SGA passes legislation, hears from student speakers

Emma Collins

During Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting, student speakers voiced their concerns about scholarships for students with disabilities, race relationships on campus and a lack of resources for mental health upkeep.

Brendan Ward, a sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee, said he suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia; as a result, Ward said in high school his GPA and standardized tests scores suffered, making him unable to receive any merit-based scholarships from WKU.

“Money wise, coming to Western was a big problem for me because I had no scholarships,” Ward said. “I’m really only here by loans and the government.”

Ward said he wanted to speak at the SGA meeting to urge its members to pass the SGA budget that was up for debate on Tuesday. The budget allots $1,000 to disability scholarships.

Last semester, Ward was featured in a Herald article after he was invited to speak before the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 5. Ward also met with SGA President Jay Todd Richey last semester to discuss potential funding for disability scholarships.

Later during the meeting, Richey presented Bill 4-16-F, a Bill to Support the Creation of Scholarships for Students with Disabilities. The bill removes $500 each from the Football Game Tabling and Ads portion and the Food portion of the SGA budget. The bill was passed unanimously.

Following Ward, two students, senior Cheyenne Mitchell, Lexington, and junior Francisco Serrano, Bowling Green, spoke to the SGA about race relations on campus. Mitchell’s car was vandalized with a racial slur last Wednesday.

During her talk, Mitchell said before the vandalism she had never felt unwelcome at WKU; however, since then, she has felt uneasy on campus.

“If you guys could, I want to encourage you to stand behind me and say that this is not acceptable,” Mitchell said.

Serrano said he, too, had experienced discrimination and felt unwelcome in places. During his time in front of the SGA, he said it was time for the Hilltopper family to put an end to racism on campus.

“Everybody in this room can be part of that,” Serrano said. “I want to be part of that, and I want to be a voice that advocates for this.”

Spencer Wells was the final student speaker. He said it is time for WKU to address sexual assault and mental illness on campus. Wells, who said he has personal experience with suicide and sexual assault, said he wants the SGA to make addressing these concerns a priority.

“We need to take an affirmative stand to make this the number one priority issue,” Wells said.

Following the student speakers, members of SGA were asked to vote on four bills, including Richey’s bill for scholarships for students with disabilities. The other three bills were also passed unanimously.

Bill 1-16-F, a Bill to Renew the MyCampusToo Initiative, sought to continue MyCampusToo, a program that is designed to enhance diversity on campus.

Bill 2-16-F, a Bill to Renew the Sustainability Committee, asked members to allow the Sustainability Committee to continue.

Bill 3-16-F, a Bill to Financially Support and Partner with WKU Student Legal Services, proposed that SGA give $2,500 to the WKU Student Legal Services. Student Legal Services provides affordable legal help to students. According to the bill, the funding from SGA would be used for malpractice insurance costs for the 2016-2017 school year.

Richey also announced that campaigning for the upcoming senate elections would begin at the commencement of Tuesday’s meeting. Elections will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

In addition to passing bills, the SGA also voted unanimously to approve its $119,000 budget.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @thebest_dilemma.