This morning we transitioned positions within Student Government and my term came to an end. It's been an incredible year and I can't wait to see all that Shania, Macy and the 2017-18 SGA accomplish. A while back I stumbled upon the work of a former SGA leader, G. Temp Sparkman. Temp was the first Student Body Vice President in the 1951-52 term and the Student Body President for the 1953-54 and 54-55 years. In a book he published in 2008, Temp reflected on his time at Belmont. An excerpt of this text is below-
"I had an uncommon sense of place at Belmont: walking among and smelling the campus magnolia trees, taking afternoon naps in the gazebo in the campus circle, walking with friends on a southern spring evening after vespers, tramping through the snow-laden campus from the dorm to Blanton Hall, overlooking the circle from my room in Heron Hall, smelling the gym locker room and crossing campus in a cold dusk after basketball practice.
I relished in being a student government leader and basketball player, dating in Acklen Hall, praying with my roommate, watching television in the common room, participating in group-cramming for exams, joining the buzz and unhealthy snacks in Dixie Den, setting tables in the dining hall with my adopted brothers and sisters and serving fellow students. Most of all, I celebrate being accepted being me!" -G. Temp Sparkman
New buildings pop up and old ones fall, faculty and staff come and go, the identity of the University changes over time, but some things stay the same. There's something unique about Belmont. Temp Sparkman noticed it when he was a student, I notice it all of the time, and I hope every student that matriculates after me will notice it as well. I, like Temp, feel a sense of place when I'm here; it just feels right being at Belmont. It felt right the first moment I stepped on to campus and I still feel at place as my time is coming to a close.
Lastly, as my predecessor would say, "I celebrate being accepted being me." This campus and position have allowed me to be authentically me- the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can never thank the student body enough for letting me serve them as Student Body President. It's been a wild ride, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. So, with that, one last time, thank you!
After over a year of discussing possible changes to the way students were elected to the Student Government, we have successfully completed our first election where students ran to fill specific seats within the SGA. Instead of everyone in SGA representing everyone in the student body, members are accountable to specific constituencies- Colleges, Programs, and Degrees. I hope you join me at their inauguration this coming Monday, April 24th at 10:00am (for convocation credit)! Beyond this, I hope you use them as a resource throughout the next year!
Jennifer (Jenny) O'Brien
Benjamin (Ben) Riggs
College of Theology and Christian Ministry Representative
College of Health Sciences and Nursing Representatives
College of Sciences and Mathematics
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
College of Business
College of Entertainment and Music Business
Mohansingh Udhwani Jr.
College of Visual and Performing Arts
Each year the SGA President has the honor of awarding the Member of the Year Award to someone who has made significant contributions to the organization and the Belmont community. The person that I have chosen for this award continuously amazes me, other SGA members, faculty, staff, and administrators with her dedication to Student Government and Belmont University.
At the onset of this year she began as the committee chair for the Campus Outreach and Events committee. This person helped in the successful execution of #BruinVote16 events, our Operation Christmas Child packing party, and Blizzard on the Boulevard. When there was a change in leadership at the end of the semester and a position within my Cabinet became available, this person stepped up to the challenge and accepted the greater responsibility. She continues to oversee our largest outreach initiative, Coffee and Conversation, and does everything in her power to make sure that student voices are heard. This person is also responsible for a plethora of behind the scenes tasks that I don't want to do and literally can't do, such as updating our website, creating posters and other graphics, and taking pictures of all of our events. A perfect example of this will be at our inauguration next week (Monday, April 24th at 10am in the Beaman Lobby). While I'm on the stage giving one final speech in my capacity as SGA President, this person will be the one making sure that we get the perfect picture for our social media.
On a personal note, I know that I ask a great deal of everyone in SGA and I'm not easy to work for/with at all times. However, this person is willing to go toe to toe with me; I think this iron sharpening iron effect makes our organization that much more successful.
SGA members nominated her and included that she "goes above and beyond" what is asked of her, she's "worked tirelessly this past year on multiple events and projects to benefit the student body", and she strives to make everyone "feel welcome and comfortable." I feel privileged to have worked with this person over the past year and I'm honored to announce that the 2016-2017 SGA Member of the Year is Ali Humbrecht.
