Editor’s Note: The Collegian applied for SOBAC funding; this relationship does not determine The Collegian’s coverage in any capacity.
The Westhampton College Government Association voted to disaffiliate effective immediately on March 17 in support of the University of Richmond Black Student Coalition’s Statement on Black Student Welfare.
WCGA disaffiliated in response to the Board of Trustees decision to not remove the names of Douglas Southall Freeman and Robert Ryland from Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls, respectively, according to a March 22 statement posted to its Instagram.
The Richmond College Student Government Association voted to disaffiliate on March 21.
Similar to RCSGA, WCGA will cease all normal operations — including weekly meetings — but will still hear student concerns, said former president of WCGA and senior Noella Park.
“All the committees are actively on halt, on pause,” Park said. “WCGA exec no longer holds meetings at all. We are withholding our election process.
“So, the elections for the 2021- 2022 school year are on pause because WCGA believes [if] students don't feel comfortable taking on positions for the school, then it's not going to be an accurate representation of [the student body].”
RCSGA elections for the 2021-22 academic year are currently underway, while WCGA elections have been postponed until the board "releases a plan to sufficiently meet all three demands listed in the Protect Our Web: A Statement on Black student Welfare as determined by the UR Black Student Coalition," according to its statement.
The election timelines for RCSGA and WCGA differed this year, as WCGA had intended to hold elections in early April, Park said.
WCGA’s final meeting before the hiatus was on March 17, Park said. In the official WCGA vote, approximately 70% of the body fully supported the hiatus and approximately 30% were unsure, Park said. There are 35 members of the body, she said.
RCSGA’s vote to disaffiliate extends disaffiliation until the 2021-22 body votes by a two-thirds majority to reinstate operations, as previously reported by The Collegian. The 2021-22 RCSGA president, junior Anthony Lawrence, was sworn in after the 2020-21 body cast the disaffiliation vote, and elections for other positions will still occur on March 24.
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Park said that WCGA’s decision to disaffiliate was in response to the board’s inability to serve the student body.
“Student government serves as the bridge between the administration and the students, that's what we are here for,” Park said. “However, obviously, the administration — and by the administration, I mean the Board of Trustees — isn’t meeting the needs of the students no matter how loud and no matter how clearly we leave [students’ needs] out for them.”
Additional details about WCGA’s interim policies, as well as Student Organization Budget Appropriations Committee (SOBAC) hearings, will be announced soon, according to its March 22 statement, and students are encouraged to reach out to the college deans for urgent issues.
“WCGA stands wholeheartedly with the UR Black Student Coalition and refuses to work for a University that continually makes decisions that work against students,” the statement reads.
In the statement, WCGA also encouraged others in the community to consider disaffiliating in solidarity with the Black Student Coalition.
The coalition initially asked signers of the Statement on Black Student Welfare to disaffiliate from UR organizations beginning April 1 but moved the deadline to March 25 after UR President Ronald Crutcher sent an email on March 17 to the UR community announcing that the board determined it would not remove names from campus buildings despite the Black Student Coalition’s demands.
Park believes students’ disaffiliation will impact their time at UR.
“I think I'm not alone in saying that WCGA was a large part of the reason why I chose to stay at Richmond, why I continued to love Richmond,” Park said. “It really was the Richmond experience for me. As a senior, it's quite sad that this is what it's come to, that I can't enjoy my last year. And for those who aren't seniors, like younger members of the body, [the board is] ruining the Richmond experience because the board has made such a decision to ignore the students.
“We’re ruining our college experience because the board isn't listening.”
In addition to the removal of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman’s names from the buildings named after them, the coalition demands expanded academic accommodations for all students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — specifically scheduling more days off if regular breaks are not given during coming semesters and offering a credit/ no credit option for students this semester. The Faculty Senate approved the latter demand last week after previously voting against it on Jan. 22.
The third demand of the UR Black Student Coalition is for UR to subsidize off-campus mental health services for Black students.
In addition to noting the board’s decision to not rename the buildings, Crutcher addressed the student’s mental health concerns in his March 17 email, stating that Counseling and Psychological Services had assured him that its counselors have the capacity to support all students.
Park said members of WCGA would still be a resource for students.
“One of the things that WCGA was concerned about when voting to go into hiatus was: if we stop our work, who's going to listen to the students?” Park said. “Even though WCGA, as a body, is no longer working, members of WCGA are still here for students. Just because I'm not president anymore doesn't mean I'm not going to answer any questions or concerns that students might have.”
News editor Jackie Llanos contributed to reporting.
Contact managing editor Emma Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org and editor-in-chief Olivia Diaz at email@example.com.
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