SGA fails to fulfill diversity initiative, senate plans for inaugural homecoming

India Yarborough

Before parting for winter break, Student Government Association President Sierra Ambrose asked cabinet members to reflect on her campaign initiatives. Their verdict? At least one objective had not been met.

“From what I looked at and from what everyone else said, we did a great job at attacking two initiatives — health and wellness and community engagement,” Ambrose said. “However, overall we failed at diversity and inclusion.”

Ambrose and her running mate, SGA Vice President Joann Cassama, campaigned early last year by touting transparency, diversity and inclusion as their top priorities. Ambrose told The Maroon last week that the pair’s failure to increase campus diversity and inclusion was not due to a lack of trying.

“I think it was a lack of understanding of what it means to be inclusive and a (lack of) true understanding of the diverse community on our campus,” Ambrose said.

She added that last semester’s feedback inspired her to conduct research over the holidays on how to teach others about diversity and inclusion. However, Ambrose suggested, she also had a bit to learn.

“Over break when I was studying this and doing a lot of reading and research, I also got a lot of feedback from students. One, in particular, was a student on Twitter saying she wasn’t comfortable being herself (while attending SGA events),” Ambrose said. “As a member of the diverse community, it kind of hurt my feelings a little bit, but it was definitely an eye-opener to see that I have to go that extra mile.”

Since Ambrose decided to “go that extra mile,” she said she has reached out to Sybol Anderson, Loyola’s chief diversity officer, and others in the Loyola community to determine how to best serve SGA’s constituents. Ambrose also compared her inclusion strategies with those of student government officers at other Jesuit institutions. This semester, she said, changes are in store.

“You’re going to see a lot more programs from SGA regarding inclusivity, a lot more SGA representatives attending events and reaching out to students to really understand their concerns and hear their voices,” Ambrose said.


Senate Update

Meanwhile, Cassama, who presides over the SGA senate, said she worked last semester to increase cooperation among SGA’s branches of government and improve relationships between senators and their peers.

“We did implement a lot of stuff for the senate — adding more roles for them. This semester, one of their office hours they have to serve working in the food pantry that Rana and her court of review just opened up,” Cassama said.

“(Senate) also took on the role of becoming the official liaison for student organizations,” she added. “We took all the approved student orgs, and we divided them up between every senator — so they are responsible for getting in contact with them, reaching out to them, making sure they have someone they can talk to from SGA.”

Cassama said senators’ hard work has resulted in new bills and several approved projects. Senators from the College of Music and Fine Arts proposed adding additional printing stations in the library to streamline foot traffic. The proposal passed, and Cassama said funds for the new printing station will come out of SGA’s budget.

“We are in the process of ordering and placing those,” Cassama said. “So there will be two printing stations for students.”

Cassama added that, per a senator’s suggestion, rain ponchos will be placed in different departments around campus this month to ensure students stay dry when surprise showers hit.

But the senate’s biggest project on the horizon is an inaugural homecoming week, an idea proposed by Kristen Williams, senator-at-large.

“This is basically being planned with her student involvement committee, and I’m hoping to work with the newly chartered student athletic advisory committee,” Cassama said. “I’m also hoping to engage with the alumni association to get this big homecoming event going.”

Though specifics are still in the works, Cassama hopes homecoming festivities will take place one week in February, leading up to a night of men’s and women’s home basketball games.

“Something that this campus can work on is school spirit, getting students to support their athletes and just having everyone come together at once,” she said.