First, I would like to give a thank you to Shania Jones, Jacob Sykes, Macy Thompson, and Si Deane, who all ran a clean campaign and engaged students from all parts of this campus.
Second, I would like to congratulate Shania and Macy for their victory in this campaign. I look forward to supporting you in any way that I can during the next year and there are so many others who will also be by your side as you lead this organization and the student body.
This has been a momentous year for Student Government and this election adds to that significance. This year more people voted for President and Vice President than any other year before this. Homecoming King and Queen is another election that SGA holds and this election far surpassed those numbers as well. At 1,141 voters, this election for Student Body President and Vice President had the most participation of any election thus far on this campus. I'm extremely happy to see participation in this election and I hope to see that same level of participation when voicing your concerns, providing SGA feedback, or even joining SGA yourself.
I will officially leave the Office of the President upon Shania's inauguration and I hope that you all will join me in that celebration. The inauguration for Student Body President, Vice President, and the new Congress will be on April 24th at 10am in the lobby of the Beaman Student Life Center. I hope to see you there!
Thank you for voting, thank you for your support of me, and thank you for the support that I know you will give to Shania and Macy!
Yesterday, after work, I decided to stop by the SGA office for a little while to get some homework done. I left the Beaman around 10:30pm and made my way back to where I parked my car in the Hitch parking lot. SGA Presidential elections were on my mind and, as I walked across campus, I began to think about my time in SGA.
I passed the SunTrust ATM where my TT group and I met the night before classes for a quick group picture. Erica Rivero, who was in my TT group and became my best friend, decided to join SGA with me and, as I passed the Bell Tower, I remembered taking a picture after our very first meeting. When I walked past the new student space in the Gabhart, I remembered sitting in a room with senior leadership, Jonathan Rankin, and the others who were on Cabinet with me at the time and pitching our ideas for how to utilize unused spaces on campus. I walked past Campus Security and thought about SGA's role in getting It's On Us started and the different ways that SGA and myself have been able to partner with Campus Security. I looked into the University Ministries space and remembered how my first meeting after my election was with Dr. Todd Lake, Vice President for Spiritual Development, who showed me that senior leaders are people too and they truly care about our growth as students. As I got to my car, I looked at the empty parking lot, which had been filled with visitors a few hours prior, and thought about the email I had just received from Sydney Finchum, the SGA Parliamentarian. She recapped the annual parking committee meeting where she represented the student body and followed up with some interesting data.
I walk around this campus and have so many memories that I'll get to take with me after I graduate. A great deal of these are tied back to an experience that I was able to have through SGA or an opportunity that SGA gave me. My time at Belmont has been made better by joining SGA and I think that the same could be true for you. Make sure you vote for who will succeed me as Student Body President, but almost more important than that, consider joining SGA and start your application today.
For Homecoming Week this year, the University is doing themed days, offering unique events and opportunities specific to the day. I wasn't completely sure how this idea would play out, but it's been incredible to see the Homecoming spirit through the past several days. From the huge donation to Second Harvest Food Bank on Mission Monday, organizations wearing their shirts on T-Shirt Tuesday, and the involvement in all of the pop-up event for WOW Wednesday, it's already been an incredible week. As many of you know, today is Thank You Thursday, a time for reflection on what others have done for you. With that being said, I want to give my thanks.
None of this amazing experience we call Belmont would be what it is without the enormous hearts of the faculty and staff of the University. To that faculty member who exposes a student to information that they never knew existed or the staff member who smiles and waves as students walk past their desk each day, thank you. You are more valuable than you may even know. There are so many unsung heroes among this group, take the time to thank faculty and staff today.
I may disagree with this next group at times, but they are vital to the success of the University. Administrators are just like everyone else who works at Belmont; they're here because they care deeply about the students of this University. For people of their skill and passion, there are many jobs that are easier than what they do, but they devote all of who they are to making this place keep going.
Finally, I want to thank the student body. Everything I do, I do because I love this University and my peers so much. Each time I hear that someone enjoyed reading a post of mine or that an SGA event went well, I'm extremely appreciative. It may seem small, but the fact that another student took the time to be encouraging is refreshing. Even prior to being in this role, the spirit of this University shines through each and every student and I'm so grateful to be a Belmont Bruin.
