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SGA presidential candidates discuss platforms, hopes for OU's future

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2019 SGA Presidential Candidates

The 2019 SGA presidential candidates are (from left to right) Justin Norris, Vivek Vijay and Jamelia Reed, pictured at the debate Oct. 24.

Student Government Association presidential elections are quickly approaching, with three campaigns vying for the positions of president and vice president.

All of the candidates have focused their campaigns on student concerns like diversity, unity and campus safety in the wake of several racist incidents over the past two semesters, along with a rumor of a possible gunman in early October that was found not credible. 

Vocal performance and marketing junior Justin Norris is running for president, with political science sophomore Dalton Gau as his running mate. Norris is the current Mr. Black OU and has served in the past as an executive on Campus Activities Council and Black Student Association, among other groups. Gau is the current SGA external affairs committee chair and a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and he has worked as a U.S. Senate legislative intern in the past. 

Norris said he decided to run because after a lot of the "really terrible" things affected so many communities at OU, he saw many people talking about improvement -- himself included -- but never really saw anything collectively changing at the university. 

"I just really realized that the issue is just a disconnect, and that there isn't a lot of community building going on, that there needs to be a community builder  within the Student Government Association," Norris said. "Having experience within SGA, and a passion for service and for people and for students, I really decided that I wanted to run and that I was very excited about it, and I'm so glad that I did."

Norris and Gau’s campaign motto is “Tomorrow Together,” which they said is based on their shared experience in a broad range of groups on campus. Among other plans, the pair would like to implement a Diversity and Inclusivity Action Week, which would include a series of programmed events for students and hopefully, Norris said, would partner with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Gender + Equality Center and Multicultural Student Programs and Services. 

They also want to implement an inclusivity officer in each Greek organization, which Norris said would be a good way to be proactive in handling racism on campus. 

“We understand those (racist) actions, those beliefs, those immoral things don’t represent the values of the fraternity and sorority programs or at the University of Oklahoma, and in order to really promote a greater sense of inclusivity, we think it’s best to do so by holding conversations between all five of the Greek councils,” Norris said. 

They also want to utilize CAC Spark more in planning their events, which is a volunteer and leadership development program, according to its website. Norris and Gau emphasized that their platform is a working platform that will adapt to the needs of the student body, which will continue if they are elected. 

City planning graduate students Vivek Vijay and Behin Sanei are also running for president and vice president, and said they want to create a united campus and increase campus safety with their platform. 

Vijay serves as the academic affairs chair in the Graduate Student Senate, as well as the departmental Student Planning Association secretary. Vijay is also a member of the Graduate Council as a College of Architecture representative and is a member of the Dean's leadership group in the College of Architecture. Sanei is also involved in the Student Planning Association, and the two both hold graduate assistant positions in the department of regional and city planning, Vijay said.

Vijay and Sanei said a more unified campus will allow different colleges to use their resources more wisely and engage in more research initiatives, ultimately raising OU’s overall ranking. 

“As a long-term dream, what I see in mind is, I want a student who is going out of OU to feel like they are coming out of Harvard,” Vijay said. 

The pair said they want to actively address diversity issues on campus, as well as campus safety. Vijay also said they want to implement a required nonviolent communication training for all professors and teaching assistants. 

“I have heard from a lot of students, and even I have faced it personally — professors using violent communication to students, and TAs using violent communication to students,” Vijay said. “So as president, I would (raise) the issue to the dean and the OU president until they make up a legislation or something so that every professor has undergone a nonviolent communication class.”

Vijay and Sanei said they would also like to work with the current SGA congress to increase its efficiency and reform the code annotated that congress follows. 

African and African-American studies junior Jamelia Reed is running for president alongside electrical engineering pre-law junior Rosa SanRoman for vice president. The pair’s campaign motto is “Real Change Today,” which they said means creating a more inclusive, accessible and united OU. 

Reed is involved as a co-director of the Black Emergency Response Team and a member of the LGBTQ Program Advisory Board, among other groups, and SanRoman has been involved as an activist in large organizations like Dream Act Oklahoma and United We Dream. Both are also members of the SGA executive cabinet. 

The two want to emphasize allyship with multicultural and LGBTQ groups on campus with their platform and create more accessible ways for those groups to get involved in decision-making. 

“Basically every marginalized identity you can think of, we’re trying to reach out to but also ... educate the majority ... because there’s no point in doing diversity and inclusion if everybody’s not invested in it,” Reed said.

Reed and SanRoman want tangible solutions for each of their platform points, including expanding on-campus food availability for students with different needs. 

“So one of the things that we’ve been talking (about) with different students is in terms of dietary restrictions, whether that be for allergies, cultural or religious reasons — things like that could really go a long way with making sure that people from different communities feel included on campus,” SanRoman said. 

The experience Reed and SanRoman have would make for an effective administration, SanRoman said.

We’ve done organizing on campus and in the community, but we’ve also done policy through SGA as cabinet members,” SanRoman said. “So we’ve not only organized and mobilized communities, but we’ve also done the SGA way of filing resolutions, researching and talking to students. So I think two different experiences and backgrounds together would make a really effective administration.”

The candidates participated in a debate Oct. 24. SGA elections will be held Oct. 29–30.

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