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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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New faces of Senate leadership

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Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Jasmine Wang (left) and Ja’Cory Clark (right).

The newly elected leaders of Texas A&M’s 70th session of Student Senate, Ja’Cory Clark and Jasmine Wang, are redefining the ideals and culture of the historically conservative legislative body.
Ja’Cory Clark, history junior, was elected as speaker and Jasmine Wang, political science sophomore, was elected as speaker pro tempore of the 70th session of Student Senate on March 29. Clark is the first African American to hold the office of speaker in 42 years, since Fred McClure, speaker of the 28th session, while Jasmine is the first Asian-American to hold the office of speaker pro tempore.                   
Together, Clark and Wang have a multitude of diverse experiences that will contribute to Senate’s student outreach and the efficiency of the legislative body, in order to produce legislation that will benefit students from every niche of campus.                  
“Contrary to public opinion about diversity and leadership, the greatest attributes about these two is not the fact that they’re both minorities and not the fact that they represent minority populations,” said Jonah Chen, Bush School graduate student and close friend to both Clark and Wang. “The great thing about them is that they care so much about the students and that when they go to sleep at night, they go to sleep thinking about policies, stances the administration has taken and what they can do to better supplement policy implementation.”                 
Clark will oversee all operations of the legislative branch of the Student Government Association, chair Senate meetings and represent Student Senate to external bodies. Wang will serve as second-in-command of the Senate, after Speaker Clark, and the legislature’s chief administrative officer.                   
“Ja’Cory is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, and I’m a little biased because we are such good friends, but I have never met someone who brings such warmth into a room when they walk into it and is so passionate about doing what’s right for the students … He brings an incredible myriad of experience that you couldn’t find anywhere else,” Wang said. “There’s no one more qualified or more passionate about the office of the speaker.”
In addition to running for student council in grade school in Clark’s hometown of Sweeney, Texas, the election of former President Barack Obama is what inspired Clark to become involved in politics, because he saw that he could reach the highest rungs of his profession, he said.
Clark began his time in Senate two years ago, after transferring from Stephen F. Austin State University, and has since gained experience through drafting legislation and fulfilling various leadership roles, such as ad hoc campus climate and inclusion chair.
“He went from someone who had some ideas about how to provide students with better student services all the way to becoming the speaker of the Student Senate and the only way you can do that is if you have a unitary character who has a considerable amount of integrity, honesty, respect and leadership and I believe he embodies all of those things,” Chen said.                   
Wang was raised in a neighborhood in Houston that never made her feel like she was a minority in her community. Coming from a high school where Asians made up 42 percent of the population, A&M was a bit of a culture shock to her, as the Asian population is 3.3 percent on campus. Her role as a member of the community had changed, she said.                   
Throughout her time in Student Senate, Wang has taken on various leadership roles and successfully passed bills and resolutions focusing on inclusion and sustainability issues. Some bills have even influenced administration to make policy changes, or implementations, on campus.       
“Jasmine was a brand new senator this past year, but you wouldn’t have known it by how she carried herself and how much work she really put into the body of the senate,” said Joseph Hood, Bush School graduate student and speaker of the 69th session of Student Senate.
Internally in the legislative body, Clark and Wang hope to focus on how their positions can unify the senate to increase efficiency, effectiveness and overall impact of the body. Together, they hope to improve outreach to constituents among student senators, Wang said.
“We are going to be a great fit together because we’ve had a relationship before,” Clark said. “We have an understanding with each other that we can be honest with each other about what our shortcomings are and what we are doing well. So it’s going to be a great relationship.”
Since they first partnered about a year ago over their shared concern for diversity and inclusion on campus following racial slurs made to visitors on campus Feb. 9, 2016, they have continued to serve alongside each other as senators and remained close friends. They discovered in the 68th session of Senate they saw eye to eye on a lot of issues and became each other’s allies, Clark said.                   
“I always jokingly tell people that he’s my work husband because we work so much together and we talk so much and we cooperate on the same issues,” Wang said.                   
Among the most significant of their work was legislation denouncing white supremacy and encouraging free speech on A&M’s campus, when white supremacist Richard Spencer delivered a speech in the MSC.                  
“I didn’t come into Senate to become a diversity and inclusion senator, but because of my position and because I’ve seen how people were being hurt at Texas A&M because of something that they truly can’t fix or truly can’t change. I decided that they needed somebody to fight for them,” Clark said.
