Representation in SGA: Challenges, Triumphs, & Progress
This SGA executive election was especially controversial, and resulted in Furman's first Black SBP and SBVP to serve in the same term.
The student vote indicates priorities, and it appears that Furman students care about diverse representation and the plans of both Marie and Washington.
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Furman students, both on campus and from their homes all over the world, followed this year’s Student Government Association (SGA) executive elections. This election seemed especially significant, in large part due to the diverse representation of the SGA candidates. The race for Student Body President was controversial, preceded by a petition to change the SGA constitution to allow students without prior SGA experience to run for this position. The elections, which occurred over Mar. 8 and 9, resulted in the election of Furman’s first Black Student Body President and Vice President pair, who will both serve for the next term.
Drew Washington ‘22 was elected Student Body Vice President (SBVP) after a campaign centered around improving outcomes for students in underprivileged groups. Washington’s on-campus involvement has involved conversations about diversity and inclusion throughout his time at Furman. At the start of his junior year, Washington began writing for the Diversity Matters section of The Paladin, discussing topics such as race relations, discrimination and diversity efforts both on and beyond campus. This year, Washington also worked as a Diversity Fellow for Mosaic, Furman’s multicultural admissions program. Through this group, Washington has improved the representation of students from all backgrounds at Furman. In both of these roles, Washington has seen other students recognize and reciprocate his perspective. This prompted him to run for office, as he realized that his voice “can carry a lot more weight than what it’s already carrying.” Washington’s experiences as a Diversity Matters writer and Diversity Fellow have exposed him to students of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and he hopes to continue representing and advocating for these communities as SBVP.
Asha Marie ‘22 faced challenges in running for Student Body President (SBP); under the original SGA constitution, she was ineligible to run because she had not previously held an SGA position. After garnering enough signatures on a proposed referendum spearheaded by Marie, the student body voted in favor of allowing individuals without SGA experience to run for SBP. Although Marie benefitted from changing the eligibility guidelines, she shared that her motivation for changing the candidacy policy was ensuring that barriers for future candidates would be removed so that “more people would be able to run and to have that opportunity.” Marie believes that her election as SBP is “an indicator that we’re ready to start having harder conversations and pushing for the change we’ve been talking about.” Through her term, she plans on remaining intentional and public about her plans in order to hold herself accountable to the Furman community. Marie believes that her experience as an individual with many underrepresented identities at Furman - she identifies as Black, a first-generation college student, low-income, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community - will help her advocate for students of underrepresented backgrounds. Marie plans to push for increasing transparency with administration and improved accessibility for students with dietary restrictions, low-income, commuter students and more. By utilizing the access and power that comes with her new role, Marie plans to continue fighting for student representation and remaining a strong student advocate.
Both Marie and Washington plan to use their experiences and perspectives to improve our campus community. The student vote indicates priorities, and so it appears that Furman students care about diverse representation and the plans of both Marie and Washington. Our new SBP and SBVP both plan to build upon the momentum of their elections to improve the Furman community. Structured plans, inspired students, and progress towards a more inclusive Furman are all on the horizon.