As a university that prides itself in its diversity, Georgia State is bound to encounter a variety of students and student groups who have vastly different visions for how Georgia State should operate. Many of these groups choose to make their voice heard through methods such as petitions and protests.
One Georgia State student group that has attempted to make its voice heard repeatedly throughout the past year is United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). The Signal has covered multiple events that they have organized in order to spread their desire to get Georgia State to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the redevelopment of the Turner Field property.
They have marched through Downtown streets, presented a petition to Georgia State President Mark Becker and participated in multiple protests throughout the Atlanta area. Recently, though, they have begun to shift their focus to a different medium in hopes of accomplishing their goals: bringing their message to Georgia State’s Student Government Association (SGA).
The group has attended multiple SGA meetings and described their concerns over the redevelopment to the SGA members present. Though many SGA senators took issue with the way in which the students presented their concerns, USAS’s choice to bring their vision to the elected representatives of Georgia State’s student government is one that other student groups with a vision for the Georgia State community should follow.
Elected To Serve
“The Student Government Association (SGA) is the official voice of the student body at Georgia State University. As the elected representatives, the SGA accepts students’ charge to maintain and improve the student experience at Georgia State University,” SGA President Fortune Onwuzuruike said in his Executive Address on the SGA website.
Every year, students elect SGA representatives into office to serve as an arm of the needs of the student body. Regardless of whether one agrees with USAS’s goals in the demands which they made to the SGA, it cannot be denied that they utilized a valuable and often overlooked asset to students seeking to bring change to the Georgia State community.
At a special SGA meeting on Feb. 2 to address student concerns, which USAS participated in heavily, The Signal reported a quote by Sen. Corey Gray which sheds light on why bringing student concerns to the SGA can be such a useful method of creating change.
“If you’re not passionate about it, do your research on it, because these are your constituents. If you don’t care about it, do your research on it, because these are still your constituents,” Gray said to the other senators in the room.
As Gray points out, if the student body is concerned about an issue, the SGA, as representatives of the student body, has an obligation to consider the issue and work to find a solution for it. In USAS’s case, one of the possible solutions that SGA is attempting to implement is the formation of a university-wide committee to maintain strong channels of communication between the student body and Georgia State administration regarding the Turner Field CBA issue. While the assembly of a committee is not the exact outcome that USAS is seeking, it is a step in the direction that they want to move toward. This progress could be used as an example for other groups of students who want to bring change to Georgia State.
Protest can be an extremely valuable component of spreading awareness about a movement, but for change to be achieved, those in power must be reached and moved to action. Even if the SGA does not have the power to implement the changes that one wants to see made, they likely can create an environment where those who do hold such power can get involved in a dialogue regarding the issue. When students plan efforts to achieve change-oriented goals, opening discussion with student government should be their first priority.