On Monday,2/20/2017, all student body president candidates participated in the Campaign Panel, a forum aimed to address some of the most challenging diversity and inclusion issues the next SBP will potentially face during their term.
The panel was hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) Diversity Commission in Rudder 601. Diversity Commissioner and public service and administration graduate student Jonah Chen facilitated the panel. The panel was the first of its kind and served as a replacement to the annual vice president of student affairs meet and greet.
During the panel candidates responded to a wide range of questions from how they would have responded to the Feb. 9 incident had they been SBP, how they will handle pressing issues including the Bathroom Bill — which would require transgender students to use the bathrooms in coordination with the sex listed on their birth certificate — and how they intend to increase diversity and inclusivity if they are elected.
Chen said the panel was something he thought was necessary for both the students in attendance and SGA as a whole.
“It is disheartening to me to have to go to those student organization meetings and hear these issues get talked in circles and have folks feel like nobody has their back … This event was important for me to put on because I wanted to engage all of our potential student body presidents because they are going to have to deal with this,” Chen said. “It’s important for everyone to know that out of these four sitting up here, one of them has to be capable of taking care of something drastic that happens in terms of diversity and inclusion.”
During the panel, SBP and economics junior Robert “Bobby” Brooks said diversity and inclusion must be a part of everything on campus.
“One of the biggest misconceptions that we sometimes tend to think as students is that diversity and inclusion has to be one entity and that has to be on everyone's rear ends all the time to try to force things to happen, but we need to integrate diversity and inclusion into everything else that we do in student services,” Brooks said. “Things like dining and transportation need diversity focuses and aspects to them to so that they can before equitable and fair in how they produce their services.”
SBP candidate and university studies senior Robert McIntosh said he intends to focus on building relationships to make students of all backgrounds feel welcome.
“To me diversity is really simple — it boils down to relationships, and thats relationships across the board from every corner of campus,” McIntosh said. “And I think inclusion looks like, from the office of student body president is having personal friendships having touches with people thru lunch conversations email exchanges and phone calls to me that's exactly what that looks like and I think that’s exactly what A&M needs when it comes to diversity.”
Benjamin Ikwuagwu, SBP candidate and supply chain management junior, said he thinks diversity and inclusion are important because they are two things that unite the Aggie family in a way nothing else can.
“Diversity in my opinion is the thing that challenges us to learn from each other,” Ikwuagwu said. “It’s how we grow, its how we continue developing as people and it’s how we learn from each other. Inclusion is defined as what brings us together and how we can be represented equally.”
While SBP candidate and management information systems senior Kilian Bresnahan was unable to attend the panel, accounting senior Benjamin Grubb represented him. Grubb said while neither he nor Bresnahan could know how it is to be a minority on campus, Bresnahan’s focus will be to empower and give a voice to those who are often overlooked.
“We need to empower those disenfranchised and minority groups because yes we can represent them but I am not them I am not a minority group so I don't know what it's like to be a minority student, so instead of me or Kilian being a voice for you we want to empower you guys because you guys know what it's like to be a minority student,” Grubb said. “Until we empower you and have the minority students tell us what we need to do to make it a better place it won't happen.”
The entire panel — which discussed topics including funding of the GLBT resource center and whether or not candidates think A&M should be a sanctuary campus — was recorded by the SGA diversity commission and is available to view in its entirety on their facebook page at facebook.com/TAMUDiversity.
Texas A&M University is becoming an increasingly more diverse institution as individuals from around the country and across the globe become more and more inspired by what this university has to offer. As the Student Government Assocation represents a multi-faceted student body, it is the priority of SGA and the Diversity Commission to embrace different backgrounds, lifestyles and cultures in order to enhance the Aggie student experience. Moreover, it is our duty as an SGA organization to understand how issues and opportunities on campus affect all students. However, it is important to recognize that no matter how different we are in our beliefs, customs or lifestyles, we will always have one thing in common: We Are Aggies.
“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.” - T.H. White
“We are not supposed to all be the same, feel the same, think the same, and believe the same. The key to continued expansion of our Universe lies in diversity, not in conformity and coercion. Conventionality is the death of creation.” - Anthen St. Maarten