Editor's Note: The following is a letter from the outgoing presidents of the Richmond College Student Government Association and the Westhampton College Government Association. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
To the University of Richmond student body:
When we ran for the student government presidencies last spring, we were both united by our vision to lessen the divide between the Richmond College Student Government Association and the Westhampton College Government Association.
We saw in our elections a desire from students to increase collaboration between our two bodies, and in everything we’ve done this year, we have tried our hardest to work together. No decision was made and no action was taken without the two of us communicating, and we set this expectation for all SGA members.
We held joint meetings every three weeks (more than in any year past), mandated a working relationship between all counterparts and made it clear we viewed the bodies as one team. Without our teamwork, we have no doubt that our governments would have been much slower to respond to incidents of hate, been weaker in advocating for student-centered policies in the administrative response to the COVID-19 pandemic and been divided by the petty competition that historically existed between our two bodies.
Although we as presidents strove to work in concert, that was not necessarily the case when it came to our organizations as a whole. The natural divide, created simply by the existence of two student governments, often impeded our work and made communication frustratingly difficult.
Every decision we made had to be approved twice, at different times and using different procedures. Discussions affecting the entire campus happened separately among representatives of only one half of the student body. We quickly discovered that the current system’s inefficiency prevented us from using our full power on behalf of the student body.
We admit that sometimes we failed as leaders to create the campus and governments that we imagined. However, as we look back on our terms in office, we cannot help but notice the inherent impact that a divided student government has had on our vision for a campus community where every student can thrive. We were able to create a pilot program for a student social space, change the way students can report bias in the classroom and expand the SOBAC funding pool, but all of these changes took a monumental effort because of the disjointed nature of having two student governments.
We believe that UR will not have the campus environment we envision until the creation of one University of Richmond Student Government Association, consisting of elected members of both Richmond College and Westhampton College who together represent the entire student body.
With one voice, the URSGA will advocate for, act on behalf of and serve this student body much more effectively. We will be stronger and altogether more productive, especially in our communications with the student body and the UR administration. For the betterment of the student experience, one URSGA is the best way to proceed.
This article does not discount the incredible advice, leadership and work of the Richmond College and Westhampton College deans’ offices. Dean Joe Boehman and Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni’s amazing efforts are a testament to what collaboration can do on this campus, and without both of them we are confident we would have failed in leading our governments to enact change on campus. However, we advocate that our actions and their advising would be more effective under one united URSGA.
We write this article because we deeply care about this place that we have called home for the last four years. It has been the greatest honor of our lives to serve this student body and to work with UR’s talented and passionate administration.
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The closure of campus due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak is certainly not how we envisioned the end of our term or time as students at UR. While the changes are shocking, these last few weeks have further demonstrated that we need one student government when crisis strikes our community.
Yesterday, we witnessed the election of your next two SGA Presidents, AJ Polcari and Noella Park, with the hope that they will continue our legacy and begin the process of unifying the SGAs during their terms. We know that this shift will not occur overnight, but we hope that our successors will explore the creation of a student government that works for all students on this campus. This change has been a long time coming, and as we leave office we can say with certainty: It’s time.
Mike Laposata and Lindsey Paul
Your Outgoing RCSGA and WCGA Presidents
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