Take the time to thank someone today, but also be thankful each and every day. Through it all, remember the many opportunities that we have had to get us to this point in time.
About a week and a half ago I wrote one of these blog posts and a majority of people seemed to have liked what I had to say. I was encouraged by the outpouring of agreement, but it disappointed me to read that students didn't know the ways that they can use their voice. So, I felt the need to use this platform to tell you the myriad of ways to be heard.
I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the ways that you can talk to SGA. All Congress and Cabinet members have their contact information online, Cabinet members have open office hours, and you can use the online suggestion box to send your thoughts to us. We're also going to be moving to a system where SGA members are elected by College and will therefore be more accountable to you, the students. However, I know that you want to use your voice beyond this capacity alone.
Beginning in 2014 the Provost began another opportunity by having open office hours each week where students, faculty, and staff could stop in and discuss any aspect of campus life that they would like. I utilize these opportunities and I also encourage other students to utilize them. There are Dean's Advisory Councils, Residence Hall Councils, and several other groups that serve niched purposes. The Vision 2020 Team on Student Centeredness proposed that the University needs to enhance the way that students can use their voice. I would encourage you all to read the Team reports and approved recommendations on the Vision 2020 website.
All of this is to say that there are opportunities that exist for you to use your voice. You are a consumer of what the University is selling. It's one thing to share a post on social media, but it's completely different to voice your concerns to those who represent you or to the decision makers themselves. I'm one voice and, while I think that my voice is pretty loud, so much can be accomplished if we all come together to say what's on our minds.
Do you ever get tired? I sure do.
Do you get tired of giving your input and not being heard? I do. I'm tired of knowing that 1,127 students responded to a survey two years ago asking for the credit hour limit to be lifted. Students wanted to take more than 16 hours in a given semester without the financial burden, but there was never an update on the topic. I'm tired of knowing that this same issue was asked about in 2002 and there still hasn't been any movement.
Do you get tired of saying that we need to put a cap on the growth of the student body yet we keep getting larger? I do. 7,000 students. 8,888 students. What's next?
Do you get tired of hearing that Greek chapters are too large but then hearing that we can't add another chapter on campus? I do. We recognize that groups over 200 people large are not functional, that's why we pride ourselves on 87% of our classes having 30 students or less. If it's part of the University's strategic plan to make overall growth manageable, why aren't we doing the same with our Greek chapters?
Do you get tired of not being able to find a parking spot where you need to on campus? Do you get tired of looking at MyBelmont and knowing that only pictures showing exaggerated images of racial diversity made it online? Do you get tired of walking into buildings and seeing bare walls and uncomfortable furniture? I do.
I get tired of the lawn being closed every fall. I get tired of there not being enough practice rooms on campus. I get tired of not being able to put posters on bulletin boards because they simply don't exist. I'm worn out just from the number of times I hear someone else is no longer employed here.
I reiterate my last post though, I love Belmont. I bleed Belmont blue and red. I'm just tired of being tired.
SGA has just started a new series on our social media channels, in a countdown to Valentine's Day, highlighting what faculty, staff, and students love about Belmont. That had me thinking about all of the things that I love about Belmont and the reason that I decided to start college here three and a half years ago. When I toured Belmont, I remember walking around and feeling that this place was right for me. I can't remember one thing that anyone said to me, but I distinctly remember the feeling that I received when I roamed this tight-knit community that I would later call home.
On Monday the University broke ground on a new residence hall where several Bruin Hills apartments once stood. This building will be ten or eleven stories tall, depending on how you count the levels, with no parking garage included as part of the plan. I'm glad we're building a new residence hall, but I wonder if by the time it's completed in 2019 if we'll just have to move on to the next residential area. There hasn't been any statement that growth will stop at 8,888 students, so one is only left to wonder if one new residence hall is enough. In April of last year we received an email saying that there would be additional practice rooms in Hitch; if this promise begins, will they be enough for a growing population?
