LETTER: SGA has a lot of work to do to be inclusive to all students, but your voice matters

A rendering of the location of the future Morris Family Multicultural Student Center location. (Courtesy of K-State News)

Kansas State is not a globalized campus. Our makeup includes many people from rural communities mixing in with those from urban communities, which means for the first time, we have to learn how to interact with each other. The opinion piece written against the multicultural student center is a very good indication of just that.

As a previous undergraduate student at University of Missouri-Kansas City, I worked in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs there. When I told my adviser I was coming to K-State to pursue a masters of architecture, she said “Be careful out there. It is going to be a culture shock.”

Unfortunately, I quickly learned that she was correct. I was one of five people of color in a class of 250 people.

Shock was an understatement—I felt fear.

After not being able to receive a paid position in our Multicultural Student Office due to its small size, I took a position in the Union Program Council. If Student Governing Association had not presented legislation to cut the UPC budget last semester, I would have never known about the organization and the power they possess.

My first SGA meeting, I was lost. I didn’t understand the jargon and the speed was incredible. I thought they were having a discussion when they were actually voting, and legislation was passed left and right. I felt like an ignorant person of color in a room full of white people — not a new feeling at K-State.

This experience is not unique to me. I can only imagine what it’s like for other people who walk into the organization for the first time. Based on an SGA demographic survey filled out at the beginning of the current term, 100 percent of the people of color in SGA are employed and are heavily involved with on-campus extracurriculars. The outside demands lead to a lack of representation within SGA as well as a perception that these students are not as invested in the organization compared to those who can focus solely on it.

I now serve as a student senator for the Graduate School and am aware of how powerful my voice is in the room. Though I originally did not know the norms of the organization, I quickly realized that the things I did know were of great contribution.

While the aforementioned opinion piece was discouraging, there is a real effort in SGA to create a diverse and inclusive student governing body that moves beyond buzzwords and empty promises. For example, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee was created to bridge the gap between SGA and underrepresented students. I sit on this committee and I’ve learned how accessible it is despite how inaccessible it seems.

Committee meetings are open, senate meetings are open and live-streamed and I can only speak for myself and my committee in saying we are more than happy to have you. Bring your questions, ideas, and challenges to the room. Make your voice heard — we’re listening.

Camila Segura Rivera is a graduate school student senator and a graduate student in architecture. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.