SGA 2/9 meeting recap: After continued heated discussions, the first week of February is declared National Gun Violence Survivors Week at UNCW

Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

Whether or not to pass the previously tabled resolution making an official national gun violence survivors week at UNCW was once again heavily discussed at this week’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting. 

During the open podium session, both Bella Dearing, president of UNCW’s Students Demand Action, and Chris Neal, president of the Black Student Union (BSU) spoke about the previously tabled resolution, “A Resolution Declaring Feb. 1-7 National Gun Violence Survivors Week.”

Dearing provided further information on where the statistics mentioned in the resolution came from (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York Times, and more). She also explained her frustration with the amount of support she received after the meeting, which she thought contradicted the votes to table it last week.

“There was a comment made calling my proclamation a form of performative activism because I included a statistic about how gun violence affects the Black and LatinX community,” said Dearing. “I would just like to say that including the fact that Black and LatinX Americans are disproportionately affected by gun violence is not being a performative activist, I would not be effectively advocating for the gun violence prevention movement and representing the impact that gun violence has in all communities if I did not include these statistics.”

The comment Dearing is referring to was one made by senator Tatyana Williams, who brought up that including that statistic could appear to be performative activism and asked whether any diverse student organizations like the BSU had given any input into this resolution or asked to co-sponsor it. 

Following Dearing’s presentation, Neal spoke more on the point about including the statistics about Black and LatinX communities. 

“I wanted to talk to SGA just due to BSU’s name being brought up in the conversation when, like I mentioned before, just because it deals with Black people, it doesn’t mean we need to be involved,” said Neal. “Because what has happened a lot, not just on this campus, but within society, Black people have to be on the charge of every single social justice, every single injustice movement and that’s tiring, we have a lot that we are dealing with. Especially at UNCW, we don’t have a lot of people, we don’t have a lot of Black people who are involved and it’s hard. 

“So being involved in this conversation that does not really center around our purpose [focusing on Black students at UNCW] I’m not gonna say it’s a waste of time, of course we’re gonna fight for it, because it needs to be fought for, but it really expenses our resources. We don’t need to be brought up on every single issue, and if that’s the excuse to why this hasn’t been signed, that’s just really a cop out for your secret motives or whatever. I don’t know. But just to say, the Black Student Union isn’t signed on this, like that’s BS, excuse my French.”

Neal also added if the resolution did not get signed because it is not signed off by the BSU then they would sign it.

“But, that’s just really an expense of our resources, and we’ll do it but like, that’s just a waste of our time. It was brought to y’all so be SGA and speak for the students,” said Neal.

When it came time for old business, a motion was passed to move Resolution or “A Resolution Declaring Feb. 1-7 National Gun Violence Survivors Week” back to the floor. The Senate then had time to debate the resolution further before voting on it.

Most of the debate included apologies from senators who questioned the resolution last week and said the changes and further explanation were of satisfaction to them. 

However, one senator, Jack Casterella, chair of the Campus Services Committee, said he still could not give his full support of the resolution.

“There’s a lot of organizations out there that seem to and claim to, and a lot of times do do nonpartisan work. But there’s a lot of underlying currents to many of these organizations on the right and on the left and in the center, that make it difficult to attach our university and our Senate to as an organization,” said Casterella. “I believe that this resolution will be passed, but it makes me uneasy as someone who’s just generally cautious and concerned about those things.”

Casterella added that Everytown was founded by someone (Mike Bloomberg) who he believes is not very bipartisan, which was his main concern with supporting this resolution.

Other senators thought Casterella was getting hung up on issues broader than what the resolution was trying to do: recognize survivors of gun violence.

“As the director of diversity and inclusion, I think it’s very important to acknowledge that even though gun control is a political issue, I don’t think this is a time to debate what side you fall on. Rather, do you empathize with people who have gone through gun violence,” said Brianna Ramirez. “Jack, I appreciate you sharing what you think, but to me, it sounds like you are taking value away from people’s experiences… Thus, in being an inclusive environment for all students, I think it’s very important to acknowledge that this is an issue that affects many Americans across the country, and most likely most, a lot of students at UNCW.”

After several more minutes of debate, the resolution was taken to a vote. The resolution passed with 25 yays, one nay and seven abstentions. 

Resolution by Veronica Wernicke on Scribd

Other items discussed were that the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is hosting a virtual program on Feb. 24 (6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) to showcase Williams’s documentary “Living in Color.”

The group that decides where the money from the CARES act goes should have their decisions finalized this week per Matt Talone, the SGA’s president talked about in his report.

In addition, plans are being made to hold socially distanced freshmen connection events, the Sustainability Committee is planning more cleanup dates for the Herbert Bluethenthal Memorial Wildflower Preserve, the SGA elections packet for the upcoming elections was updated and several positions within the SGA are available and can be found on WaveLink. 

To attend the SGA’s weekly meetings you can visit their web page and click the attached Zoom link.