The month of June has been everything but uneventful for the University, and LSU Student Government President Stone Cox and Vice President Hannah Barrios are aware. The duo spoke with the Reveille via Zoom about how this whirlwind time period has been filled with opportunities to better the University.
Cox credits student organization Blackout LSU for being the push to bring the discussion surrounding racism to the University.
"Student Government is in full support of Blackout LSU and their movement," Cox said. "Student Government is here to represent the students, and while we may not be leading the charge, we're in full support of what Blackout LSU is doing."
Although Cox and Barrios were not present during the LSU Administration and Blackout LSU's meetings this week, they said they eagerly waited for updates from friends and members of SG, including Gideon Adeyemo and Alaysia Johnson.
Blackout LSU raised concern surrounding incoming freshman Drew Dollar once videos of him saying racial slurs circulated on social media. This caused an uproar throughout the LSU community calling for the University to take action against Dollar.
The University released a controversial comment via Twitter: "To be clear, we at LSU condemn hate and bigotry in any form, including racially incendiary remarks. As a state university, however, we are subjects to constitutional limitation on our ability to take action in response to free speech."
"I think the Blackout LSU student leaders have done a great job in explaining [the statement] was unacceptable," Barrios said. "They have to do better. It's not okay for students to get that kind of response. It's not okay for anyone to feel unsafe."
Cox said University Administration has promised him and Blackout LSU, "the situation was handled to its fullest extent." He said University officials are unable to comment the specifics of individual students' cases due to percle laws.
June 10, the University announced via Twitter, Troy H. Middleton Library will be renamed, and the name is currently pending board approval.
Although the University's naming committee has full authority over the new, official name of the library, Barrios hopes the signatures on circulating petition to rename the University library to Pinkie Gordon Lane, after a black, female Ph.D. graduate of the University, will be taken into consideration. "It would be a great celebration of [Lane], our black students and community," she said.
SG recently shared its resolutions addressing social injustices in the black community, including advancing African American Studies from a program to a department and publicly acknowledging Juneteenth as a holiday.
One of the resolutions Student Senate is trying to pass, according to Barrios, is editing the code of conduct to bar discrimination and offensive language.
"Things like the Drew Dollar situation will be explicitly handled in our Code of Conduct so students feel safe ," Barrios said.
She added that SG is working with the Office of Diversity to enact these changes.
Barrios also reiterated there will be diversity training for every member of SG, which was discussed by Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner at the University's administration meeting. Cox added diversity will be necessary, "going into effect for the entire LSU system."
Barrios stated SG is also working with LSUPD to increase accountability and hopes to have a student representative involved in decisions being made through LSUPD. She noted that SG will be publishing a survey in regards to people's interactions with LSUPD, asking, "What is their opinion and view of [LSUPD] right now? What can we change for the better?"
"We're really listening to students right now, especially our black students; we want them to feel safe and welcomed on campus," Barrios said. "We have great senators and great student leaders who've worked so hard. We're doing everything we can to support them and support Blackout LSU movement. It's just so important right now."
Barrios said one of the most important things you can be doing right now to support the Black Lives Matter movement is becoming an ally. She has shared numerous ways to support on her social media pages, and she is hopeful her followers are listening and "actually want to be better."
"Educating yourself is one of the easiest things you could do right now," Barrios said. "If you're signing petitions right now, that's great, if you can donate that's even better."
Cox is advising his colleagues to have honest and genuine conversations with their friends "who think differently than you," despite how uncomfortable these conversations may be.
"Being a good listener right now is so important," Barrios said. "Taking a step back is so important. Know that your voice isn't what needs to be amplified right now; really amplify those voices that matter. The black community is so important, just being there supporting and listening."
Cox recalls discussing with his chief adviser Austin Grasshoff about the discussion of the University library name being changed for over five years by SG.
"While the COVID-19 crisis and the social injustices that going on around the United States right now are truly terrible events, I think this time we're in right now is an opportunity for everyone right now to use it to use their individual voice to make an impact," Cox said. "Because everything is so turbulent right now is a time for real change to take place. I know for myself and what I hope for Student Government is we're really taking advantage of this time, to not only get stuff done now but to get stuff done for the fall and for the spring.
Cox emphasized how hopeful he is for SG to get more things done than they've ever done before, "not because 'we're better than old Student Government' or anything like that, but because we're taking advantage of the time in summer vacation that we've been given to really prepare a plan and make a positive impact on campus."
Barrios smiled brightly, saying she's so proud of all of the black student leaders throughout the LSU community for being agents of change.
"These past few weeks, we've been thrown into this, but they've done such great work. This is just the start. This is the beginning of long awaited change on our campus and in our community. I hope our campus can be a lot safer and a lot more welcoming when we get back in the fall," Barrios said.