UD students elected Sofia Garcia (right) as SGA president and Anastasia Stowers (left) as vice president in April. Photo courtesy of Garcia.
Zoë Hill | Print Editor-in-chief
If you were at Milano’s trivia night in early April, you may have heard the announcer shout out UD’s Student Government Association’s newest president, Sofia Garcia.
Garcia, a junior political science major, got the call from the SGA faculty advisor Chris Fishpaw while waiting anxiously at the restaurant with her campaign team. When she picked up the phone, Fishpaw asked: “Am I speaking with the president?”
“I was sobbing in the middle of Milano’s. No regrets,” Gracia said regarding how she reacted to the news.
After the call, she immediately Facetimed her running mate Anastasia Stowers, a sophomore political science and criminal justice double major. The two met as members of SGA’s Campus Unity committee and became fast friends. The pair realized that they had similar ideas on how to tackle major issues on campus.
Bringing more representation to the Counseling Center is a good start to improving and fortifying mental health services on campus, according to Garcia. In her time as a junior senator, she heard from a number of students who said having a counselor they can relate to was a need, not a want.
“How are you going to talk to someone, be vulnerable with someone who doesn’t understand your experiences?” Garcia said. “It just doesn’t work.”
Garcia said her administration plans to advocate for more counselors, and specifically hire more persons of color to fill those roles.
Stowers mentioned how important this representation is for students of color at UD, especially after the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center lost two students this past year.
“We just want resources to be spread out so that everyone has the opportunity to have their problems addressed,” Stowers said. “There is already a stigma on mental health, but the fact that we don’t even have resources to give to students so they can come out of their shell is something we want to address.”
The two commended SGA’s mental health committee, co-chaired by juniors Emily Parker and Mary Kate Newman, for their work this year to improve the mental health services and awareness on campus. Garcia and Stowers want to make their committee more visible to the campus community.
Another prong in their mental health reform plan intends to tackle the PATH point system used for student housing. SGA has met with AVIATE several times this year to discuss the system, and Garcia wants to see more done to alleviate the stress it causes on UD’s students. Part of that is to bring more transparency to how and why the PATH system operates and try to find compromises that benefit both the student body and AVIATE.
Building bridges between student organizations that celebrate diversity envelopes the team’s allyship plans. Organizations like MEC have expressed a sense of exclusion and isolation from other campus communities, according to Stowers. Garcia and Stowers agree that vouching for more spaces on campus would greatly increase those organizations’ reach and visibility.
“MEC has a capacity for about 50 people, but there’s way more than that on campus. There are more than 50 people of color.” Stowers said. “We need to figure out something, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
“Students are missing out on the whole opportunity of getting to know those in the [MEC] community and getting to know the space because there is no space,” Garcia added.
The two hope to build a strong bond between multicultural organizations and SGA so that issues can be addressed rather than ignored, they said.
“We’re doing all this by making SGA way more accessible,” Stowers said. “We want to foster an environment that will make them feel more comfortable to come to us with their problems and issues on campus so that we can connect them with the resources that they may not know about.”
Garcia and Stowers are excited for the coming year because this is the first time the entire MEC ballot has won the positions they ran for, according to Stowers. SGA’s new executive board is also almost completely made up of women and persons of color, which is something both the president and vice president expressed excitement about.
“I got goosebumps,” Garcia said about when she heard the news of the executive board. “It is just so beautiful to see. It was really awesome.”
Safety involves every aspect of what Garcia and Stowers are setting out to do in the coming academic year as president and vice president. Put simply, Garcia said she is striving for “safety of your mind, safety of your body, and safety of your beliefs.”
Garcia’s passion lies within the issue of sexual assault awareness and campus safety. As a senator in SGA, she has worked for two years to implement a sexual assault prevention and training program. She partnered with YWCA Dayton, a non-profit women’s group with the mission of ending racism and empowering women, in the summer to adapt their Gem City Safe Bars program for UD student bars.
Timothy’s Bar, a popular student spot on Brown Street, was the first to be trained under Garcia’s program. The whole staff received the training Wednesday.
“Tim’s is getting trained in bystander intervention and sexual assault prevention. So everyone from the cooks to the bouncer will know how to navigate that,” Garcia said “They even go through the rules in the handbook of their establishment and pick out problematic issues that could occur.”
Again, Garcia and Stowers said one of the biggest aspects of implementing their plans and stopping sexual assaults on UD’s campus is getting information out to students.
“Although the reporting has gone up, the reporting is a good thing because people know those resources are there,” Garcia said.
SGA President Garcia and Vice President Stowers were sworn in on April 24 and plan to hit the ground running as the new academic year approaches. To learn more about the duo’s SGA policy plans, you can visit their campaign Instagram @garcia_stowers22.