Student Government Association (SGA) members voted unanimously to create a formal black student caucus at their weekly meeting on Tuesday.
Senior Class Senator Madi Uraih, who introduced the bill, stressed the need for SGA to represent the concerns of black undergraduates on campus.
“It’s particularly salient because we only have two members on this body who identify as black or African American, while the school’s population of black students is 11 percent and rising,” she said. “I also thought this was particularly important after I saw that University of Maryland, College Park, just instituted a black caucus.”
Uraih further noted that instituting a black caucus is important given the University’s current bid to create its own private police force. Some, including members of the Black Student Union (BSU), have criticized this proposed police force because of the possibility of racial profiling.
Uraih emphasized the importance of examining how SGA bills affect African Americans on campus.
“There are a lot of issues that black students are facing that really don’t get discussed at large,” she said.
The caucus will be open to anyone on SGA, regardless of their racial identification. Uraih explained that the black caucus and the SGA Committee on Civic Engagement will host an open forum once a semester where members of black organizations on campus, such as the BSU and the National Society of Black Engineers, will be invited to help guide discussions.
Uraih believes that the black caucus will help connect SGA to the Baltimore community and nearby universities with which black organizations on campus have previously collaborated.
Junior Class Senator Kiana Boroumand commended the bill.
“This bill will be the most important thing to come out of Civic Engagement this year,” she said.
During the meeting, SGA’s advisor and Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) Director Calvin Smith, Jr., congratulated SGA members for advocating a student center. University President Ronald J. Daniels announced plans to build a student center at the location currently occupied by the Mattin Center on Tuesday night.
Executive President AJ Tsang said that the student center will be funded by a $150 million anonymous donation. According to Tsang, a planning committee chaired by Director of Athletics and Recreation Alanna Shanahan will spend the next year planning the construction process.
Junior Class Senator Mohamed El Gendi expressed disappointment for some reactions to the announcement of the student center.
“Right as the announcement was being made, a bunch of students started shouting, ‘No private police!’ and when Daniels said, ‘Please, say thank you to the donor on video,’ there were a lot of boos,” he said. “We put so much into this, but we have to hear what the students want.”
Freshman Class Senator Nathan Mudrak questioned where performing arts will be housed when the current Mattin Center is demolished.
Junior Class Senator Madelynn Wellons echoed Mudrak’s concerns, adding that, before the announcement was made, the Office of Student Disability Services had permits to move to Mattin in three months.
“There has been zero consideration about how this will impact students with disabilities,” she said.
Tsang clarified that a goal of the student center is to bring several student services, such as the Offices of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and LGBTQ Life, closer to campus.
Later in the meeting, former Junior Class Senator Miranda Bannister was elected to be Executive Vice President. She said that in this role, she plans to reach out to OMA, the Office of LGBTQ Life and other organizations in order to make SGA more diverse. SGA members elected Bannister to succeed Tsang, who became executive president following senior Noh Mebrahtu’s removal.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Bannister discussed the Pink Wave/Rainbow Wave Initiative.
“I want to change the face of SGA for this coming year,” she said. “We need more women, people of color and people from the LGBTQ community in office.”
Bannister also hopes to push the administration to respond to the Title IX Policy Resolution calling for the University to reform the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).
According to SGA’s bylaws, the Junior Class Council must send an application to the junior class to fill Bannister’s vacant seat within seven business days. Lauren Paulet, who resigned as Sophomore Class Senator, has also left a vacant seat that must be filled.
SGA members appointed Paulet to SGA’s Policy Research and Development Commission as Senior Advisor of Environmental Policy.
Next week, SGA will vote on whether to help sponsor the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC)’s second annual One Love Event. SAAC representatives explained that the mission of the event is to raise awareness for relationship violence and abuse. Junior Claire State, who is on SAAC’s Executive Committee, hopes to get more members of student organizations aside from athletes involved in the event this year.