Student Association and Committee for Social Justice Need to Unite

Richard Cebada, SA Senator | Contributing Writer

Dear Editor,

I’d like to start this off by giving a brief summary of my experiences. I was born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City. My neighborhood sees all kinds of drug and gang-related activity on a daily basis. My mother was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and received what is equivalent to a fourth grade education. My father was born and raised in Mexico and was deported from the US when I was 14 years old.

   When I arrived in Oneonta in the fall, I had a strong desire to become involved in campus activities and asked President Evan Englander to appoint me to a vacant seat on the Student Association Senate, to which he obliged. Over the following weeks, I befriended many of my fellow senators as well as the members of the Executive Council and took great pride in helping make a difference at SUNY Oneonta. I have never let something like my race or my ethnicity stop me from excelling in whatever I take on and I quickly realized that it was not something I needed to worry about with regard to our student government.

   In October, a large group of students calling themselves the Committee for Social Justice (CSJ) attended a Senate meeting and expressed their grievances about the unwelcoming atmosphere for students of minority status. After a very tense meeting, everyone walked away feeling as if a revolution had just begun. Revolution is not a bad thing; change is a necessary function of life. The Senate saw a cry for help and decided to act. However, the day after the aforementioned Senate meeting, I was confronted by a member of the CSJ and was called a “traitor,” I was told that I was “snapping at the wrong things” because I wasn’t standing up there with everyone. I was expected to agree with everything that the CSJ had to say solely because of the color of my skin. I know what it is like to be profiled; I know what it is like to have an underprivileged background. So when I was called a traitor because I didn’t agree with something, I took it to heart.

   I figured I should move on with my life because I would much rather be productive and work on the original problem that was brought to the SA. My job as a Senator is to focus on all the issues this campus faces. There are many things wrong with this campus; we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. We will always work to better this campus and the climate on this campus in general, but we need to take it one step at a time. The new SA Constitution, while not perfect, is a good first step to what this campus needs. We have not made everyone happy but our goal is to benefit as many people as possible.

   With that said, both the CSJ and the Student Association need to keep one thing in mind: We can mudsling all we want, but as long as we remain divided, we will be weak. United, we are a force to be reckoned with. We are two strong-willed and good-hearted bodies of students that want to bring change to this campus. So I would like to take this opportunity to offer both sides a chance to start off fresh and look towards a new year where change is possible. In the coming months, a Director of Campus Relations will be elected by the Senate. This person will be one of two chairpersons of the newly formed Student Association Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This person will work closely with both bodies and this person shall be a prime example of the progress we have made so far and the progress that is yet to come. Let us give this person and this new committee a fighting chance to make true change and be the leaders we need them to be. Let us unite,

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