SGA set up a tally in the CSC on Oct. 16 for students to shre their thoughts regarding race relations on campus.

Emily Rose Thorne

SGA celebrates library renovations, recognizes Vegan Club and addresses student concerns regarding dining and race relations

October 23, 2017

The Oct. 16 senate meeting opened with President Olivia Buckner expressing concerns about sustainability on campus.

She said there are plans in the works for establishing a committee within SGA “focused on researching sustainable development efforts for campus.”

Next came a Gallery Report from Dean of the Library Beth Hammond during which she spoke about the renovations planned for Tarver Library.

She said that Mercer University has received “a very generous gift from a donor that’s going to allow us to refresh the main floor, entrance floor of the Tarver library.”

When Hammond finished her presentation, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Douglas Pearson announced that Hammond plans to retire at the end of this year.

Student Life and Organizational Affairs Chair Sen. Michael Smith then made a motion to recognize the Mercer Vegan Club as an official campus organization.

“[The] Vegan Club’s main purpose goes beyond the scope of just food. It’s promoting a culture and lifestyle that’s fairly unique and something that isn’t represented on this campus,” Smith said.

The club’s efforts will include outreach initiatives, info sessions to share tips about eating vegan on campus, vegan banquets, and animal rights activism.

The vote to recognize the club was unanimous.

Campus Engagement Chair Sen. Shruthi Vikraman spoke about the success of SGA outreach recently, from serving in the Fresh Food Company to the Whiteboard Outreach project about race relations that Senators undertook earlier that day, which she called “successful.”

Monday morning and afternoon, SGA Senators manned a table in the CSC lobby next to a whiteboard that posed the question: “How do you feel about race relations on campus?”

They initiated conversations with students who passed by and challenged them to think more about the issue. Students were then invited to share their thoughts on the whiteboard.

“At first, [SGA] had a very hard time getting people to commit to writing anything on the board,” Sophomore Sen. Emily Harvey said.

She and Sen. Keegan Moody said they decided to add headings for students to tally under: “Good, Okay, Needs Work, and Bad.”

Participation increased under the tally system, but they said that many students were still hesitant to write comments explaining their choices.

“We had a lot of people say that there were a lot of problems with communication in terms of race relations,” Vikraman said.

Freshman Sen. Jadon Murad suggested employing a more “discreet” outlet in the future to empower those who wish to share what might not be a “popular opinion.”

Chair of the Contract Services Committee Sen. Chase Peplin asked that further discussion about race relations be done in closed Senate.

He also spoke about the progress on the Mercer Mobile App, which will include a way for the student body to ask questions or provide input directly to SGA. He said that this piece of the application will be “stratif[ied] by committee” to ensure efficiency.

Freshman Sen. Joseph Muldrew then raised questions about adding a 24/7 dining option on campus.

“That’s what students need, because if you’re studying late and you want to get something to eat, you need that option,” he said.

Peplin, whose position includes Dining Services, said that he did not see an “expressed need” for 24/7 dining and brought up concerns about losing money sustaining a dining option for a relatively small number of patrons.

“As far as I know, there’s not a demand,” he said. “People would like it to be open 24/7, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to go.”

Sen. Penland agreed with Sen. Peplin about not needing a 24/7 dining option.

“We do not need a 24/7 option. What we need is something that would stay open from nine p.m. to eight a.m.,” Penland said. “Something that’s not open in the middle of the day when everything else is open, but possibly something that is open during the night.”

After final discussions about logistics and a debrief on the weekend’s Pilgrimage to Penfield event, Sen. Peplin motioned to move into closed Senate to further discuss campus race relations regarding the ideas students left on the board.

There were no objections.

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