WSU’s new student body president seeks to heal divide

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita State’s Student Body Government is in transition after this weekend’s graduation. The former SGA members have passed the torch to the new student body government. Now, members say they are eager to continue the conversations that have brought controversy to campus.

There has been a huge divide in ideas this spring, surrounding discussions of race and diversity on WSU’s campus. This discussion is now joined with thoughts on a disturbance that took place a few weeks ago at a farewell banquet, between the former SGA President Joseph Shepard and the new SGA President’s parents.

The Wichita State University Police Department is investigating a battery and disorderly conduct report with Shepard as the victim. On Monday, the new SGA President spoke out for the first time about how she hopes to help the campus move past this and work on resolutions.

“We do represent almost 14,000 students, and those 14,000 students have varying perspectives,” said SGA President Paige Hungate.

Those perspectives include an ongoing and complicated dialogue about issues surrounding race.

“I do think that a lot of systematic problems did come up after that alleged incident,” said Hungate. “I think a lot of students came forward and said, ‘hey, these are issues I’ve been having for a long time, and now, I want to see them addressed.'”

Kiah Duggins, a former SGA member, just graduated and is hoping that real change will happen on campus. She hopes that Hungate will encourage an environment where open discussion is possible.

“I would encourage her to continue that trend of listening to people,” said Duggins. “Especially people who might not have the same ideas as her and really taking what they say into account and trying to implement some of the initiatives that these people want.”

However, Kiah says she doesn’t believe any one incident or person can be the problem or the solution.

“I think what’s more important to see is that this is a systemic issue that’s been going on for years, said Duggin. “It’s bigger then Joseph and our new student body president; this is bigger then any individual person at this university”

Hungate says she wants her SGA team to be the solution that so many students are looking for. She plans to meet with her team over the summer to discuss how to best tackle some of the ongoing issues on campus as well as come up with ways to get students more involved.

“We were all about conversations sitting down and just developing good relationships,” said Hungate.

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