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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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SBP Candidates discuss ways to increase representation for the diverse student body

Candidates+for+Student+Body+President+participated+in+a+Diversity+Panel+Monday+evening.
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Candidates for Student Body President participated in a Diversity Panel Monday evening.

On Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m., student body president candidates gathered in Koldus room 144 for the SBP Townhall and Diversity Panel put on by the Student Government Association and the Matthew Gaines Initiative.
Students and faculty gathered at this event to ask questions to the SBP candidates. As one of these candidates will lead the student body starting next fall, many students were curious about their views on the diversity on campus, and how to recognize different groups on campus. In this open forum, the attendees submitted questions through Google Forms and the candidates took turns answering those questions. The candidates present were Evan Berger, David Cabrera, Shelby Lepley, Eric Mendoza, Trey Richardson, Edgar Rivera, and Caleb Zuniga.
Craig Coates, associate dean for inclusive excellence for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, attended the event and said this was a good opportunity for him to hear about pressing issues students want to hear from the SBP candidates about.
“I’ve been in my position since Sep. 1 of last year, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to or hear from many student groups on issues of diversity and inclusion, climate and equity,” Coates said. “I thought this would be a good chance to hear, not just from the candidates, but also the questions that are being posed by the student body.”
Trey Daniel Richardson, agricultural economics junior, referenced events in Texas A&M’s past that have sparked debate, one being the 2019 Elephant Walk at the stop for the Sul Ross statue.
“As a lot of you know, the background of the Sul Ross statue, and you know how it makes a lot of students on Texas A&M’s campus feel,” Richardson said. “So what we did this year was work with the Elephant Walk director, who reached out to numerous students in the student body, and asked them what they wanted within that walk tradition.”
Richardson said he wants all students to feel like they belong at every A&M event and tradition, and that he hopes to improve inclusion at this university if he is elected.
“I think it’s really important that I, serving in this capacity as class president, show evidence of what we have done in the class council since I have come in, to kind of fix that diversity, but more important inclusion problem that we’ve been having, that made students not feel welcome at certain traditions,” Richardson said.
Edgar Rivera, political science junior, said that the past views of society at A&M should not hold anyone back from trying to give A&M a more welcoming, accepting atmosphere. Rivera said he has tried his best to do just that.
“Diversity is a very broad issue at this university, especially with the reputation that Texas A&M has had in the past,” Rivera said. “In terms of how it’s impacted what I’ve done, ever since I got to this university my freshman year, I’ve been involved with organizations that supported marginalized communities.”
Agricultural leadership and development junior Evan Berger said that people do not require the same ideologies or opinions to live in a cohesive environment.
“Not everybody believes the same things we do, and that’s okay,” Berger said. “As student body president, I hope to reform our culture in a way that really does place an emphasis on respect. I think at times we stray from our core values, and I think that something that we really need to focus back on, respect being a huge one.”
All candidates present recognized that diversity is an important topic at A&M. Shelby Lepley, agricultural economics junior, said that all of the traits that people think separate them from each other are actually what connect them. One thing that everyone has in common, is that we are all special.
“Why put a limit on it?” Lepley said. “I mean, we’ve got diversity of background, we’ve got diversity of religion, ethnic background, of our thought, of our behavior, of our passions. For me, when it comes to promoting diversity, it’s how can we celebrate it all. It’s in finding unity.”

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