by Angela Fortuna
The Student Government Association confronted communication issues and feelings of discomfort from certain senators in the SGA when Senator Damar Britto publicly discussed the matter in recent meetings.
“A while back, I came in contact with some of the newer senators and was told that there was a lack of inclusion since they’ve been on,” Britto said. “It felt strange to me, hearing something like that because when I got on, that was also the case. They provided examples, things that people tend to potentially overlook, and when I thought it over, I agreed to their sentiments. I took it upon myself to represent them, these voices that felt like they carried no weight. We had senators feeling ignored, ostracized and excluded and I did not feel comfortable having that sit, but things didn’t go the way I had hoped.”
According to SGA meeting minutes from Sept. 27, Britto publicly said, “It bothers me that some senators cannot say what’s on their mind, and what makes them uncomfortable, involved or included… to ignore it as a problem and say it doesn’t exist is a problem in itself.”
“Even when I got on senate, I knew half of senate, and right now I feel very pushed back for a number of reasons,” Britto said to the SGA.
Recently, Brendan Kruh, SGA president, said, “the individual made a comment about how he does not feel comfortable with the e-board. We are all accountable as elected student representatives. Nobody likes to be called into an office and be told they need to make some changes with what they are doing.”
“What I’ve been told is that this individual does not feel comfortable communicating with Chris [Cappiello] and I. It’s frustrating as an executive board when we are just trying to do our jobs and an individual isn’t necessarily being reciprocal in nature of allowing for accountability,” Kruh said.
“Initially, I sent an email out early on in the school year asking the senate as a whole to try to be more inclusive of our newer senators and asking us to be more open to conversation. This was taken in a completely different manner by notable individuals that I had conversations with and the topic went to, ‘Let’s specifically talk to who is uncomfortable,’ instead of, ‘What are we doing to promote inclusiveness or deter it,'” Britto said.
At the SGA meeting on Oct. 11, senators were debating whether or not to approve the Africana Center Club’s base budget request of $3,325. After opposing arguments from Senators Akai Long and Stephen Dew, the motion eventually passed with 29 senators voting yes and two voting no (Britto and Long).
“The work that this club can do, from what I can tell, the [Africana Center] can do as well. So the real question is the student government funding it,” Long said to the SGA.
Dew then spoke in favor of approving the Africana Center Club’s base budget request.
“What needs to be recognized here is the African Student Organization, over time, transitioned from pushing the mission of the Africana Center to drifting away and doing the fashion show, Culture Shock, and more programming stuff. What these students want to do, and this is the argument that hasn’t been heard, is bring back that relationship with the Africana Center with another club on campus to actually push forth events that actually focus on African history and significance and help create that community of students that have those roots,” Dew said to the SGA.
This is not the first time members of the SGA have not agreed among themselves. At the end of last year, a similar issue was seen in regards to miscommunication among senators and the e-board of the SGA.
“It’s common that every year, the front facing, public behaviors of senate changes,” Britto said.
“Last year, President Effend [of the SGA] was big on everyone speaking to each other and being the one to include people in conversations, which is maybe why senate seemed more social last year than past years, but that vibe [isn’t] there this year,” Britto said.
Kruh seems to think the end of last year was a very stressful environment in the SGA, and nearly impossible to get things done.
“Last year, at the end of the year, for those of you that weren’t here, I don’t want you to have to face that. We were a very toxic environment and toxic place where we couldn’t accomplish business and we just yelled at one another. That is not how we get business done,” Kruh said to the SGA on Oct. 11.
Kruh is seeking to have facilitative mediation with Britto and possibly others, in hopes of working things out for the better.
“It is important for us to share our opinions and to make sure that our voices are heard, we don’t want to stifle voices. It isn’t always conducive to the process of debate when we are all sharing the same points of view,” Kruh said to the SGA.
“Personally, I expect more from the student government in general and hopefully some more efforts can occur,” Britto said.