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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

SA assembly to advocate for excused mental health absences

The Student Association Senate also filled three vacant senate seats during their meeting Monday.
Rapheal Kellner | Staff Photographer
Student Association Sen. Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U) addresses the senate during a meeting Monday.

Members of an assembly on the Student Associate Senate hope officials will count “mental health days” as excused absences, per a senate meeting Monday.

SA Sen. Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U), one of the co-chairs of the Mental Health Support Assembly, said the newly appointed group had their first meeting where they discussed preliminary plans for the year, including recommending to officials that they include mental health days as excused absences. GW currently only excuses absences related to personal circumstances like religious observances and documented family and medical emergencies or University-scheduled events.

During committee updates, SA Sen. Jonesy Strell (CCAS-U) — the chair of the Community, Advocacy, and Inclusion Committee — also said he is working with the GW Emergency Medical Response Group to shorten EMeRG’s phone number from 10 digits to down to three. Strell said this proposal would make it easier to dial quickly in “stressful situations.”

“EMeRG’s services are free compared to the traditional 911 emergency services number,” Strell said.

Senators also filled three vacant senate seats — including the GW School of Business graduate seat, graduate-at-large seat and undergraduate Elliott School of International Affairs seat — and confirmed students to fill the deputy legislative director and legislator general positions. The ESIA-U and GWSB-G seats were left vacant after former SA Sens. Andrew An and Ben Melano resigned from the roles earlier this month.

Senators voted to confirm Solitha Mathew to fill the graduate GWSB seat, who said she is passionate about working with people of many cultures as a former business analyst in India. She added that she has experience working toward women’s empowerment and helped other students brainstorm initiatives at her undergraduate institution, the Toc H Institute of Science & Technology in India.

“I would like to improve the collaborative environment of the students and to address their problems,” Mathew said.

Mathew won the seat over opponent Alexander Steiner, who was not present at the meeting due to scheduling conflicts. SA Vice President Demetrius Apostolis read a pre-prepared statement by Steiner, which said Steiner would have created a more “vibrant” environment as a liaison between students and administration if elected.

The senate voted to confirm Caroline Motley to fill the graduate-at-large seat. Motley said she wants to further her desire to advocate for reproductive justice and bodily autonomy within the senate as the founder of Movement for Choice — a nonprofit she said she created in response to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Motley said she will work to destigmatize abortion access, reproductive rights and mental health care by hosting public forums or support groups.

“I’m a huge advocate of people talking more openly about these things,” Motley said. “Maybe that would be hosting public forums or support groups for either of those issues.”

Senators chose Motley over Mehrshad Fatim Devin — a student at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences who said he would work to find funding for professional and academic developmental opportunities like conferences and academic sessions and for students if elected.

Senators also voted to confirm first-year Nikita Khare for the ESIA-U seat. Khare said she has experience with congressional debate and legislative procedure from serving on her high school’s student government as treasurer, and she is interested in using her status as a first-year student to unite the GW community as a whole as well as be a voice for Elliot students.

“As a first year student at GW, I have a unique perspective to connect with students who are just starting here and aren’t necessarily involved nor familiar with GW policy administration, or even just invested in what’s happening in GW right now,” Khare said.

Khare won the seat against sophomore Ayah Elwannas who campaigned on creating GW Voices Portal, a platform that the SA could use to hear from students to reflect their changing needs. SA President Arielle Geismar launched the SA Idea Lab earlier this year, a platform that allows students to propose ideas to the executive branch.

Senators also unanimously voted to confirm sophomore Deepthi Sathyanarayana as legislator general — the position fourth in line for succession of the presidency that investigates and prosecutes alleged violations of the SA’s bylaws and Constitution, per the bylaws. Sathyanarayana said she is honored to hold a position where she represent the SA’s mission and defend it when the senate’s work and commitment to students is “questioned.”

“I will work toward creating an environment where our students can not only rely on us but also believe in our work,” Sathyanarayana said.

Senators also confirmed nominees to fill legislative positions. The senate voted to confirm first-year student Avanti Patwardhan as the deputy legislative director, who said she will work across committees to create legislation that serves the GW community and collaborate with the legislative director and advisors.

Hannah Marr contributed reporting.

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