This year has been a challenge for a plethora of reasons. 2020 has brought a global pandemic, a national racial reckoning, and a national financial crisis among so many other things. However, I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and this year has brought many issues to the forefront that have needed attention for some time now. The tragic and unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others have catapulted a national conversation about diversity, equity, inclusion, and power. These conversations have been long overdue. What started as a national conversation has trickled down to many individual organizations, business, and institutions, and these groups are taking a look in the mirror to answer a simple, but important, question: how can we do better? Auburn University is no exception.
In Auburn’s 164 years as an institution, Black people have only been permitted to be a part of 56 of those years. Harold A. Franklin was the first Black student to attend Auburn University, and he paved the way for myself and many other Black students to come after him. Though Auburn has come a long way, the university still has a long way to go. This institution was not built to support Black people, so it is going to take long and intentional work to make this university one that can support all of the students that grace its campus. I am thrilled to be a part of that change that we are seeing across the university.
Within SGA, my team and I spent most of the spring semester identifying our 2020-2021 Executive Goals. Among these, we identified a need for an emphasis on cultural competency, and we have been working on bringing a program to our campus to better educate our student organizations on the importance of this topic. Additionally, we have been working to bring this type of education to our own teams, and we are thrilled at the conversations that have been taking place within SGA. Our mission statement is to “serve and promote the individual student; unifying all that is Auburn,” and we hope that we are doing so both internally and externally to our organization.
I have also had the opportunity to work with administrators across campus to address inclusion, diversity, equity and power campus-wide. I was honored to be appointed to the Presidential Task Force for Equity and Opportunity over the summer, and I am incredibly motivated by the work that we have been able to accomplish thus far. We have evaluated several areas of campus for improvement including but not limited to the campus climate, cultural competency, minority recruitment and retention of students, faculty, and staff. We have proceeded to make many recommendations to senior administration, and I look forward to the changes that will come to our campus as a result of these efforts. Additionally, we have continued to support the Board of Trustees’ Task Force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and they have made strides in evaluating campus buildings and their names. Most recently, they named the Student Center after Auburn alumnus Chief Justice Harold D. Melton of Georgia. Chief Justice Melton also served as the first Black SGA President during his time at Auburn.
Goal #16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” My hope is that the tragedies of this year promote positive change both nationally and institutionally at Auburn University. I am thrilled that the university recently joined the U.S. Chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and I hope that this membership helps hold us accountable to all of these goals, but particularly #16. I am encouraged by the steps the university has taken thus far, but I also acknowledge that we have a long way to go. This is difficult work, but I am excited about the steps that are and will be taken to better support each and every member of the Auburn Family.
Post contributed by Ada Ruth Huntley, SGA President