At the local, state and national levels, students are often compelled to find ways they can make their voices heard. As students of Trinity, we are impacted by every decision our administration makes, and the SGA (Student Government Association) exists as the body that represents such student interests. Its president is Jaelen Harris, who has been working with SGA since the fall of 2019.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Harris and ask him about SGA, and Harris described his presidential responsibilities. “I serve as the bridge between the student body and the administration. It is my job to represent SGA’s interests and by extension the student body’s interests,” Harris said.
While SGA cannot make the university’s policies themselves, it can support certain policies on behalf of the students. “I think one way that SGA helps students is that it is our purpose to advocate for students,” Harris said.
However, these new times mean that SGA’s representation will look a little different, and in some ways, it will be harder. “The students that we represent aren’t all in the same place. We can’t be in close contact to pick up on these important conversations, so it is harder to detect issues,” Harris said.
Harris and SGA are not giving up, though. They are looking at these new challenges as an opportunity. For instance, the coronavirus restrictions have given SGA a lot more time, and it is using that time to evolve as an organization. “The biggest opportunity that I’ve seen that we have is a chance to really review how we conduct our business,” Harris said.
One of the ways SGA has evolved is really taking advantage of its social media. “We are working on ‘how do we get our voice out there, and how do we hear our students’ voices?’ SGA does have an Instagram and Twitter. We are also working on a website. These will have links to a form where students can submit concerns, a place to field questions, and will spotlight what we’re doing,” Harris said.
There is more to SGA’s effort than making themselves available. With so many students off campus, SGA has to work harder to make students feel like they have a voice.
“Part of the messaging is not only making ourselves available but telling them why it may be important to reach out,” Harris said.
This outreach especially includes the students living off campus. “Part of increasing our outreach efforts is for the students at home who still want to raise their voice and remain involved on campus, how can we make them feel as welcomed and remembered,” Harris said.
To remain involved, students should also be aware of a couple of positions SGA is taking. Two of the most important issues this semester are living during the coronavirus and diversity and inclusion.
SGA is aware of the priority that the student body has put on diversity and inclusion, and it has made it a priority for itself as well. “Over the summer, much larger than Trinity itself, there was a moment when many voices were calling out for change. Student groups made their voices and demands heard, and that’s all they needed to do. I believe it is SGA’s job to remain in lockstep with the administration to fight for diversity and inclusion. Fighting for diversity and inclusion is fighting for every student,” Harris said.
SGA also wants the student body to be aware of how important it is to be safe during the coronavirus. However, the students do not have to see it as a hindrance. “Every student is going to have a different experience. The question is ‘how can we inspire students to stay safe, hold each other accountable and maintain a positive mindset?’” Harris said.
From talking to Harris, it is clear that despite the struggles we are facing, SGA has committed to staying positive and seeing the struggles as an opportunity to find new ways to serve the student body.