State of the Student Body Highlights Commitment to Student Engagement

Students gathering for the State of the Student BodyMembers of SGA & other organization members exchanging ideas and opinions | Abdul Malik, PantherNOW

Abdul Malik | Contributing Writer

The Student Government Association hosted a showcase of student leadership, advocacy, and community engagement at Graham Center. The gathering highlighted the SGA’s commitment to enriching the campus experience and advocating for student welfare across diverse communities.

Santana Way, the SGA Vice President, led the event overview of the SGA’s achievements and future projects. 

“Our free breakfast literally went from 8th Street Campus Kitchen all the way to the Betty Chapman Plaza. So the line was super long. We were able to feed over 1,000 students,” said Way. 

Furthermore, Way highlighted key SGA activities and plans, showcasing a proactive approach to enhancing the university experience. Significant achievements included extending the on-campus retail hours of Breezway and orchestrating engaging events like hosting successful student tailgates in collaboration with various student organizations.

“The purpose of the Black Student Union is to cultivate safe spaces for the black students on campus, as well as to educate, advocate, and celebrate the experiences of the African diaspora,” Grace Biggers, president of the Black Student Union, said while providing insights into the Union’s dedicated efforts to create inclusive spaces. 

Biggers introduced the Coalition of Black Organizational Leaders, a pivotal initiative to unite black executive leaders on campus. This program is designed to advocate for student issues, collaborate on events, and serve as a strong voice for the Black community at FIU. 

Biggers also highlighted the BSU’s successful efforts in stocking the campus food pantry, demonstrating a deep commitment to community service and support.

“I did want to start with a quote and it is not our differences that divide us, it’s our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”, said Kaily LaChapelle, president of the Pride Student Union, serving as the senate president of SGA. 

LaChapelle discussed the groundbreaking PSU’s DC fly-in program. This initiative, a first of its kind for the PSU, allows students to attend important LGBTQ+ conferences and engage with national leaders and policymakers. 

LaChapelle highlighted PSU’s response to challenging legislative changes and their efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community. Noteworthy was the establishment of a PSU foundation account, a pioneering move to secure funding for LGBTQ+ advocacy and support.

Tiara Campbell, Senate President Pro Tempore, outlined several Senate-led initiatives, including creating welcome packages for international students and implementing harm reduction services on campus. 

“Furthermore, we are organizing an additional town hall dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by international students when attempting to transfer credits obtained from tertiary level institutions outside of the United States,” Campbell proposed town hall meetings for a unified institutional vision demonstrating a deep commitment to addressing diverse student needs.

SGA President Alex Sutton’s speech underscored the concept of a Panther Nation, advocating for a more engaged and participatory student community. 

Sutton highlighted the SGA’s efforts in academic advising, plans to enhance the campus with new facilities like nap pods and 3D printers, and the initiative to raise awareness on menstrual health hygiene, reaffirming the SGA’s dedication to student welfare and comfort.

Sutton emphasized a vision for a more transparent SGA.

“We’re amending our Constitution to make it easier for students to petition SGA, promoting openness and accountability,” said Sutton. 

Sutton also addressed the Israel-Hamas conflict, advocating for a ceasefire and highlighting the importance of FIU’s engagement in global affairs.

“As an international university, we have a responsibility to discuss and act on global issues, including the call for a ceasefire to save innocent lives,” he said.

“I think that there needs to be another way to find peace and remove Hamas from power. The way to do it is not to create a humanitarian disaster, in my opinion,” Sutton clarified while addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict.

In an interview with PantherNOW, Sutton expanded on his vision for transparency and accountability within the SGA.

“It’s crucial that all our meetings are open to the public and well-advertised, ensuring that students are aware and can participate,” he said. 

“We need more robust systems to ensure that members who aren’t fulfilling their roles are either encouraged to step up or make way for those who will,” said Sutton when discussing holding SGA members accountable.

Discussing student engagement, Sutton emphasized the importance of introducing SGA to new students. 

“By hosting open events and utilizing social media, we’re reaching out to students unfamiliar with SGA. It’s about creating a welcoming environment where students can learn about our work and get involved.”

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