The efforts of Miami University’s Associated Student Government (ASG) all seemed targeted on students’ well-being during the last semester, a focus ASG hopes to continue in the spring.
In the fall, senators passed legislation to reform Miami’s sexual assault policy, increase awareness of “angel shots” in bars Uptown, expand the Student Counseling Services (SCS) to satellite locations across campus and give students more time to exit their residence halls before breaks.
Simultaneously, conversations about diversity and holding the Miami community accountable were prominent in the senate chamber last semester. Senators passed the Freedom Summer Initiative, which drew national attention, and called for the university to release data gathered from its bias reporting system, which allows students to report incidents of discrimination and microaggression. A senator also resigned in October after an Islamophobic message he sent in a GroupMe chat came to light.
ASG Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion Brandon Small hopes to encourage more conversation around cultural competence in Miami’s community through changes to the Global Miami Plan and orientation.
“I think that in order to hold people accountable, we first need to educate them,” Small said. “A lot of people come here, and maybe it's their first time being in class with a student of color. I think that it's really important for us to have conversations with them about how to navigate that and how to be culturally competent and inclusive.”
The Freedom Summer Initiative was a resolution to rename lounge spaces on Western campus after the three Freedom Summer activists who trained in Oxford to register black voters in the South were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. After approval by the Board of Trustees, the lobbies of Stonebridge, Beechwoods and Hillcrest Halls will be named after Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, respectively.
“I think that Miami has a lot of history with civil rights and activism, and I think that as time has gone on, we've just sort of heard about it less and less,” Small said of the effort. “The monument is all the way on Western campus, sort of tucked away, and a lot of people don't know what it is. So I think that it's really important for us to raise awareness about this issue because it wasn't just important for Miami. This was a nationally recognized thing. When we are able to look back and reflect upon the history that was at Miami, we're able to use those same themes and lessons to implement more changes on campus today.”
ASG must reconcile with the need to simply fill seats in the senate chamber, because 12 spots remain open for the special elections that will take place in the next few weeks.
“I feel like ASG can, at times, be kind of insulated from the outside campus,” On-Campus Senator Alex Coiner said. “I think that's a big problem that it has and that I see a lot of people trying to address this semester.”
This semester, ASG plans to host several events to encourage community engagement, including the fifth annual Mental Health Forum, an on-campus town hall to discuss student life and wellness and a celebration for the centennial of women’s suffrage to encourage civic engagement.
“I really love looking for ways for us to have ... large conversations with students about the things going on on campus,” Small said. “People have conversations, maybe with their friends or sometimes in class, but never usually like this.”
ASG plans to host an opening event for the Freedom Summer lounge unveiling. Small hopes to bring back the families of the Freedom Summer activists for the event.
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Coiner, who was elected to ASG in November, hopes to push for better food options for students living on campus this semester.
“[Vegetarian and vegan options] might seem like a minor issue,” Coiner said. “But if you look at the health issues — I mean, if you're not eating properly, that could affect people pretty badly, and it can cost more.”
Coiner is also planning to work with Academic Senator Omar Elghazawi to make meal plan adjustments for Muslim students that fast until dusk for Ramadan.
Elghazawi says Muslim students can arrange to pick up a meal from the dining halls during Ramadan. However, because the dining halls close at 8 p.m. and the sun doesn’t set until around 8:40 p.m. later in the month, by the time students are able to break their fast, the food they have picked up is no longer good, Elghazawi said. He also said the meals often contain pork, which Muslims do not eat.
“That is what I would like for ASG to tackle this semester — some of the failures that the administration has with accommodating students with different needs, be they dietary, physical health or with mental health issues,” Coiner said.