SBP candidates speak on diversity at annual candidate town hall

As the campaigning period for student body elections comes to a close, three of the four student body president candidates gathered in the Memorial Student Center Flag Room to discuss topics of diversity as they relate to Texas A&M.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Student Government Association, or SGA, Diversity Commission and the Matthew Gaines Society partnered to host the Student Body President Candidate Town Hall on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, or DEIA.

This year’s town hall was moderated by political science and Spanish senior Tori Davis, the SGA diversity commissioner, and health promotion and community health sciences graduate student Aketch Osamba, president of the Matthew Gaines Society.

Following their opening statements, all three candidates present were individually asked a series of random questions regarding their initiatives on diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility.

During the diversity section, race, gender, ethnicity junior Bailey Greenwood had the opportunity to share her experiences with various organizations and plans related to DEIA. Greenwood said she’s partnered with organizations on and off campus, and built strong relationships within the community.

“I currently serve on the Diversity Commission, but a lot of my success has been outside of that,” Greenwood said. “I have had great opportunities to go to Maroon Table Talks and things of that nature, but it’s actually through my work with the Aggie ACHIEVE program and local community to give back services. I’ve worked with the Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley, the African American Museum of the Brazos Valley and the BEE Community, I’ve gotten to establish relationships with them. At Texas A&M, I have gotten to implement a ring initiative for students who weren’t eligible to order them.”

Greenwood was later asked how she would challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity for campus diversity issues. Greenwood said conversations are important to diversity initiatives, but steps need to be taken to improve the student experience.

“I think actions definitely speak louder than words,” Greenwood said. “We can go and we can immerse ourselves into these orgs and we can be there for these tough conversations … until there’s something truly done about it, I don’t think that we can take credit for anything … It’s almost pointless if you’re not going to act on it. I think it’s a matter of breaking down barriers so every Aggie has a chance for something they do not have currently, and really becoming one with the student body.”

When asked the same question, marketing junior Cate Craddock said she values the importance of conversation between the SGA and the many student organizations on campus.

“We need to get with these organizations and have these conversations with them and when talking about social media with these organizations, let’s work with them,” Craddock said. “Let’s highlight what they have to say and what they think on social media.”

Craddock said her previous experience as vice president for university committees allowed her to understand how those conversations affect students.

“I have had the opportunity before campaign season to have a conversation with some international students and they told me that this was the first time that any student from Texas A&M that was not within their class spoke to them and that should not be the case,” Craddock said. “I think that just sitting down and having normal conversations whether it’s included in these organizations or just walking around and talking to these students in the MSC, I think these conversations need to be had and I think will help with stereotypes.”

During the inclusion section, finance junior Hudson Kraus was asked how SGA could help marginalized groups feel welcome on campus, he said SGA should follow through on their existing diversity programs, to open a dialogue with students who are members of such groups.

“I think what the Student Government Association can absolutely do, first and foremost, is make sure we’re completing all of our diversity and equity initiatives,” Kraus said. “Then at that point — when students across campus recognize the work that the Student Government Association is doing for diversity and equity on the campus — they’ll finally be more willing and open to engage in respectful dialogue and come together in an inclusive environment to where can fully collaborate with each other and push forward these initiatives at Texas A&M.”

Upon being asked how he sees the topic of diversity fitting into the educational experience here at A&M, Kraus said he imagines the A&M experience as a food dish.

“Imagine your favorite dish and that completed dish is what your education is in Texas A&M University,” Kraus said. “What we need to make sure what we are doing here at Texas A&M University is making sure that we are adding in all the key ingredients that we are potentially missing in the Student Government Association right now and making sure that we are advocating for everyone across campus.”


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