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The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

President: Lauren K. Harris

Sage Russell | Assistant Photo Editor
Student Government Association presidential candidate Lauren K. Harris

Year: Junior
Major: International Affairs
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Student organizations/activities: Black Student Union, GW Aviators, GW Startup Avenue, Students for Indigenous and Native American Rights, GW Entrepreneurship Club and Black Defiance
SGA experience: None
Favorite vendor on GWorld: GW Deli
Your favorite “Only at GW” moment: Having access to the Multicultural Student Services Center
Favorite class: Hip Hop Ensemble with Dumisani Ndlovu
Zodiac sign: Aries
Which actor would play you in a movie of your life: Tyla
Role model: Marion Barry
Go-to study spot: Multicultural Student Services Center

Lauren K. Harris has D.C. coursing through her veins.

Harris, born and raised a Metro ride away from campus in Takoma, said she wants to provide students with the opportunity to love the District as much as she does if elected SGA president. Besides hoping to partner with D.C. cultural organizations like HumanitiesDC, a group providing cross-cultural understanding to Washingtonians, Harris said she wants to premiere a campus go-go festival for students to engage with an aspect of D.C.’s history  — which is also Harris’ favorite genre of music.

“As a D.C. native, I have an appreciation for D.C. that I haven’t really seen communicated by administration or the student government before,” Harris said.

Harris said her “innovative” perspective on leadership as a student entrepreneur also drives her motivation to run for president. Harris founded GW Startup Avenue, an organization she founded that provides resources for students establishing startups, after participating in the School of Business’ annual Pitch George competition during her sophomore year.

Through Startup Avenue, she said she helped organize the flea market pop-ups in Kogan Plaza last semester, an undertaking that would prove imperative in her decision to run for SGA president.

She said learning that GW has never elected a Black female SGA president — which she said contradicts the University’s new Revolutionaries moniker — marked the final factor in her decision to run.

“That flipped a switch in me,” Harris said. “It’s my time to shine.”

She said she wants to fix the SGA’s track record of not being the most “visible entity” at GW after noticing a general lack of involvement in student government from students. She said she wants to add a regularly updated calendar of SGA events to the association’s website, which currently only has a dead link to the senate’s meeting schedule.

Harris also said she would make SGA senators more accessible for students by having them host more frequent office hours than those they already offer, and in more shared spaces like the seating area on the fourth floor of the University Student Center as opposed to the SGA office to foster a more “communal” energy. While not all current senators have office hours, those who do host them once or twice a week.

“I want to make sure that students know that there’s a government that represents them, that’s there for them,” Harris said.

Harris said she plans to embrace her lack of SGA experience with skills she’s learned from previous leadership positions, like Startup Avenue. She said she thinks SGA President Arielle Geismar, who also had no previous SGA experience, was successful in implementing a “culture shift” in the governing body without being an “SGA insider.”

“I respect the accomplishments of my other opponents, however, when it comes to celebrating GW’s culture, there’s no one that can do it better than someone from D.C.,” Harris said.

Last semester, Geismar created the councils of Jewish and Israeli and Arab, Muslim and Palestinian student experience following campus discord surrounding the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. Harris said, if elected, she would expand outreach to prospective council members and reach out to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Persist GW to ask if they want to partner with the SGA.

The expansion of Geismar’s initiative was not originally mentioned in Harris’ platform.

Harris said she also hopes to create a Title IX task force to evaluate GW’s process for disciplining students accused of violating Title IX regulations. The task force would host town halls for student input on safety and work with the Title IX and Student Rights & Responsibilities offices to help students develop a greater understanding of the Student Code of Conduct.

Harris said the Title IX Office provides quick counseling services to victims, but people accused of violating Title IX policies need to be under a more “watchful eye” by the Title IX Office.

“Sometimes GW can move to the restorative process too quickly before they hold people accountable,” Harris said.

She said her administration would encourage students involved in organizations with an emphasis on advocacy, like Persist GW, to apply to the task force but applications would be open to every student. Harris said she spoke with a representative from the Title IX Office in March who said the office is interested in “supporting new measures.”

“Students play such a crucial part in this city, and I want us to recognize that and explore that,” Harris said.

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