SG president adds permanent cabinet positions for diversity, low-income students
Fernández says she also hopes to improve relationship between AU police and student body
This summer, the AU Student Government launched initiatives and goals for the organization, including new positions, more support for lower-income students and improving the relationship between the student body and the American University Police Department.
At the beginning of the school year, SG president Valentina Fernández announced that the director of diversity, equity and inclusion now will be a paid position rather than a volunteer role. The position is currently filled by sophomore Rafael Cestero.
“I think time and time again you hear AUSG talking about diversity and inclusion, but I think it’s time to put our money where our mouth is,” Fernández said.
Fernández made the position a priority at the end of the 2018 spring semester and convinced the University to make the change, she said. Additionally, she said that the director will be an important part of her cabinet this year.
In addition, Fernández said she aims to increase the number of fellowships for lower-income students. She plans to launch the Student Leadership Fund, a program created by past AUSG president Devontae Torriente, The Eagle previously reported.
The fund will provide low-income AU student leaders of university organizations with the funds they need to potentially avoid working a second job to cover their expenses at AU. The money for fellowships is available as the result of funding set aside for the past two years by AUSG, the Student Media Board and the AU Club Council, she said
There is a set amount for how much the fund would be able to give out to students but the number of how many students can apply depends on how much money each applicant is requesting, Fernández said. The fund will not fully cover the student’s tuition, but it will help out with the overall cost of tuition, she said
“Often times we see student leaders that are passionate about whatever they’re working on and the campus benefits so much from it,” Fernández said. “But it’s distinctly low-income leaders, and they’re having to choose between putting in extra ten hours to their organization and working extra ten hours at their jobs.”
Fernández also created a new position in her cabinet called the director of academic excellence, which provides additional assistance to lower-income students. The director, sophomore Tia Jackson, informs students about the budget year, assists the AUx committee and works with the Office of Merit Awards. Additionally, her role as director is to listen to student problems and concerns and attempt to solve them with the administration.
Another initiative of SG is to improve the relationship between students and the AUPD. Previously, a graduate student was arrested last March for trespassing after refusing to show police his AU ID. Fernández said she wants to implement casual informational events this year to help students understand the role and responsibility of the AUPD.
She is also proposing a new process to file formal grievances against an AUPD officer. The original process requires the individual to go to AUPD’s website to copy a template and email the grievance to AUPD, but Fernández wants the report to go directly to the administration, rather than back to AUPD.
Other initiatives include informing students about their finances and programming events on campus. With this academic year being a budget year -- where tuition is likely to increase -- Fernández said she wants to inform students about where their money is being spent.
Trevor Pugh, a senior and the speaker of the Senate, said he is excited for AUSG’s events for this year.
“I’ve always been excited for Founder’s Day and I have complete confidence in the Founder’s team for wherever they host their event this year,” Pugh said. “Additionally, I know KPU’s 50th birthday is this year, so they are doing a lot of big programming—as much as they can.”
AUSG is also focusing on freshman student engagement to ensure that students are excited for college life and to encourage them to participate in campus activities.
“Student engagement is at the forefront of every discussion we’re having,” said junior Alex Behle, the secretary of SG.