Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, October 20, 2018

Op-ed: I believe it’s time for something different

SG President endorses Devontae Torriente

Op-ed: I believe it’s time for something different

You’re about to elect the student who will be your voice for the year, who will have to work with you to fight for you, who will take the raw power of our student body and actualize it.

I could spend this time talking about me and my accomplishments. But my year is coming to a close, and our students have an important decision ahead. So instead, I’m going to pass on what I’ve learned about SG this year and I’ll tell you about the candidate I believe in.

I’ll tell you the worst kept secret at AU: Student Government is a white boys club.

As your student body president, I would walk into rooms full of men and struggled to make my point and get things done. They called me “slut.” They called me “bitch.” They said I was too harsh. They said I wasn’t serious enough. They had plenty of things to say about the way I looked and far too few about my ideas and plans.

Will Mascaro was at the center of that culture in the Undergraduate Senate - as Senator, Speaker, and Senator once again. For someone who claims to have been a student leader since the day he walked on campus, things never seemed to get better under his leadership.

I believe it’s time for something different, and I believe in Devontae Torriente.

I know where administrators are ready to budge next year. I know the environment within the Board of Trustees. Devontae has a carefully crafted plan that doesn’t overpromise -- it takes advantage of pressure points. He has high goals, not lofty goals. He knows the way policy works and understands how to make the changes you want a reality. Devontae has shown us all that he’s ready to serve. I believe in his vision and his ability to execute it.

Devontae knows that the fight for college affordability doesn’t start and end in a board room-- it’s also about making sure students have the resources they need. He’s not just going to work for a tuition freeze. From expanding the Counseling Center budget to creating new, professional Financial Aid counselors, Devontae understands that a strong plan for our tuition isn’t only about a smaller dollar amount, it’s about the impact those dollars make.

Devontae is ready to take on the mantel of protecting students’ rights and carry it even further. He’ll expand the power of the existing Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities and use it to fight for equal treatment of alcohol and marijuana possession in the Conduct Code and greater transparency when your residence hall room is being searched.

And most importantly to me, he’ll work with student workers to expand their rights without putting words in their mouth or jeopardizing their employment.

Unlike any of the other candidates, Devontae has been an essential part of the work to create a more diverse and inclusive university. He used his voice as an activist to create pressure and has worked with faculty and administrators to create constructive dialogue. You’ve already seen his success: he worked with me on the AUSG Diversity and Inclusion Working Group proposals that were adopted into President Kerwin’s plan. And he’s working behind the scenes on committees for our new General Education program. For Devontae, it hasn’t been about taking credit, it’s been about doing good work that serves his fellow students.

Now, there are other candidates in the race who are working hard to contribute to our campus conversation about what our future will look like.

Matthew Mullin offers a fresh perspective and an outsider’s voice. But he lacks knowledge about some of the most important issues we are facing as a community. No matter how strong our school spirit would become under his leadership, I believe the role of student body president is to create change we can be proud of, not to create artificial pride only in what is already here.

Will Mascaro has the policy and the experience that many of our students might be looking for. Experience could tell you something about a candidate. But what good is that experience when it’s been about getting a quote in The Eagle or taking the mic from a student activist, not about the students you’re supposed to be helping? What good is experience as a campus celebrity when the Butler Board Room doors close and students need you to be there for them, without recognition or praise?

Devontae Torriente is uniquely qualified to be our student body president.

His story speaks to me, and it tells me that he’s ready to represent a campus filled with as many perspectives and challenges as it has students. At some point, every one of us has felt like AU isn’t our home -- some of us more than others. He knows what it’s like to feel like you’re out of place. Like you’re not entirely welcome. Like you’re not fully home when you step onto our campus. Devontae understands the struggles of our students because he is a student who has struggled.

I know how hard it is to win a crooked game. I’ve done it, and I’m still doing it.

I support Devontae because he won’t just overcome the SG white boys club for a year, like I have. He’ll work to eliminate the structures across campus that act as barriers to progress for all of us.

Devontae will fight for every single student. And that’s why I’m fighting for him.

Sasha Gilthorpe is a junior in the School of Public Affairs and the current SG president.

edpage@theeagleonline.com


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