The Fall of the ASG President


Photo by: Larry Valenzuela

Student government president Christopher Washington leads the Associated Student Government meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Christopher Washington was the second African American ASG president in the history of Fresno City College, and that he is 24. Washington is 25, and Daniel Lorente, also of African American descent, was ASG president in 2004. 

When Christopher Washington was sworn in as the Associated Student Government president in July, he received a certificate of recognition for his presidency from Senator Kamala Harris’s office.

The world seemed to belong to him, and he seemed destined for greatness. He was one of only a select few ASG presidents of African American descent and everyone was rooting for his success.

“I’m extremely humble and gratified that life afforded a little Brooklyn boy whose parents passed away, an opportunity like this,” Washington said.

Over the course of a few months, he was meeting congressmen like Congressman Jim Costa, posing in photographs with Fresno City College President, Carole Goldsmith, speaking at forums for candidates seeking political offices for the 2018 midterm elections and presiding over students at FCC.

Three months into his presidency, Washington, handcuffed and dressed in a prison assigned red jumper, stood before a judge in a Fresno County Superior Court room, pleading not guilty to sex with a minor in a public restroom on the FCC campus.

His rise and precipitous fall is not entirely surprising. His brief tenure as president of the ASG was fraught with chaos and infighting. That he would stumble was predictable; the only uncertainty was the severity of his action.


According to an interview with the Rampage, Washington (25) was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by his grandmother, following the death of his parents. Later, he was adopted and joined a family of five siblings and moved to Virginia.

He had to leave his high school after an incident he described in a Facebook post from Dec. 31, 2017. Washington wrote that he was kicked out of school for having sex in the women’s restroom.

“Ok so I was like 17 years old and I was a virgin and I was tired of being that,” he said in the post. “The life of being a man was upon me.” Washington approached an unidentified woman his friends set him up with.

“She was like, ‘Skip fourth block, and meet me at the spot.” The spot was the women’s restroom, which Washington entered.

“And I just knew that we were going to get it in. We did. So boom I’m not a virgin anymore,” the post reads. The plan was for the woman to leave first and “clear the coast” for Washington. He said she did not, and when he left the restroom, he was caught.

“Me getting kicked out rocked the school,” Washington said in a comment in the same Facebook thread. Washington graduated from Tallwood High School and began attending Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach.

Washington later on moved to Washington State to “find” himself when his mentor, a pastor of a church,died. Washington started a relationship and had a son in 2016, but his relationship with the mother of this child deteriorated, and they separated.
He then moved to Fresno in April, 2016 and lived in the Fresno Rescue Mission for nine months due to homelessness.

Prior to joining FCC, Washington ran into some legal trouble and pled not guilty in court to a misdemeanor child abuse charge in Dec. 2016.

In the same interview Washington said that during the Spring 2017 semester, he tried to turn his life around and enrolled at FCC.

At FCC, he decided to join the ASG as a senator.

Washington said he was approached by a friend at a party and asked to vote for someone in a student government election.

“I’m not going to vote,” Washington replied. “I’m going to run.” He said he was campaigning to become a senator the very next day.

Washington the Senator

In an interview with the Rampage Washington said that being a senator changed his life and the work he does. Brandon McLaughlin was the ASG president during that time.

McLaughlin said that Washington was an “enthusiastic” senator who sometimes bit off more than he could chew. McLaughlin said Washington would approach his goals passionately, but that his projects often fell short of completion.

“His involvement in multiple projects would cause some overburdening on him,” McLaughlin said, “which would lead to some emotional frustration on personal projects that he took very seriously.”

As senator, Washington was chairman of the public relations committee and worked to buy a button press machine to make ASG buttons, McLaughlin said. He pitched the idea for some time and finally received funding. But the funds were never used and the check eventually expired.

“The Rise”

In the spring semester of 2018, Washington ran for ASG president. He said he was motivated by a desire to speak up for people who are not able to speak for themselves.

“I think that advocacy is an important part of our lives,” Washington said. “When we advocate for others, we are allowing ourselves to speak about the things that even we ourselves don’t feel comfortable speaking about: we are not just advocating for ourselves, we are advocating for everybody.”
Washington ran unopposed and was elected ASG president on April 30, 2018 and became the second African-American ASG president elected in FCC history, and the first in 46 years.

Ernie Martinez, ASG adviser and director of student activities, swore in the president elect in a short ceremony. Afterwards, a representative from California senator Kamala Harris’ office awarded Washington a certificate of recognition for his presidency.

Washington said he hoped to alleviate student hunger and increase student participation. He planned to implement an open door policy in his office as a way to bridge the divide between ASG and the student body.

Cracks Begin to Form

Not long into Washington’s presidency, tensions began to flare between him and Angela Van Gilder, his ASG vice president.

