SA senate revisits topics of inclusion, mental health awareness

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March 2, 2017

1:39 AM

During the Feb. 28 meeting of the Student Assembly, senators focused on providing a stronger sense of inclusivity at the College of William and Mary.

One bill introduced at this meeting, the Black Lives Matter Conference Act, aims to help support students who are working to raise awareness about issues relating to race and society, according to the wording of the bill.

The Black Lives Matter Conference Act would allocate $7,550 to fund an event that hosts members of the Black Lives Matter community in the City of Williamsburg. The event would also host Rosa Clemente, a journalist, hip-hop activist and community organizer. Clemente also served as the vice presidential running mate of Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008.

Sen. Mitch Croom M.A. ’17, who introduced the bill, said that the Black Lives Matter movement has been on campus since its inception in 2014 after the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

People in the Black Lives Matter movement are looking to set up a conference and would like us to pitch in,” Croom said.

“People in the Black Lives Matter movement are looking to set up a conference and would like us to pitch in,” Croom said. “An important note is that we’re pitching in, not covering all of the costs. Other groups like [the Lambda Alliance] are pitching in, too.”

The senate then voted on and passed two bills that were introduced Feb. 21. These bills deal with issues of inclusion surrounding mental health awareness and including transfer students in the College community.

One of these bills, the Suicide Prevention Act, allocates $557 to sponsor a five-kilometer walk designed to spread awareness of mental illnesses and suicide prevention techniques. Sen. Alaina Shreves ’18, the sponsor of the bill, said that there will be extensive advertising for the event to help educate as many people as possible and that organizations within Williamsburg are also joining the walk.

“There are community partners who would potentially help with this event,” Shreves said. “Lots of organizations in Williamsburg are going to be tabling as well and will discuss their efforts to help improve mental health awareness.”

Chairman of the Senate Danny O’Dea ’18 said that he received an email in response to this bill from former Sen. Quetzabel Benavides ’16. Benavides sent multiple resources that she wanted to be shared with the College including ribbons, brochures, logos and wallet-sized cards that promote suicide prevention awareness.

“Quetzabel reached out to me earlier this afternoon, offering her support in her new job as someone who works with suicide prevention,” O’Dea said. “It was a strong show of solidarity from an alum [sic] who did a lot while she was here.”

Suicide prevention awareness has previously been a focus of SA. SA President Eboni Brown ’17 and SA Vice President Hannah McKiernan ’17 ran on a platform that addressed what they saw as a poor mental health environment at the College. During the campaign, McKiernan shared her experiences with mental illness on their Facebook page and the candidate pair called for SA to work with the Counseling Center staff to promote on campus resources.

Also in this meeting

The Transfers and More Community Act, a bill similar to one sponsored by Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18 last spring, would allocate $350 to fund an “off-campus bash” for all transfer students who entered the College between the Fall of 2016 and Spring of 2017. Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’19, the sponsor of this bill, said that the bill aims to bring transfer students together and foster a sense of community as he believes not enough is done to support transfer students.

Helping promote the inclusion of transfer students has also been a returning agenda item in the senate. In October 2014, the Transfer Field Act allocated $250 to purchase food and equipment for a “field day” for transfer students. Earlier in this senate session, Sen. Sikander Zakriya ’19 sponsored the Transfer Student Act, which allocated $200 to host a similar event at Brickhouse Tavern.

Jack Bowden ’18, a student who recently transferred to the College, said that he felt that not enough was done to make him feel welcome when he transferred and thinks that such legislation might foster a stronger community among transfer students.

We have a listserv mail list so we all technically have a way of contacting each other, but this is something that I think we need,” Bowden said.

“We have a listserv mail list so we all technically have a way of contacting each other, but this is something that I think we need,” Bowden said. “Anyone here who knows me knows that I’m a transfer student and I think you guys are doing a great thing here.”

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