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SGA Voices Support For Minority Students

Student+Government+Association+meeting+in+the+Robert+A.+Jones+%2759+Conference+Room
Student Government Association meeting in the Robert A. Jones '59 Conference Room

Student Government Association meeting in the Robert A. Jones '59 Conference Room

Student Government Association meeting in the Robert A. Jones '59 Conference Room

By BEN DOHAN

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution on Sunday titled “Support for Black and Minority Students,” which included calls for changed judicial practices and new training for faculty and staff.

The vote was near unanimous, with only Cook Commons Senator Connor McCormick ’18 abstaining. The resolution was drafted by SGA Speaker and Feb Senator Rae Aaron ’19.5, SGA President Jin Sohn ’18, First-Year Senator David Vargas and President of the Black Student Union (BSU) Charles Rainey ’19.

The resolution consists of eight points.

Two of the points focus on judicial processes. One calls for restorative justice training for the academic and judicial boards. Another calls for students to be able to appeal their policy violation decisions to the judicial board retroactively, after policies have changed.

To increase transparency, a clause suggests a website to record the school’s progress with goals and deadlines.

Another point asks the college to hire an outside conflict mediator. For current employees, one clause calls for mandatory diversity training for all faculty and staff members and de-escalation training for campus security personnel.

In a notable statement coming from the SGA, which has no black representatives, the resolution also calls for increased representation of black and minority students in decision making bodies.

Two broad resolutions call for expedited responses to occurences of racism on campus and increased communication between the administration and student cultural organizations.

Although some senators expressed concern that the resolution was too open-ended, only one change was made during the discussion before the resolution was passed. A friendly amendment by Community Council Co-Chair Kyle Wright ’19.5 calling for the SGA to work with Community Council on the issues in the resolution was accepted as the ninth clause of the document.

Aaron said that Rainey was a major help in making the resolution possible.

“[Rainey] came to the SGA right when tensions were really high earlier in the fall and we decided as a senate that something needed to happen, but we weren’t sure what it was,” Aaron said.

“These grievances have been here on this campus for a long time, black students have felt unheard long before I got to campus, long before [Aaron] got to campus, by both the SGA and the administration,” Rainey said. “This is a first step. I don’t want to say that it’s done.”

“There’s a discord between black students who get more jaded much more quickly than our white counterparts might when it comes to relationships with the SGA,” Rainey continued. “What I hope is that this bill serves as a first step towards saying, ‘Hey, the SGA can be an advocacy body for black students and for minorities,’ and help rebuild the trust that hasn’t been there for a while.”

On Monday, President Laurie L. Patton announced the creation of a new position, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Education and Training, which may partially address clauses three and six: the hiring of an outside mediator and mandatory diversity training.

“What we’re realizing is that there are so many conversations happening among the faculty and the administration and students about the same things” Aaron said. “Hopefully, this bill will show support for the processes the administration is already working on and that they’ll continue to be transparent with us to make sure that black students on campus and the SGA and others know what tangible actions are happening.”

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