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Disunity at Georgia State: Perimeter and Atlanta divided on Homecoming and SGA

SGA’s 90th administration contemplates a decision on where they should host future SGA meetings since the current WEBex platform for virtual communication is inconsistent. Photo by Mayowa Amosu | The Signal

Georgia State has six campuses, or two or even one depending on who you ask. Students might list them off — Atlanta, Alpharetta, Decatur, Dunwoody, Clarkston, Newton — or maybe they’ll group them together, Perimeter and Atlanta.

Where’s Georgia State? Downtown Atlanta, others might respond. But between the Sept. 19’s university-wide Student Government Association meeting and Homecoming Week descending across the university, it’s clear that students are ready to talk about all of the campuses’ value and role at Georgia State.

The idea of further uniting Georgia State and SGA across all campuses hit a speedbump at the Sept. 19 university-wide meeting.

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When two senators from the Decatur campus, Janii McIver and De’Mona Reid, presented a bill they proposed that would unite the campuses, there was much discussion before it was ultimately rejected in a vote.

This bill would establish a rotation of the locations of the SGA meetings throughout all six Georgia State campuses in order to educate Atlanta senators on the issues that pertain to Perimeter students, the senators said.

Now, senators from all campuses are expected to commute to Atlanta for the monthly university-wide meetings or dial in via Webex.

Funds are allocated to reimburse senators from the Perimeter campuses for their parking on the Atlanta campus, but not for Atlanta senators parking on Perimeter. And since the budget for SGA is set at the beginning of each year, it’s too late to change that for this year.

“I love the idea of moving locations, but [my reason is] purely financial,” Nigel Walton, a senator from the Atlanta campus who spoke out against the bill, said. “We don’t want to waste financial resources of Atlanta campus students on a not-well-thought-out bill.”

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McIver saw the pushback on the bill as part of a bigger problem for Georgia State.

It proves my point that this ‘One SGA’ will never work when the students in power put money over student matters,” McIver said. “It adds to my point that Perimeter and Atlanta SGA need to part ways.”

She then proposed that it was time to establish a president on each campus, instead of the current university-wide president model.

When asked how many, if any, of the members in attendance had visited all of the Georgia State campuses by McIver, only a few hands were raised.

“How can we represent one Georgia State if we don’t frequent all of them?” McIver said.  “Due to Atlanta having more senators, I feel when Perimeter has an issue, it’s treated as minuscule.”

The feelings of Perimeter campuses being neglected doesn’t stop at SGA. This week, last year’s winner of Ms. Perimeter, Alana Burrell, came forward explaining the treatment she and her partner, Mr. Perimeter, Andrew Lay, have seen over the past year.

“These positions are not just vanity titles; these are student leadership positions,” Burrell said. “We have the opportunity to produce initiatives.”

Burrell said that last year, a big point of contention were the dance practice requirements. Most of the practices were scheduled on the Atlanta campus, which Burrell said Perimeter students were required to travel to and pay for their own parking. She said she was told there would be practices on Perimeter campus as well, of which there was only one that Atlanta campus students weren’t required to attend.

She explained that all students were promised practices would not be held during their class times, but the day of the event, a last minute practice was scheduled during her midterm. She said the dance was changed during this practice and when it came time for the dance, she had to stand aside because she wasn’t prepared for the change.

“All of the time, Perimeter students are expected to stretch and bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to meet the shallow standards of the Atlanta campus and they don’t expect the same from their own students,” she said.

This year there have been several changes to the Homecoming Court. First, the positions and candidates are no longer gendered, allowing the potential for two male, two female or non-binary candidates as the victors. Now, candidates simply apply for a “royalty” instead of a Mr. or Ms. position, and can choose their own pronouns as a victor.

Additionally, the positions themselves have changed. What was previously Ms. and Mr. Perimeter is now the Royal Flame title, something Burrell said no Perimeter students were consulted on.

“You see it in the university-wide positions for SGA as well; they don’t have to look at Perimeter,” Burrell said. “They don’t have to see us, advertise with us, speak with us. They talk about it, but I never see the footwork for it.”

But this conversation isn’t even a new one; in 2017, two years after consolidation, The Signal wrote an article titled, “Amid Homecoming Events, Perimeter Gets Left Behind.”

In the SGA discussion, Perimeter students argued this goes beyond representation and travel and that their campuses are lacking in luxuries that are afforded to the Atlanta campus that they say should be mandatory for all campuses. McIver gave the example that there is no grab and go station on the Decatur campus and students are expected to travel to the nearest grocery station three miles away.

The solution to this disunity, at least for SGA, is this bill for rotating locations, according to McIver. She hopes to redraft and propose it again at the next university wide SGA meeting.

Members spoke out about a few alternatives to avoiding the commute to Atlanta, one of those being Webex, the online meeting and videoconference application that SGA currently uses to remotely connect senators who are unable to attend the meetings.

But even at that meeting Webex was a recurring issue throughout its duration. The meeting began at 7:41 p.m., instead of the 7:15 start time, due to technical difficulties with Webex for senators tuning in at home, who were struggling to hear the conversations throughout the meeting.

“Webex is completely out of our realm of being able to control that,” SGA University-Wide President Jazmin Mejia, said.

McIver argued that Webex was part of the equation, however.

“Webex is a waste of time and money,” Senator McIver said. “Had my bill passed, senators could’ve been a part of the next conversation at a campus more convenient for them.”

 

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After Danny Mai’s resignation as a senator and chair of the Bylaws Committee, Senator Andre Walker, a College of Arts and Science graduate senator, was voted on and inducted as the new chair.

“[Georgia State] has been my home for more than 30 years,” Walker said. “My mother, who received her master’s degree from this university over four decades ago, enrolled me in State’s Saturday School program for gifted students. I started taking classes on campus during my kindergarten year.”

Walker shared his intentions to continue taking care of Georgia State and his home. He hopes to focus more on legislation and running the meetings more smoothly.

“I want disagreements within SGA to be over policy, not procedure,” he said.

During the meeting, there was a short discussion when Decatur EVP Hadejia Manais brought forward a situation in which one senator requested a date from one of the members of her senate. While she did not name any names, it was revealed that it was Nigel Walton.

Manias said Walton had reached out to senator McIver, who brought forward the bill being debated that day.