Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Student government has always been more than an ‘event planning service’

Dear Fellow Canes,

As you are aware, we are in the midst of the Student Government election. Over the past year, I have served as the president of Student Government, and the student trustee on the University of Miami Board of Trustees. In these roles, I have not only gained a broad understanding of the student body, but also the rich history, context and traditions that make up the University of Miami. While I am thrilled to see the energy, passion and attention that has gone into this election, I am deeply concerned by the way in which Student Government, an organization that, to its core, exists to advocate for and represent the undergraduate student body, has been portrayed.

With our three branches, three agencies and over 190 members, we work to engage with students across campus, through the diversity of our membership and conscious outreach to student groups. I reject the characterization of Student Government as an “event planning service.” Our initiatives aim to enhance the student experience, whether that be through providing students with additional study space during finals or advocating for academic policy changes to the Faculty Senate and administration. Candidly, a large portion of the advocacy we do on behalf of students, whether it be expressing our opinion on proposed university policy or working with administrators to improve existing programs, is not publicized. Work may happen in small meetings or behind a closed door, but that does not mean that change, effort, and time is not being dedicated by students, for students.

Over the past year, I have learned a lot about representation. It is, by definition, elevating the voices of those who would otherwise not have a say. Our student body is a vibrant community from a broad spectrum of identities, backgrounds and experiences. Hailing from all 50 states and 123 countries, we are both incredibly diverse and equally complex. True representation requires purposeful engagement with students from an array of backgrounds. In practice, true representation acknowledges the fact that one will never be able to understand the context of every single student at the University of Miami.

Transparency was a key part of our platform. Since taking office, we have released monthly progress reports outlining the progress of the initiatives we made the commitment to accomplish during our campaign. Our platform was not a list of recycled ideas. It was the product of months of conversations with student leaders from across campus. And we have stayed true to our promises.

We promised to bring free feminine hygiene product dispensers. Working with Dr. Whitely, President Frenk, Dr. Travisano, and Facilities, to date, there have been 22 dispensers installed in female and gender-neutral bathrooms across campus. We promised to improve the security in campus parking lots, and during our tenure, four additional light posts were installed in the Red Parking lot to address safety concerns expressed by students. We promised to facilitate more purposeful and engaging events for students on campus, which resulted in the creation of “What Matters to U,” a program that recently brought Bill Nye to campus to engage in a discussion with students about climate change, with another event planned for April 18th, 2019.

We promised an equitable education, and to improve consistency across different sections of foundational courses (MTH 151, BIL 151, etc.). Working with Provost Duerk and Dean Bachas in the College of Arts and Sciences, we proved that changes needed to be made in the way these courses are taught and have closely monitored the implementation of these changes. We promised to increase student inclusion on University committees, and in my role as student trustee, I have continually worked to facilitate engagement between trustees and the student body and advocated for the inclusion of students on the Board’s visiting committees for each school and college at UM.

Sincerely,

Evan de Joya

President, Student Government

Student Trustee, University of Miami

February 19, 2019

Reporters

Evan de Joya


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.