Student Government column
Editor’s Note: Dominique Escando is the Cabinet Writer of The Student Government.
Last weekend Vaasavi Unnava (SBP), Aaron Gutierrez (SBVP), and Arnelle Etienne, advocacy chair of the President’s Cabinet, hosted the first-ever Conference for Social Change at Carnegie Mellon. The event consisted of a grouping of discussions among selected moderators and student organization presidents that focused on prominent issues students face, such as race relations or civic engagement, for the goal of catalyzing ideas and initiatives to improve on-campus life.
Although one organization with the most creative initiative will receive a $2,000 reward at the end of the year, Vaasavi and Aaron hope each participating organization is able to find unique encouragement in knowing that they are helping create a better and safer campus for their friends, the following generations of their organization, and the entire Carnegie Mellon student body. From the perspective of Student Government, this conference was a beginning — the beginning of a year where students feel equally fulfilled with initiating and creating tangible change in how students approach Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention (SARVP) as they do when their Mousetrap Car finally works perfectly, or their poem leaves a room speechless. It’s the beginning of a year where we aren’t scared to reach out to a friend who is struggling under the premise that taking this initiative can possibly take up too much time. It’s the beginning of a redefinition of putting your heart in the work, where work doesn’t only mean research or classes.
Why were student organization leaders chosen? Organizations are the heart of the spirit of Carnegie Mellon. They’ve certainly done enough to earn that recognition by how they serve as microcosms of the varied interests and backgrounds of our students and introduce fun and extracurricular pride into our lives. Student organization presidents, in particular, have been chosen, usually by popular vote, to represent and lead their organizations to maintain and supersede their past successes. If Carnegie Mellon wishes to complete a particular goal, student organizations are the place to go.
What might be the most important question discussed at this event was: what is an initiative? Arnelle Etienne has defined it as “a [measurable] program or series of events created by a student organization for the purpose of creating change on campus,” which Aaron later expanded to “anything that has the purpose of advancing their chosen cause.” In these two definitions, two qualities stand out: choice and action. From RPG to business leadership to Booth & Buggy efforts, each of the many organizations on campus has such varied goals and activities, so it should be up to these organizations to define what need they will focus on and how they will create change on campus. Be it a speaker series, a drive, or anything else imaginable and productive, an initiative involves joint and repeated effort by members for something they care about that benefits the community. Vaasavi, Aaron, and Arnelle really look forward to seeing what’s possible, and knowing Carnegie Mellon students, those possibilities are limitless.