SGA ARO Picture

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

ARO, the Accessibility Resources Office, has been fantastic in my experience. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m registered with ARO due to my anxiety. I appreciate the staff in ARO more than I can put into words, especially through their ‘ARO Empowers’ and their work to get students comfortable on campus. The students registered with ARO make up an incredible, diverse community, including those with both visible and invisible disabilities. However, you wouldn’t think that if you watched the Student Government Meeting on September 27th. 

The SGA decided last year that it needed an “ARO Representative,” someone who is supposed to represent students with disabilities campuswide. That said, this person is neither selected by the students registered with ARO nor by ARO Staff. The representative is appointed by the Student Government. This is an organization that is largely able-bodied and presumably neurotypical. In what is perhaps either an act of ignorance or infantilization, the Student Government has not entrusted the students of ARO to pick their own Representative. 

Now, the Student Government is seeing the consequences of this decision. Students of color registered with ARO are now represented in the Student Senate by a Representative who denies that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate. A large and diverse community of students, including LGBTQ+ students on campus, is represented by someone that not only wasn’t elected by them but who actively questioned and sought to deny the trauma faced by them. In this attempt for representation, the SGA has, in turn, allowed a sizable group of students to be horrifically misrepresented by someone who does not represent his constituents. 

The situation does not stop there. The SGA, at first, made absolutely no attempt to stop him from making these reckless statements. It was not until a student asked them repeatedly if his statements represented those of the SGA Executive Council did they denounce the statements and made clear that Senators were to be put on the docket before speaking. While the Executive Council cannot necessarily prevent someone from exercising free speech during the Senate meetings, their ignorance allowed the misrepresentation of students with accessibility needs during the September 27th meeting.

While the SGA will likely not remove him from his position, there is one thing they can and absolutely should do. Let those registered with ARO pick their own representative. The SGA harms every student registered with ARO by forcing a representative on them. The current  representative's comments, while harmful on their own, are amplified by the fact that he represents both students of color and LGBTQ students.

The students registered with ARO need you to stop infantilizing us. We are capable of selecting our own representative, one that will seek out opinions from students with accessibility needs and properly represent the large and diverse community that ARO serves. If we cannot select a new representative by the end of the year, we must be allowed to pick our own for the 2023-2024 Academic Year.

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