SGA drafts press release demanding input on OEI changes

Written By Erin Yudt, SGA Beat Writer

At the Student Government Association’s (SGA) legislative meeting this Monday, March 14, the group discussed a public statement written by Communications Director Drew Simko, President Dennis McDermott and Parliamentarian Kairi Stallsmith.

The drafted statement, which has not yet been released as the group’s discussion is still ongoing, covers everything from their stance on the recent announcement of the dispersal on the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) to the confusion regarding whose exact idea it was for the changes to the “overall lack of student input and SGA input,” according to McDermott, from the university administration as a whole.

Stallsmith first introduced a resolution to SGA’s constitution regarding this issue.

“What the resolution basically is saying is that we are demanding more input on these kinds of things [administrative changes],” said Stallsmith. “Us [SGA] and the student body deserve to be consulted first, and this resolution will hopefully help ensure that if approved.”

The resolution additionally addressed how this academic year has shown “record numbers of students accessing services,” which the SGA believes is because of having a separate office and designated “safe space,” making students more comfortable.

Stallsmith also mentioned that talks between the President’s Office and OEI have been happening since December and that the reorganization was originally planned to occur over this summer while “students are not paying attention.”

“Administration was going to do this all over the summer,” said Stallsmith. “They were going to do it when no one was paying attention, which is wrong, and we have all the right to be angry and upset.”

After some initial infusion from senators on this resolution, Simko read the two-page long public statement aloud, which also was under topics for potential approval and broke down its main points of accessibility, diversity and transparency.

“Basically what we are saying is that we do not want the core structure of the office to be changed,” said Simko. “We want the office to remain on the first floor of the Student Center, and there have been plans to expand in that specific place. We want the office to remain separate from other offices like Student Life.”

These two proposed documents led to discussion on the public statement from the rest of the executive cabinet, who were given access to the statement a “few days prior” to the meeting, according to Vice President Kendra Summers, senators and a few students sitting in on the meeting.

Summers encouraged viewpoints of all kinds and restated that senators can talk to any executive cabinet member of their choice anonymously, as the group’s purpose is to “give a voice to all opinions.”

“We are not going to release something that we do not all agree and vote upon like always,” Summers said.

McDermott, who wrote the transparency section, commented on the tone, as some felt it may be “too harsh.”

“I think the university has put themselves in the situation we are in right now where we have to react, and they have continued to do so,” McDermott said. “I think it is time to be upset about that. I don’t think it’s wrong to convey that in a statement.”

Simko followed up by sharing the document with everyone, asking those to put comments on places they have issues and offered individual meetings to discuss the material.

“We do have power to instill change,” Simko said. “We can do this and in the right way.”

Taking place before this discussion was another debated topic of the mask mandate, which SGA said it has had to “fight” for student input in the final decisions. The group plans to release a student survey soon to gauge more of a fair understanding of student, staff and faculty viewpoints, as well as their booster status.