Student Association looks to create a more inclusive campus
By Olivia Krenz
Azrin Awal first decided to run for Student Association when she realized a lack of representation for marginalized groups of students on UMD’s campus. By changing former policies, such as the bereavement policy, and increasing SA interaction with the student body, Awal is planning to make UMD’s campus climate more inclusive.
“We want to create a campus life that is inclusive and diverse for everyone,” Awal said.
UMD’s SA has a wave of new representatives in office for the following fall semester, including Mike Kenyanya, the new SA president, and four new vice presidents: Azrin Awal - VP of Student Life, Molly McDonald - VP of Academic Affairs, Sean Grote - VP of Administration and Finance and Pavel Arkhipenkov - VP of External Affairs.
Awal, who identifies as Asian American, Muslim and a member of the Queer community, is also a Multicultural Center student leader at UMD. She felt a large responsibility to ensure inclusivity and diversity within SA so students with diverse backgrounds feel they have a safe space and are equally represented on campus. Awal encouraged a lot of MC students to run for SA positions with her this past election season.
“My idea was regardless of our differences and ideologies, I want to have different voices and different thoughts and different opinions and different people from different walks of life to be in SA,” Awal said. “Because that brings a more diverse group of people together and it opens the dialogue for more communication, more thought and more understanding.”
There are multiple policies being examined by SA representatives to undergo editing, including the bereavement policy. Currently this policy only excuses student absences for the death of immediate family members. However, representatives are working to extend this to include “loved ones.” This policy change is directed towards the grieving community of general students who will experience grief in the future during their time on campus.
“To make effective leaders, we need to be empathetic people,” Awal said.
Awal is interested in making UMD more sustainable by focusing on food waste, and working to improve existing programs that donate unused UMD food.
The SA representative’s goal of making UMD a more inclusive campus not only means changing policies, but ensuring more involvement with and from the student body.
“A lot of students aren’t aware of the work that we do,” former SA president Nathan Ernst said.
One way students can become more involved with representatives of SA is by starting their own groups. Fair funding for all student groups on campus is a big push from SA representatives, specifically Sean Grote. Students who lead groups on campus, or want to lead groups on campus, can and should reach out to him for advice and help with financing.
“I’m the money guy,” Grote said.
Awal mentioned the potential creation of a UMD app that could better connect students with campus events and clubs. The app would share the details of club meetings and campus events.
As incoming VP of External Affairs, Arkhipenkov is not only trying to increase interaction between SA and the student body, but interaction with state legislature and the student body as well.
“As the Vice President of External Affairs, I am trying to bring awareness of student needs outside of the Duluth community,” Arkhipenkov said.
Arkhipenkov is interested in advocating for awareness of the effects of the continuously rising tuition rate. He strongly believes in finding a solution to make college more affordable, thus making it more inclusive.
Arkhipenkov also wants to use his position to increase awareness of the benefits of going to UMD. He decided to stay at UMD because of the connections he’s made on campus, and he strongly encourages more students to leave their dorm rooms and get involved.
“I strongly believe we live in the era that will be in the history books,” Arkhipenkov said, “And if what you do now doesn’t affect you, it might affect someone in the future.”
Even if students don’t hold a position in SA, they are welcome to sit in on any committee and attend student congress Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m in LSBE. (Location may vary, but can be checked on SA website on the Bulldog link.) If students want to see a change occur on campus, or have their voices heard, becoming more involved with the student government is a great option.