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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

SA president asks trustees to change name of student government body

Arielle Geismar said the name change avoids the “potentially misleading” SA acronym.
Taytum Wymer
Student Association President Arielle Geismar at the October Board of Trustees meeting.

Student Association President Arielle Geismar asked the Board of Trustees to change the student body’s name to the Student Government Association during a Board meeting Friday.

Geismar said she co-sponsored the Student Association Rebranding Act, which will change the name of the governing body in the SA charter if the senate’s Governance and Nominations Committee, the full senate and the Board of Trustees approve the measure. In a message to The Hatchet, Geismar said the new name would diverge from using the “potentially misleading” SA acronym, also known to stand for sexual assault.

In the message, Geismar said she asked Board Chair Grace Speights to consider the name change in an individual meeting last week before the full Board meeting Friday. Geismar formally asked trustees to vote in favor of changing the charter to Student Government Association at the meeting, when the “opportunity to take action arises.”

“I’ve heard students and Student Association staff voices that the SA as an acronym no longer fits our time,” Geismar said at the Board meeting.

Some SA senators also said they were concerned the SA acronym shares the same abbreviation of the Nazi Sturmabteilung — a Nazi paramilitary organization whose violent enforcement of party norms contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Geismar said the new name will clarify what the governing body does and will align with other Universities in its name. Out of GW’s 12 peer schools, only one — Northeastern University — has titled their student governing body the Student Government Association. The student governments of two peer schools — Syracuse University and the University of Rochester — go by Student Association, and Georgetown University’s student government goes by Georgetown University Student Association, or GUSA.

The SA has held the Student Association name since April 1976, when students voted to form a new student government after abolishing the body — which was named the Student Assembly at the time — in February 1970 due to senators’ exclusion from University-wide decisions and a lack of communication between senators and the student body. Students knew the governing body as the GW Student Council from its creation in 1909 to 1969, when it switched to the Student Assembly for a year.

An Ngo | Graphics Editor

The prospect of a governing body name change was prominent during the 2023 SA election, when presidential candidate Rami Hanash Jr. said he planned to change the governing body’s name to Student Government Association if elected. He also said he felt the name misrepresented the organization’s mission due to its double meaning for sexual assault.

SA Vice President Demetrius Apostolis said adding “government” to the title will clarify the SA’s role to students because many students, especially first-years, don’t understand that the SA is the student governing body on campus that oversees every student organization on campus.

“It’s hard to market the Student Association and to show what we do and make sure that students are aware of how they get involved, when it doesn’t really say what we do,” Apostolis said.

Apostolis said once the senate passes the resolution encouraging the Board to change the name — which he believes will happen at the next full senate meeting Oct. 16 — senators will send the act to the Board for final approval. He said the Board has the final say on the name change because they oversee the SA’s charter.

“The charter supersedes the constitution and the bylaws,” Apostolis said. “The second they change it in the charter, everything else falls into place and it gets changed everywhere.”

SA Sen. Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U), who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said he hopes the governing body’s new name will allow SA members to “reimagine” their focus toward the needs of the students because he knows a lot of students have felt in the past that their representatives in student government have “fallen short.”

“We need to make sure that this is more than just a rebranding of the title, but it’s also a rebranding of our focus,” Fitzgerald said.

SA Sen. Noah Jordan (CCAS-U), who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said there has been “genuine excitement” among senators for the name change, who have been reaching out “left and right” to endorse the bill.

“People all across the Student Association want this to happen,” Jordan said. “The same is true across the schools and across the student body. This is a remarkable change.”

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About the Contributor
Hannah Marr, News Editor
Hannah Marr, a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communication and history from New York, New York, leads the Administration and Finance beat as one of The Hatchet's 2024-25 news editors. She was previously the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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