Now, the increasing population of Belmont mightn't be such a concern if students had an outlet to distinguish themselves from their BUID or communicate with one another. However, we've now implemented a policy where residential students can't put anything in the windows of their own rooms. I, like many of you, tried to get an explanation and couldn't get a clear answer, leaving me much in agreement with the majority of those affected and loving the dialogue that has come of it. Maybe if students had the ability get connected to one another or have a central area to see what is happening on campus, this would be less of an issue. However, there seems to be fewer and fewer bulletin boards on campus and the more aesthetically pleasing option of televisions won't be happening either. Instead, the sentiment I've heard and agree with is that we are moving towards a more sterile environment.
Just like most people I get frustrated every time I walk past the Hitch parking lot and see it empty, reserved for visitors. It bugs me when cars are lined all of the way onto Wedgewood between class changes, unable to move due to the sheer amount of people. I really don't like the long lines in the bookstore, the small size of the fitness center, and I could go on. But, don't take this as a list of negative things. Overall I love this place. I hope you love this place. That doesn't mean that we can't want to make it better though. I simply wonder how big is too big. I toured Belmont in 2012 and the campus has changed dramatically since that time. Will I recognize it when I come back years down the line?
Over the past week or so I've been giving a good bit of thought to mine and Macy's campaign to become SGA President and Vice President. I looked back at our campaign Facebook page and skimmed the posts, read the Vision articles, and watched our video. We've succeeded on some fronts and still have work to do on others. If you'd indulge me, I'd like to reflect on some of those points in this post.
One key desire of mine was for more funding to be directed towards students and student activities. Student Government saw an increase of $25,000 in its budget this year, a great deal of which returns to student organizations through grant petitions. The Student Activities Programming Board (SAPB) was awarded additional funding to produce quality programming every Friday night for the campus. While these are both victories for students, there is still work to be done. HOPE Council, a chartered organization that the University created to promote diversity initiatives and support underrepresented students, has no funding; I will continue to advocate for this to change.
I also made it a strong point to remind students that we need to be having real and intentional conversations about diversity and inclusion on this campus. As we saw with the Snapchat incident at the beginning of the year, this campus has a need for these discussions. We saw the campus come together around LGBT+ students when Westboro Baptist Church decided to protest Bridge Builders. It is such a privilege to be able to only be concerned about prejudice when it is as blatant as these two incidents; let's make the entire campus a safe space instead of being complacent and simply saying all spaces are safe.
There were several other areas which were touched on during the campaign and I hope you follow SGA on all social media channels (@belmontsga) to keep up with how students at Belmont are being represented. I have beliefs ranging from wanting the number of Greek organizations on campus to expand to where they are reasonable sizes all of the way to wanting students to hang what they want in their windows. What are your beliefs? Let's work together to try making them a reality.
At the end of our campaign video I said "Macy and I want to be leaders who are both approachable as well as assertive, when needed." I think we've been approachable, through transparency on this blog, social media, our suggestion box, Coffee & Conversations, and our calendar, which shows our office hours and every SGA related meeting any of us have. While maintaining that same level of openness, I now hope we can move towards greater action. This only happens when you take a stand yourself or push those who represent you to act on your behalf.
I hope I've represented you well since I took the oath of office at 10:11am on April 20th, 2016 and know that I'm not done pushing towards a better Belmont just yet.
Tomorrow will be an eventful day for the nation as the Presidential Inauguration is upon us. I could go on about the significance of a peaceful transition of power or ringing in a new presidency, but I'd rather not write about that and you'd rather not read it. Instead, I want to write a message about Belmont and those who attend this University.
The first area that I'd like to recognize is the extreme passion of Belmont students. I was talking to someone a few days ago who recalled the struggle of getting Bridge Builders established, not because it was hard but because the idea wasn't popular. This individual recalled looking out and seeing hundreds of students marching across campus because they felt so passionately about the topic. Though students have changed, I think the passion remains as a part of the Belmont culture and I want to see that same passion in the coming days. If you support President-elect Donald Trump, I hope you continue the message of giving a voice to those who feel the establishment doesn't work for them. If you don't support the President-elect, I hope you will keep your passion for equality and inclusion over the next four years.
