A recent study found that nearly 60 percent of middle-class Americans do not think their voices are heard in Washington, D.C.
That's why student government leaders at the University of Richmond are trying to ensure that 100 percent of students have their voices heard on campus.
“There are always going to be people who are not heard just because of the structure of student government, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable in terms of our mission,” Chiara Solitario, senior, president of Westhampton College Government Association, said.
The primary initiative of WCGA and Richmond College Student Government Association this year is a listening tour. Through the listening tour, members from WCGA and RCSGA are contacting the 187 different clubs and organizations on campus to start a conversation with each group about its student experience at UR.
The goal is to talk with every member of the student body by the end of the semester, Solitario said.
“The University of Richmond, from your first moment on campus, pushes getting involved,” Solitario said. “We thought the Listening Tour would be a good way to reach the majority of undergraduate students on campus because everyone is involved in an organization.”
Each organization will meet with one WCGA representative and one RCSGA representative. During the meeting, the two representatives will lead a conversation about what needs to be changed at UR in order to improve the student experience, Solitario said.
“We’re not there to talk or give a lecture,” Abbas Abid, senior, president of RCSGA, said. “We’re there to hear what students have to say.”
Solitario said that before the Listening Tour began, each member of student government received training to effectively lead conversations and translate feedback into actionable steps.
Once all of the information from each organization has been collected, Solitario and Abid will work with Jessica Matsuda, senior, chair of Senate for WCGA, to compile a report on the findings. This report will be presented to the administration and the student body in the spring semester, Abid said.
“Getting feedback from students will help us to understand what needs to be done in order to enhance student life and to define ‘better,’” Abid said. “This is a long-term project that I know will extend beyond my time here.”
The report will guide what changes need to be made to enhance the overall student experience.
“If the administration sees that there is a huge concentrated support to address something on campus, that gives them the initiative and the pressure to address it,” Solitario said. “We’d love to see this repeated in the future because I think it can really set the agenda for both student government and the administration.”
The Listening Tour began on Oct. 9 and will continue through Dec. 1.
Oliver Rozario, sophomore, met with two student government representatives when they attended his fraternity meeting on Oct. 22 for the Listening Tour. He said that prior to the Listening Tour, he had not felt as if his voice had been represented in student government, but he thought that the meeting with the representatives was productive.
“For them to take the time to listen to what we had to say and promise to work toward a solution was really impressive,” he said.
Abid shared this sentiment.
“I’m most excited to be reaching students who thought that their ideas couldn’t be heard,” Abid said. “This is an opportunity that most students don’t have – not just at our school but in general.”
Contact writer Claire Mendelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.