Privilege Within SGA

Guest Commentary
Stephen Morris
Class of 2017

In our lives we all carry privilege, parts of who we are that make our lives easier than others. Some have white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, the list goes on. Here at CUA all those forms are both present yet barely rarely recognized, but one form of privilege is discussed even less. That privilege is the one that members of the Student Government Association and those surrounding it have. SGA members and those who know them well are often the only ones aware of all that CUA has to offer and the avenues for change that are available for students. This is not unique to SGA – it has existed in prior iterations of student government at CUA – nor is it the really the fault of the students who make up SGA. As one of those students (I currently serve as Speaker of the SGA Senate) I can say with certainty that the vast majority of SGA members are smart, hardworking students with their peers’ best interests at heart. It is, however, the fault of the culture that exists within SGA. This culture focuses too much on personal agendas, and is too exclusive, too narrow, and too isolated to properly serve students. That is why I’m running for SGA president this spring.

I didn’t immediately join student government when I entered CUA. I was on the outside of the student government bubble looking in, wishing my perspectives were heard and my concerns addressed. I understand what it’s like to feel like student government is ineffective and irrelevant (or worse) to your life here at CUA. And frankly I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this. When we began our campaign we decided to go out and listen first before forming our plans. In doing that we heard a lot of frustrated questions. What has SGA done to improve the food quality in the student restaurant? Or try to reverse the decrease in hours that has happened two years in a row now? Where has SGA been to make our community welcome to everyone, including minority, international, LGBT, and commuter students? What initiatives have happened on sexual assault awareness, student worker wages, or handicapped students’ campus access?

I believe that for too long too many students have gone without an advocate for their interests and we are proud today to have a plan to change that. My running mate, Kately Javier, and I believe students’ relationship to CUA, their university and their home, needs to be remade. Our plan is to create a New Student Contract – a five point plan to transform what students can expect from the CUA Administration and their student government representatives. Firstly is a focus on Safety, like a more effective and strong DPS presence. Secondly are Health initiatives, such as expanded mental health services and awareness. Thirdly is a Welcoming environment, made possible by ideas like recognizing cultural heritage months. Fourthly is Workability, like raising wages for student workers and semester tuition reports. Finally, fifth is Community, to have SGA act as leaders of our community by assisting and coordinating with student organizations and our neighbors in Brookland.

The reality is on many important issues, SGA has undoubtedly been M.I.A. But on other issues, it has made some real efforts. But regardless of what SGA has done, if students don’t know what it is doing, those efforts are worthless. That’s why in addition to championing the New Student Contract we would also implement our SGA+U program if elected. This program transforms students’ relationship to their student government, making it more accountable, fair, transparent, and honest. Some of its elements include having two town halls every semester to hear directly from students; biweekly meetings that every student organization and sports team will have an open invite to send a representative to; implementing an official petition section to the SGA website, on which students can call attention to ideas and concerns they have themselves; if one hits 100 signatures, it automatically gets considered.

Kately and I are running to build One CUA – a CUA community that accepts everyone, works for everyone, and values everyone. We believe we are the best equipped to build that CUA and we hope to hear from you and earn your vote over the next month.

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