The second focus of this message is to highlight the love of Belmont. Whether your side won, your side lost, or you don't care at all, I hope you remember how much we love one another. Sometimes things happen that aren't out of love (recall Snapchat and keeping Bridge Builders off of this campus), but I hope we always come back to the fact that we're all Belmont Bruins at the end of the day. I hope we remember to have compassion for those who we may disagree with, but we also remember our convictions and stick to what we believe in. Through it all remember respect.
You may not want to read another message about the election, you may not want to watch the inauguration, and you may not want to read those on social media who feel pained by the election results. Whatever your convictions, I hope you remember to maintain compassion, express grace, and show love tomorrow, the next day, and the following four years.
We've now come to the end of the first week of the Spring semester. For some, this is your second- maybe even your first- semester at Belmont. For others, your time at Belmont may be reaching its conclusion. I knew that I wanted to write something on this platform to mark the beginning of this time, this little bit of time before May and before there's a new person representing the student body in SGA, but I had no idea where to focus my thoughts.
I began by thinking about making a renewed case for SGA. Student Government received an additional $25,000 in its budget this year, a large part of which is for funding student organizations. SGA representatives are constantly meeting with stakeholders around this campus and hold office hours throughout the week to hear student concerns. However, I know that this message doesn't always break through.
I then thought about taking a more cynical approach to this message in an effort to motivate passion. I will be among the first to admit that there are issues on our campus. I think the University could be more proactive on topics of diversity and have a wider lens of what diversity means. I wish there were more Greek organizations on our campus that didn't have to be well beyond the size of a functional group. I have opinions on subjects ranging from parking to practice rooms, but I can't think of anyone that wants to read them all, so I'll spare those still reading.
What I finally decided upon was a message of solidarity. This whole college thing isn't always easy. You have the classes, extracurricular activities, possibly a job, and the myriad of other things that life throws your way. The last words of the University Alma Mater, the anthem of the University, are "with love and truth unite." We're all in the same boat. Some of us are a little closer to the end goal than others, but let's all make sure that we reach the end goal.
It is my great honor to represent students in discussions with Senior Leadership. This includes bringing to light student concerns, but also listening and communicating with students what is presented to me. Annually, the lawn must be reseeded so the grass can remain full and healthy and it has come to that time of the year. You may have seen the first part of this process, laying the seed, this past week. This coming week, beginning Monday, the Lawn will close and will remain closed for 4 to 6 weeks.
While I know that this area is very popular for frisbee, studying, and just hanging out, I also know that this is the best option to retain the beauty of the lawn. In the time that the Lawn will be closed, I hope that you will join me in the many other spaces available to students. The South Lawn will remain open, the space between the Baskin Center and Johnson Center is available, and the area that the former Wheeler building occupied is open to students.
If there are any questions or concerns- if there are ever any questions or concerns- please feel free to contact me, Cabinet or any of your Student Government Representatives.
At this point, we all know the events that have taken place on our campus and the more than appropriate response that the institution has taken. Hate speech is not and will not be tolerated at Belmont University.
Belmont is a loving community that strives to make sure that all students feel safe, supported, and, above all else, valued, because every student here is valuable. At a campus and in a world where students of color live subject to unnecessary hatred, it is my hope that Belmont can be a place of love. There have been many tears today as I, personally, and we, as a community, struggle with this reality, but I'm also saddened that this vulgarity has permeated the Nashville and national community.
There is no place for hate speech and bigotry at Belmont University and I am extremely hurt that others were witness to this hate. Additionally, I want it to be clear that we will not let this fall to the wayside and that we, the students and those who represent them, will not stop discussing how to move forward from here. We decide how to define this moment and we will define it as a call to action that leads us toward a more inclusive environment.
As always, feel free to contact me at any time.
Welcome back to Belmont everyone! We've now come to the end of our first week of classes. With that comes a desire to sleep all weekend, but a need to instead do homework all weekend.
Aside from welcoming you all back to Belmont, I'm writing to encourage everyone to get plugged in to the Belmont experience this year. Of course, I would love to have everyone apply for SGA and we want people to join from all across campus. I met my best friend through us both joining SGA freshman year, so the experience can be much more than what you expect it to be. However, Student Government may not be your thing. Consider joining Greek Life or get involved with the HOPE Council or help plan events with SAPB. That's just a glimpse into what Belmont has to offer, so explore and get involved here on campus.