Washington told the Rampage that he planned to remove Van Gilder as vice president because he had a “conflicted working relationship” with her on Monday, Sept.10.

“I believe that presidents and vice presidents are supposed to have a synchronized flow,” Washington said. “I feel like I am being undermined, and people from previous administrations have been backing her [Van Gilder] agenda.”

Washington also said he believed that some people in the ASG were revealing the content of closed meetings to others and cannot be trusted to put ASG ahead of their own personal agenda.

“I want ASG to be ASG matters,” he said. “I don’t want outside people to come in and influence ASG because that’s ASG’s job to influence the students.”

“I do not like the disparaging emails she [Van Gilder] sends to everyone,” Washington said, adding that Van Gilder’s emails are threatening. Despite promising to share the ‘threatening” emails with the Rampage, he never did.
The next day, on Sept. 11, Washington turned what was supposed to be a regularly scheduled ASG meeting into a tumultuous forum, during which he dragged the student government into a closed session and insisted on a vote to impeach the vice president.

Six days before the closed session, on Sept. 5, Washington and Van Gilder got into a verbal altercation during a Rampage video interview.

In the video, Washington stated, “Sometimes, you have to break the rules to get stuff done.” At that point, Van Gilder interjected and warned Washington that they [ASG] could get “shut down” for comments like that.

Washington asserted that he was in the middle of an interview. “This is a profile of the president,” he said. “Are you the president?”

The next day, Washington denied holding a closed session meeting, but then admitted it shortly after.

Washington said that he was no longer attempting to remove Van Gilder from office and that he lied about the closed session meeting to “protect the integrity” of the ASG.

“It seems like the story so far is that I am a liar. OK, I lied. I lied to protect the integrity of my association; that doesn’t vindicate me from lying, I just lied,” Washington said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m a liar because I told a lie. Liars habitually lie.”

The Rampage on Sept. 26 published “A Student Government Divided,” detailing Washington’s ongoing feud with Van Gilder, his contradictory statements on the closed session, and an attempted emergency meeting that would have violated the Brown Act.

Back on track
Washington apologized characterizing the Rampage as “bad propaganda and yellow journalism,” following the publication of the feature on his conduct in the ASG.

He said he regretted lying and wished that he had been more truthful.

“I’m optimistic that we [ASG] are going to work together,” he said. “I think we are going to be OK. It’s a day-by-day process, and we learned.”

He also said he was no longer against Vice President Van Gilder, and “she doesn’t have anything against me; we don’t always see eye to eye, but we are working towards a better working relationship.”

A week after the publication of the Rampage article, Goldsmith, FCC president, ordered the student government to attend a two-hour training, focusing on the Brown Act and responsibilities of student government officers.

The workshop was led by Goldsmith herself and Eileen O’Hare-Anderson, general counsel for the State Center Community College District. Goldsmith and Anderson reviewed topics like closed session meetings, illegal meetings, speaking to the press and creating agenda.

“You have to get thicker skin; you can have a spirited debate. You can have a difference of opinions,” Goldsmith said regarding criticism from the press and his ASG colleagues. “But one thing need you need to do is not mimic the things you see on television. This is not reality TV.”

The Fall
Washington was arrested on Oct. 16 and charged with sexual acts with a minor for allegedly providing alcohol and having sex with two students, one of them underage, in a public restroom on campus.

According to a story in the Fresno Bee, Christopher Washington and two female students were found in the women’s restroom stall in the Math, Science and Engineering Building by campus police around 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

One of the female students was so intoxicated that officers had to call emergency medical services to transport her to the hospital, according to the Fresno Bee.

According to the Fresno County jail records, Washington is charged with felony charge of having oral copulation with a minor under the influence of an anesthesia or controlled substance, along with two misdemeanor charges of providing an alcoholic beverage to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In response to Washington’s arrest, Goldsmith stated in an email to the college community that
the reports of sexual misconduct were concerning, but she refused to comment on the specifics of an active and ongoing investigation.

“It is not our role to play judge and jury,” Goldsmith stated. “But it is our job to do all in our power to create a safe learning environment.”

Latest Update

Washington pleaded not guilty on Oct. 19 in the Fresno Superior Court to a felony charge of having oral copulation with a minor under the influence of an anesthesia or controlled substance.

He also pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges of providing an alcoholic beverage to a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

If convicted on the felony charge, prosecutors say that Washington will face a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and would have to register as a sex offender.

Washington was ordered to remain in Fresno County Jail with a bail set at $42,400, according to Van Gilder who is now acting ASG president.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Christopher,” Van Gilder said.”But the justice system will take care of that, that’s their job and our job is to just continue forward, helping out the students. His mistakes are his and part of his identity, ASG is its own identity.”