Combining the strengths of these two experienced forces will not only benefit the culture of the Senate, but will benefit the student body as a whole, Chen said. Both leaders are dialed into hearing the voices of the students who haven’t always been heard in student government or in the student body, Hood said.
“Their ability to be unitary characters and their ability to work well with all levels of administration, all levels of faculty and all levels of student leadership, gives them the opportunity and ability to make sure that issues get addressed, and this is particularly important because of how large our campus is,” Chen said.
During his time as speaker, Hood worked to push a culture change in Senate, and through his leadership he managed to transform the focus of Senate from ideological purity and strictly conservative values to fighting for what’s best for all constituents, Clark said.
“We all know the history of A&M — that it hasn’t been as accepting to the people who are not in the majority, so it’s important for us to be more inclusive, because that’s how the world is today,” Clark said. “The world is more interconnected. It’s important for us to learn about different people and different experiences, because in a practical sense, we’re going to have to work with different people from different background.”
As Clark takes on the new role as speaker, he hopes to continue on the positive trajectory that Hood put in place, and always fight to make students’ experiences better, according to Clark.
“I think that [Clark’s] main thing is consensus building and bringing in different perspectives and different views and presenting those to the senate body and making sure those voices are heard, which I think is a very, very important quality for the Speaker of the Student Senate to have,” Hood said.
The legislative process that Clark and Wang are aiming for during the 70th session involves wider campus outreach to students, with the intent to hear their experiences and desires for A&M, then turning that into practical legislation. They hope to consider the best options for all students on campus, rather than just an individual sector or group.
“If we are going to say that we represent all the students of Texas A&M and we are writing and passing policies that only represent one voice, then you can actually create a policy that might be really positive for one group of students, but really damage and hurt another group of students,” Hood said. “That’s what is most important in the role of Student Government Association is making sure that all students’ voices are heard, whether we disagree or agree with them.”
According to Hood, by focusing on a greater number of voices and conversations, a strengthened argument, or point of view, can be made when student senators begin to draft bills and resolutions that they believe will benefit their constituents. When student senators allow other voices to be heard, they are able to better articulate their argument which translates to better policy and better advocacy for students.
“Their ability to be unitary characters and their ability to work well with all levels of administration, all levels of faculty and all levels of student leadership, gives them the opportunity and ability to make sure that issues get addressed and this is particularly important because of how large our campus is,” Chen said.                
Both Clark and Wang have focused their experiences in Senate around seeking out the voices that are underrepresented on campus, and will continue to do so in their new leadership roles. Their focus on diversity stemmed from the fact that it became a crucial matter that concerned a considerable amount of students, Chen said.                   
“Diversity has always been a great love of mine, because it’s with the empowerment of other people that we can continue to move forward as a university and as a student body. It’s those people, from those different walks of life, that bring those new perspectives to the table that allow us to really flourish and grow,” Wang said.                 
Wang hopes that her position in Student Senate might inspire other minority students to get involved in student government, without fear of societal obstacles or norms that are put in place at the university. Representation matters to students, so when they see an Asian American and African American in positions of influence, other underrepresented students will hopefully feel inspired to get involved as well, Wang said.                 
“We really just want to encourage, not only minority students to feel comfortable and part of the Aggie family, but for all students to feel that they’re properly represented,” Wang said.
Clark and Wang serving alongside each other in the 70th session creates a rare, new environment in Senate, Chen said. Both individuals are qualified, intelligent and empathetic and will shift the reputation of student government by taking student opinion seriously, Chen said.
“Now that they’re both student leaders … I can see student government moving in a really phenomenal direction,” Chen said. “They are the individuals that make this campus better.”
As Hood has worked hard to shift the culture of Senate in his role as Speaker in the 69th session, he has faith the Senate’s two newest leaders will carry on the shift and continue to fight for all constituents.
“My hope for them is that they pick up and carry on the banner that we’ve worked on this last year, creating an SGA where all voices are heard, not just voices from one side of the aisle or the other,” Hood said. “Creating a Student Senate where the perspectives that were brought forward were oftentimes the perspectives that no one else was going to hear.”

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