In response to an editorial published on Feb. 2.
To the Editorial Board:
I’ll be the first to admit that this Student Government is different than previous years. We have different agenda items; we have more agenda items. We’ve heard far fewer appeals than we did last year, which allows us to discuss a wider breadth of issues.
For the record, I have no intention to abandon the issues we’ve discussed in prior meetings. The Dining/Food Services Initiative is still a major agenda item--we’re set to start committee meetings with Business Services Director Karen Dickinson and Dining Services General Manager Steve Canario within the next week--as is the Academic Initiative, which will continue with meetings with Vice President of Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan and Department Heads throughout the semester, continue discussing the Tap and Go program, the state of the college’s finances, mental health concerns, and other issues mentioned both by the op-ed and members of SGA.
Please understand that not everything happens in the publicly-accessible Joint Session. We have Commissioners Council, Senate, committee meetings (internal and with administrators), and extensive email communication with myriad offices on campus. Conversations often start in Joint Session and are continued in external meetings or in emails.
There seems to be a disconnect between the SGA and the Beacon at the moment, but this isn’t difficult to explain. Reviewing the minutes of a singular Joint Session, without attending, is going to lead to some misunderstandings. And that’s the last thing I want, since the contributors to the Berkeley Beacon are constituents just as much as any other student.
So, yes, this SGA is different than in years previous. This Student Government exists in the wake of events such as police brutality on display in Ferguson, New York, and across the country; suicide in the trans community and on our own campus; and several Title IX disputes—and that’s just the short list of things on our docket.
To remain static would be to become obsolete.
Let me be clear: I am not contending that the SGA at Emerson should go about tackling these issues all on our lonesome. In fact, I don’t want us doing anything alone. That will only lead to us shouting into the void, going unheard, and seeing little change. Instead, I plan to reach out to various organizations, individuals, and offices on campus in order to address these matters.
I have no intention to abandon the student-administrator relationship; I plan to strengthen it. SGA has already started a number of committees on which students play a prominent role: food services, the search for the Vice President for Enrollment Management, and an ECPD committee, just to start.
I have no intention to abandon “ongoing legislative priorities,” but in the meeting I took it upon myself to assess where the members of the SGA stood on issues facing the college, issues that were both symptomatic as well as fed into by issues going on outside of the Emerson community.
SGA representatives were more than happy to start talking about these things, throwing out suggestions and concerns—first-hand or from constituents. It was a meeting of reflection, that helped us to solidify our direction as a unit, something that is par for the course for any organization at the beginning of a new semester.
It’s at the administrative level that many things need to change—and not in a “small but genuine way,” but in a substantial and genuine way.
I’m not planning on organizing SGA to lead a #BlackLivesMatter march. That’s not our place. Our place, though, is to help students directly affected by those issues achieve visibility in order for their voices to be heard clearly, by students and by the administration. Discussions with the multicultural organizations on campus, the Student Life Office, and the Office of Diversity, amongst others, I hope, can jumpstart measures that will help to create a safer and more understanding campus atmosphere. We’ve appointed a student representative to the search committee for the VP for Enrollment Management with a specific goal of seeking a candidate that has diversity and inclusion in mind.
I deeply resent the idea that these concerns of diversity and inclusion are somehow too lofty for us as students to address. I am deeply concerned by the implication that things like print credits are somehow more worthy of SGA’s time than the multicultural, mental health, and overall institutional problems that affect what seems to be almost every aspect of the college’s administration.
These implications are dismissive of Student Government and thus of the entire student body. I am a strong believer in the idea that the students of Emerson College are some of the most passionate about change—big and small. So, yes, I do take issue with the assertion put forward by this op-ed that Emerson’s lackluster track record of diversity and multicultural education, struggling mental health awareness concerns, and continuing Title IX problems are somehow not student issues, the same way food services or print credits or smoking on campus are.
Please, try to posit that idea in any of the multicultural organizations, or EPSJ, or the tenth floor of Walker, or the recently recognized Active Minds. I can assure you that they’ll tell you nothing less than that these issues are some of the most important to address campus-wide.
Ultimately, though, this letter is not something meant to put the Beacon in its place—this is something meant to address concerns. After all, Editorial Board, you’re our constituents, too. Far be it from SGA to neglect your concerns.
If you or any of your readers have comments, questions, or concerns, they’re always more than welcome to reach out to us at sga.emerson.edu/joint-session.
Executive President of SGA