Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer
The Student Government Association, SGA, relies on the students to voice their concerns about pending issues at the University of Lynchburg. The student-run organization approves clubs, addresses problems on campus, and caters to the needs of students.
The SGA Director of Public Relations, Davion Washington said, “The first thing that students are able to do, whether they realize it or not, a big initiative that was taken on by one of our SGA senators last year, Nathaniel Pierce, was a suggestion box system that’s been placed throughout the residence halls and even in Southside.”
The suggestion boxes are located in the laundry rooms of most residence halls. “Each suggestions box has a box, there’s a pen attached to each box, and there are notepads for suggestions to be submitted, which our residential senators do constantly check up on,” said Washington. “They’re red boxes, you cannot miss them.”
“The second way is simply by coming to senate or even sending the SGA an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our senate meetings are on Monday’s at 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Schewel 207,” said Washington. “We would love to hear any concerns that are taking place from any of our students.”
Recently, there was an issue with a halftime game played at the basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. About this issue, Washington said, “I believe it was last Saturday [Feb. 2] during the halftime performance, the halftime entertainment. There was a Chipotle-sponsored contest where people were doing overhead burrito throws into sombreros and I personally was at that game along with other students and it was honestly very offensive.”
The SGA President, Lauren Ferrell, then sent an email about the offensive game to Jon Waters, the Director of Athletics, who responded very quickly, according to Washington. Waters and Erika McLeod, who organized the game, then met with President Ferrell and Washington to discuss the incident.
“Basically he flat out said ‘We dropped the ball. We messed up, there is no way around it, that is on us. We are going to do everything to right this wrong and fix the situation.’ He had Erika explain what was going through her head and she basically apologized and basically said that she was seeing it from her side and she…unfortunately did not consider…other perspectives of the event, especially with her coming from a Latinx background,” said Washington. “So basically we met and we talked about that…they admitted that [they] got this one wrong and it is never going to happen again, and then to further that discussion, we talked about how we can move forward and work together with efforts such as working in collaboration with the Hornet.”
Ongoing concerns that students have had are about Burton Dining Halls. Travis Carr, a sophomore, started a campus-wide email chain last semester voicing his displeasure about the dining hall hours. In response, SGA invited students to an open forum about the dining hall.
According to Washington, “Last year we had a discussion with Steve Bright. It was an open forum during one of our meetings about the cafeteria hours. As you can see, the cafeteria hours have been extended to 7:00 p.m. this semester and I would like to say that was partially by the efforts of the Student Government Association.”
Washington continued, “We talked to Shaun Dearden, who is the dining hall manager, as well as Steve Bright, who works in the business office in conjunction with the dining hall. So, he had to educate us from a business aspect on why things are the way they are and they’re still things that I would like to improve upon.”
“They did make a stride towards improving hours by increasing that to 7:00 p.m. and we would love to continue talks about having the ability to use meal swipes on the weekend and things like that. Those are efforts that we are still pushing for,” finished Washington.
Vice President of External Affairs, Nathaniel Pierce, had a table outside of the dining hall on Monday, Feb. 4, and Wednesday, Feb. 6. Washington said, “The table, funny enough, it says ‘There’s nothing on campus that I would fix. Change my mind’ or something like that. Pierce is doing that one, I love it.”
Pierce said, “The primary concerns throughout all of my tabling was to do with the caf and dining services on campus and for undergrads. Last semester…we brought dining services into a Senate meeting and had them discuss why the hours were changed, what they could do about it. Those talks did not go quite as planned but we are still on an internal level still in talks with services to see what can be changed, what can be done.”
Pierce continued, saying, “We understand that Dining Services has a lot on their plate, not to make a pun. This year, El Sí is open late on Fridays as well as on Saturdays. The caf is now open later. So they are making moves to try to better it.”
According to Pierce, the dining hall and dining services are also trying to go green, with more renewable options and biodegradable plates and carry-out boxes, and compostable lids for drinks.
“There was a lot of the freshmen dorms and other residential issues, including stuff with laundry. Then there was also a lot of graduate students who came to be about different things. [Graduate students] do not have a voice on campus, so it is kind of good to see them coming out to tell me things about them,” said Pierce.
SGA has a lot to do not only with the students, but with decisions concerning students as well. “We sit directly on committees with faculty and staff that have a say in so many of the things that are going on on campus. Next semester, we have our new general education curriculum being implemented. We had SGA senators sit on that committee and so part of what you will see blossom next semester is partially because of what SGA senators serving on that committee,” said Washington.
He continued, “We have SGA senators that work with Housing and Residence Life and sit on those committees. I sit on a residential learning community task force where we are going to try to implement residential learning communities on campus. For those who are unfamiliar with that, that is where people who share certain interests live together in a specific community.”
“For all of the readers, SGA meets on every Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Our meetings are open to the public,” said Washington. “You have to be the change you want to see. And so our Senators, I give a big shout out to them because they are being the change that they want to see but we also want to see our students have faith in our senators and have faith in our Senate and have faith in our executive board, that we’re going to advocate for them. And attendance at our meetings would show that faith because, like I said, we are always advocating and we are always making sure that some change takes place that is within our physical grasp.”
“SGA is doing everything that it possibly can to rectify any situation,” said Washington. “We are a voice of the students.”