By: Aisha Aslam
When I decided to attend SMU this spring, I wasn’t just deciding which university would eventually be listed on my degree. I was choosing where my home would be for the next four years. Everything from friends to classes to events to sports would surely become ingrained into my identity. While I haven’t been on SMU’s campus for a long time, I already feel at home. Knowing that the Hilltop is and will continue to be my and countless other students’ home, I am firm in my resolve to do everything I can to leave this place better than I found it. When I first realized how much I wanted to be a part of SMU and improve every Mustang’s well-being, I became sure that I needed to run for First Year Senator.
In my brief time on campus, I’ve been able to interact with several students, hearing about both their love for SMU and their concerns. To improve each student’s time here, I actively listened and noted ways to fix the issues some of us faced. The two areas that I believe require the utmost importance and urgency are inclusivity and transparency.
To make every Mustang feel as if SMU is truly their home for four years, I have several plans to increase inclusivity from mental health to food accommodations to diversity and potential bias. College is stressful for a plethora of reasons, including social pressure, finances, career opportunities, academics, and homesickness. I’d like to propose plans for more mental health resources across campus and increase mental health awareness programs for a variety of issues including but not limited to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.
Another aspect of inclusivity is as simple as the food we eat. Several students have dietary restrictions for health, personal, and religious reasons. While food accommodations are available on paper, once at the dining halls, there are very few options if any. The dining halls need to factor in food accommodations for individual students and clearly mark the food for those with food restrictions. Food restrictions and markings such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Kosher, Halal, Dairy Free, and Gluten Free must be stated on the TVs announcing the menu at each station in the dining hall, not just on the dining website.
At virtual Stampede, the “Every Mustang Will Be Valued” segment consisted of a short poem describing our background and academic goals. To increase effectiveness, the segment must be restructured to focus on rumors about SMU, their validity, and consequences for bias and harassment of other students.
Transparency is an equally as significant issue with as many of the students I’ve conversed with believe every university policy is shrouded in a veil of mystery. This mystery encompasses both regular policies such as add/drops for a class and tuition payment and COVID-19 and other critical policies. The need for transparency has never been more urgent. To fix this, as a First Year Senator, I plan to increase lines of direct communication between students and Student Senate. With most senators being privy to certain details due to greater influence and interaction with administrators, senators must carry that information back to the public. I also hope to increase students’ access to administrators via a greater presence at administrative meetings and increase the ease with which students can have and schedule one-on-one meetings with advisors and administrators.
My platform does not end with inclusivity and transparency but prioritizes them. As a First Year Senator, I will work tirelessly to make these issues and every issue pertinent to the well-being of students at SMU both heard and resolved. With experience, passion, and hard work, I will strive daily to make SMU a better place for all Mustangs.
Aisha Aslam is a freshman from Lewisville, Texas, double majoring in economics and mathematics with a minor in international studies. She is a President’s Scholar, part of the University Honors Program, and a member of both the Muslim Student Association and Program Council.
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