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SGA leaders talk inclusivity, diversity in State of the Student Body address

SGA leaders talk inclusivity, diversity in State of the Student Body address

SGA leaders talk inclusivity, diversity in State of the Student Body address
October 17
13:59 2018

Students, administrators and organization members gathered at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the University Union Jade Ballroom for the annual State of the Student Body, an address to the Student Senate and the student body about the current state of the Student Government Association.

This was the first publicly-held address since 2014, as the previous three have been pre-recorded.

“The last time any administration had a State of the Student Body like this was during fall 2014 during the Elliot/Willard administration,” SGA Chief of Staff Stephon Bradberry said during a post-event interview at the Presidents Caucus and Reception. “When we chose our date, we wanted it to be where we were already in the middle of the semester so we could recap a little and then still have a lot more that we were still looking forward to.”

The address featured four speakers:  Elizabeth With, vice president of student affairs, SGA Vice President Dominique Thomas, SGA President Muhammad Kara and UNT President Neal Smatresk.

With began her presentation with quick facts about student affairs and updates, which included the almost $7 million renovation efforts over 10 weeks during summer. With shifted her focus to the current year and said retention is a priority.

President Smatresk welcomes SGA President Muhammad Kara to his term. Dimmagio Escobedo

Filling senate chambers

Thomas highlighted the importance of filling senator seats during her speech and said she is looking for potential legislators who are “committed, passionate and dedicated to serving the undergraduate student population.” Thomas said that the current senate is committed to that same vision.

The administration began the semester with 26 senators, and Thomas said the senate has confirmed seven new senators this semester and will continue on with the confirmations

“It is my personal mission to have the remaining 12 senate seats filled by the end of the semester,” Thomas said.

Thomas said during the campaign, she and Kara made it their mission to include, retain and reach out to more students than ever before.

“I invite you all to join this movement of change for a better, more inclusive, prosperous student government,” Thomas said in the conclusion of her speech.

SGA’s State of the Student Body dress was held October 16. At the address, school and SGA officals discussed future plans for the SGA. Dimmagio Escobedo

Diversity and inclusion efforts

During his speech, Kara proposed goals rather than an agenda for his long-term plans during the fall and spring semester. Much of Kara’s speech focused on his mission to “close the gap between students and success” and “uniting our diverse population to forge a new way forward under a common love for our university.”

“As President, my main concern is to represent the many intersections and various needs of our students,” Kara said. “It’s not about one group, organization or identity, but we must all work to create an inclusive community where we can all succeed.”

In a brief interview after his address, Kara said presentations with marginalized organizations such as the Black Student Union have served as an outreach tool. Kara said these organizations’ SGA representatives talk about what SGA can do for them.

“The result actually shows within our student senate,” Kara said. “We have a lot of individuals on committees, election board, Supreme Court and Student Senate. I think we even have some individuals that are in the intern programs that are both in BSU and the intern program.”

UNT President Neal Smatresk took the stage at the conclusion of Kara’s speech. Smatresk finished out the address with an emphasis on an upcoming climate survey proposed by Joanne Woodard, vice president for institutional equity and diversity, and a team of “dedicated professionals.”

“The climate survey isn’t a forum for whining or complaining,” Smatresk said. “It’s a forum for speaking the truth about the experiences you have, both positive and negative. While I hope there’s more positive than negative, we’re OK with hearing about what we might do better.”

Featured Image: SGA President Muhammad Kara spoke at SGA’s State of the Student Body address. His address covered SGA’s budget, issues and plan for the future. Dimmagio Escobedo

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Ally Zarate

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