A few weeks ago I attended the inauguration of the Fisk University SGA President. In his speech, he said something that has stuck with me and definitely applies to Belmont as well. He said that we cannot simply rely on our history to make us great, but must be great and make history. I hope that we all remember that we can't lean on years past to continue the legacy of Belmont, but must make this place the best that it can be through our continued involvement and pursuit of a better Belmont.
Please refer to our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need anything throughout the year, but overall, have a great year and welcome back!
We've made it! It's the last day of regular classes and the semester is coming to an end. Several weeks ago I received the news that I would become the new President of the Student Government Association here at Belmont University. I was elated by this news, but I realize that this position is more than just a title and I'm ready to get down to work for my peers.
With that, know that you will see results from your SGA this coming year. We won't antagonize or attack, but we also won't be timid in taking on the issues that you, the students, want us to address. If you bring something to SGA, have faith that it will be looked into. To start these conversations we will need your help; visit our suggestion box or feel free to email email@example.com and let us know what's on your mind. SGA has made great strides in the recent past, but we have more work to do and we want you to be included in making the best Belmont possible.
I'm pleased to say that the amendment to reshape SGA has failed a student body vote, and I'm hopeful that something that's truly representational will arise with the next Congress. I'm hopeful that we can take a long look at the consolidated student fee and make sure that student activities are receiving their fair share. I'm hopeful that we can get some resolution on the cap for academic credit hours. There are many things that I'm hopeful about, but one thing that I know is that SGA will get results for the student body this coming year.
If you'd like to join the Student Government Association, be aware that elections for all 40 seats will take place in the Fall. Check here, our social media, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.
I wish you all luck with finals and want to express my extreme gratitude for putting me in such a position where I can serve you all!
Over the past year, as I've consider my experiences in SGA and the evidence I've seen from other student governments across the country, I have realized the need we have for a structural change to our Congress. The PDF document attached to this blog post explains in detail my perspective and vision for the future. It is my hope that current members of SGA would write this plan, or a version of it, into a constitutional amendment that would go into effect for the 2016-17 Congress.
I highly encourage anyone with questions to email or call me!
Every year, it is the privilege and responsibility of the President to appoint new members to Congress when elected members are unable to continue in their roles due to class schedules, study abroad, work, etc. This Spring, I will appoint 8 new Congress members. Deciding who would be a good fit for SGA is a difficult task, so I have created this application to move the process along. Anyone who is interested in becoming a Congress member should fill this out by January 25th, and selected individuals will be sworn in on February 4th. Please don't hesitate to contact me or any of your representatives in Congress with questions!
I am excited to see all we can accomplish together this semester.
The lawn is a special place on our campus. It's an integral part of the student experience here at Belmont, and we as students have a right to use it. We also have the responsibility to take care of it. If you have spent any time on it recently, you've noticed that the grass is turning brown in spots and is generally unhealthy. Luckily, there is a plan in place that will improve the health of the lawn so that we, and the students coming after us, can toss a frisbee on grass rather than a dirt patch.
As the President of SGA, I have the opportunity and honor of meeting with Senior Leadership on a regular basis. In these meetings, I have the responsibility of making sure the students' interests are represented and the information presented to me is communicated fairly to the student body. Dr. Fisher, along with the rest of Senior Leadership, have informed us that beginning next week, renovations to the lawn will begin. Belmont is investing in more resistant seeds and careful planting so that we can fully enjoy the lawn in the future. As a result, the lawn will be closed the end of next week, then open until the first part of October when we then expect the lawn to be closed for 4 to 6 weeks as the seeds germinate and take root.
The University staff I have worked with take no pleasure in closing the lawn, and as a student who uses it regularly, I am not excited about it either. But it is absolutely necessary, and I hope my fellow students will understand that we will be better off for it. I encourage students to join me in utilizing the lawn between the Johnson and Baskin Centers, as well as the newly available green space Wheeler used to occupy. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me, Cabinet, or any of your Student Government Representatives.