A call for a counselor of color and implementing a social response plan brought the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SGA) together Monday for a special session.
The Senate heard from executive body members for about thirty minutes before unanimously passing the proclamation and agreeing to the new incident response plan.
The response plan lays out the groundwork for the SGA to respond to incidents related to “bigotry, harassment or intimidation” of protected groups. According to President Joey Sciuto, the body had been working on the plan since last year.
This past summer’s nationwide protests against police brutality and the treatment of persons of color prompted the executive board to come up with a plan to not only address any incidents but help students who may have been affected by such events, according to Sciuto. Last month’s two Zoom bombings of Black History Month events hosted by SRU organizations pushed the SGA to get the plan out sooner.
“We want to be able to best serve our student body and our campus community by advocating for these social justice [issues],” Alexis Gish, vice president of diversity and inclusion, said.
The response plan solidifies Gish as a member of the newly created Campus Inclusion Response Team (CIRT). Created on Feb. 10, the CIRT works to provide the SRU’s president with guidance on responding to hate and discrimination incidents on campus. Gish also serves on CIRT as a student representative.
With the CIRT’s creation and Gish’s membership in both, the SGA adopted its plan to be more in line with how the university would respond to such incidents.
In addition to clarifying the vice president role, the plan defines three phases in how the SGA will respond to incidents and is broken down into three steps, according to the document.
The first phase has the SGA confirm the incident took place and craft a statement about the matter. Developed by the president and VP of diversity and inclusion, that statement is to be released within 24 hours of notification.
That initial statement will not only be used to denounce the action that took place but promote the next SGA public meeting as a safe space for students to gather and discuss what happened. The SGA will also begin setting goals with affected student leaders on action steps and initiatives.
In the second phase, the president will work with the social justice committee to craft a second statement detailing the action steps the body will take and associated deadlines.
The third phase tasks the outreach committee with posting updates on initiatives and gathering feedback from student organizations. It also encourages the SGA to evolve the document as it responds to incidents over time.
The SGA also approved a presidential proclamation asking the university administration to hire a “therapist of color.”
Creating more diversity in the Student Counseling Center was something students asked for at the last SGA meetings and SRU President William Behre’s forum on Feb. 22, discussing the first Zoom bombing that occurred on Feb. 13.
After the proclamation’s approval, SRU Provost Abbey Zink congratulated the body for standing up and leading on the matter. She also informed the Senate that the university is already taking action on something Behre has seen a need for.
“I do want you to know that your proclamation basically puts an exclamation point on the need,” Zink said.
According to Zink in an email, the university began looking for a counselor of color on Feb. 19 at the request of Behre. While the steps for hiring someone have started, the university expects it will have someone in place by the fall semester, Zink said.
Counselors at SRU are considered faculty based on the collective bargaining agreement between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). They will follow the guidelines outlined in that agreement, according to Zink.
With SRU starting its Kickback Week on March 7, the SGA will hold its next formal meeting on March 15 at 5 p.m.