%2C%E2%80%9D+because+he+wanted+to+leverage+his+experience+as+chief+of+staff+to+pursue+the+presidency.+
Erika Filter | Staff Photographer
Keanu Rowe, the SA’s executive chief of staff, said he chose to run against Zidouemba, his “good friend,” because he wanted to leverage his experience as chief of staff to pursue the presidency.

Student Association President Christian Zidouemba’s chief of staff announced his bid for the SA presidency Saturday.

Keanu Rowe, a junior majoring in political science, said he plans to create a field day, organize monthly community service events, increase student organization funding, tighten campus safety and continue efforts to diversify GW’s dining hall selection regarding dining restrictions. Rowe joins the race against Zidouemba, former SA policy adviser Edy Koenigs, SA Sen. Rami Hanash Jr., GWSB-U, GW Entrepreneurship Club leader Redzuan Bin Mohamed Raffe, former SA Transportation Secretary Nathan Orner and Residence Hall Association President Arielle Geismar.

Rowe said he chose to run against Zidouemba, his “good friend,” because he wanted to leverage his experience as chief of staff to pursue the presidency. He said Zidouemba’s choice to run for reelection is a “very new development” Rowe learned about “very recently.”

“There is no problem with Christian wanting to run again and pursue this position,” he said. “However, I do think it’s time for new leadership. And I do think it’s time for a new SA president.”

He said he is “uniquely equipped” for the position after his experience as chief of staff, which included communicating between the legislative and executive branches for SA events and restaffing the executive cabinet after at least seven members – including Koenigs – resigned following a failed attempt to remove Zidouemba from office last year. Rowe said he struggled to find students interested in the SA who wanted to fill the vacant cabinet positions as he posted about the openings on social media and coordinated interviews between classes. 

“While the SA has done some positive, I think students – rightfully so – for the most part still have a negative perception of the SA,” he said.

He said he hopes candidates will unify around increasing turnout in this year’s election. Last year, 2,690 students – 10.4 percent of eligible voters – participated in the election, a decrease from the 17.9 percent turnout in 2019, the last time the SA campaigns had been in person before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For a politically engaged campus like GW, we should be having higher turnout,” he said. “And I hope that’s the case this upcoming election.”

He said if elected, he would continue the dining focus group that Zidouemba, Senate Chairperson Pro Tempore Demetrius Apostolis, CCAS-U, and other members of the SA began this year. He said he would direct the group to focus on food safety, expand options for students with dietary restrictions and seek increased student input on GW Dining through surveys, polls and conversations with students at dining halls.

“Numerous students have either gotten sick or feel unaccommodated through the current meal plan,” he said.

The University opened all-you-can-eat dining halls in Thurston and Shenkman halls in October and January, respectively, but students have said the dining halls have unclear labeling and a lack of options for students with dietary restrictions.

Rowe said if elected, he plans to host a University-wide “field day” with pickup basketball, spikeball and football. To pull this off, he said he would work with his executive secretary of student life and the chair of the Committee on Student Life to contact student organizations and coordinate the event.

He said he would also reach out to external organizations, like nonprofits, for external sources of revenue as part of an effort to brainstorm new ways to fund student organizations. Student organizations received 16.75 percent of the funding they requested in the SA’s last general allocation cycle, a decrease from last year’s rate of roughly 30 percent.

Rowe said he would work with the SA’s director of community service to coordinate monthly community service events for students through the SA, similar to the Nashman Center’s MLK Day of Service.

“This is really good because so easily Foggy Bottom can become a bubble,” he said. “And students get the idea that Foggy Bottom is symbolic of the rest of D.C., which is far from the truth.”

He said he hopes to work with his executive secretary for campus services to improve the technology behind SafeRide and fine-tune the estimated time of arrival predictions for pickup. He said they would also plan to conduct a study on whether the SA can improve the placement of blue light emergency phone systems.

Rowe said his experience working under Zidouemba showed him the limitations of the presidential position, so he hopes to keep his goals “attainable and completely feasible.”

“I would like to bring an attitude which recognizes the scope of the position,” he said.

Maggie O’Neill contributed reporting. 

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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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