Representatives from Mississippi public university student governing bodies met to discuss each university’s progress and ideas Thursday in conjunction with the Institute for Higher Learning Board of Trustees meeting.
In attendance were Jeffrey George, president of USM’s Student Government Association; Mikel Sykes, president of Delta State University’s SGA; Kelly Savage, attorney general for The University of Mississippi’s Associated Student Body; Sade Meeks, president of The Mississippi University for Women’s SGA and Brett Harris, president of Mississippi State University’s Student Association.
The meeting remained informal as the representatives discussed different issues such as new large-scale programs. The “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault was briefly discussed by both Meeks and George, who began to spread the program on their respective campuses. Meeks expressed her excitement about the new program and how her university came together and increased awareness of sexual violence. The other representatives said they have been previously unaware of the initiative, but were willing to bring the idea back to their governing bodies.
Another hot-button issue in the meeting was drunk-driving prevention, public transportation and how those two subjects coincide. Savage informed the representatives about the Ole Miss initiative, “SafeRide,” which was previously titled “RebelRide.” This program provides a bus from the Oxford town square back to campus and encourages students to forgo drinking and driving.
Harris shared the new MSU drunk-driving program called “Cowbell Cabs,” which is a similar principle but will provide complimentary service from the bars to student’s homes. Both Harris and Savage were helpful to George, who claims that USM President Rodney Bennett is researching the legitimacy of a public transport for Southern Miss students along the length of Hardy Street.
A new initiative launched by the representatives is called “Finish in Four,” which is a program aimed at freshmen, encouraging them to take a full course load and finish in four years. This program will be added to freshman classes as well as USM University 101 class.
A humorous moment in the meeting occurred in the discussion of social media, which is both a bane and a boon to many universities. Sykes, unaware of the recent scandal at USM concerning the social media app, began the discussion with the question, “Have any of you had issues with Yik Yak?”
George laughed briefly and said, “We’ve had two students arrested.”
This led to discussion between the representatives of their respective troubles with the app and how students were using it to attack each other anonymously.
After the discussion of issues across the board, the university representatives gave a brief update of their student government activities. Savage detailed a recent intrigue involving an Ole Miss homecoming candidate who was suspended from candidacy twice for separate violations and chose to undergo due process both times, pushing back the announcement of the winner by almost four days.
This brought on a new review of the issue of Greek Life control over some university’s homecoming elections. Sykes said due to a rule placed by one Delta State sorority, one year every single homecoming court winner had been a member of said sorority. “It was ridiculous,” he said. “All four classes were in (the sorority) and the homecoming queen, too.”
George was able to explain USM’s current election policy that states that people on the election committee are not eligible to campaign for any certain candidate in order to avoid favoritism.
“Some (girls in sororities) join the election committee just so they don’t have to campaign,” he said. “We’ve always had plenty of people.”
At the end of the meeting, many of the representatives left the meeting with a positive view of what had occurred.
Savage shared her excitement with her Twitter followers and said, “Enjoying the opportunity to represent (Ole Miss) at the IHL’s meeting! Southern Miss has such a beautiful campus!”
“It’s really great,” Sykes said afterward. “We get to share ideas, give each other inspiration for programs to bring back to our campuses.”
“I think it is important that the presidents meet so we can share ideas and collaborate on initiatives to benefit our student bodies,” George said. “As students, we are all facing similar struggles on our respective campuses, so it is beneficial to discuss how every campus is dealing with certain issues and engaging their student body.”