In the 2022 student body elections, Saint Mary’s student body president Angela Martinez Camacho campaigned with vice president Josie Haas on a seven-pronged platform. That platform included goals to promote inclusivity and diversity, continue community-building in the tri-campus and improve overall student health.
Martinez Camacho said she felt that despite challenges, she thinks their administration has done a good job at pursuing their platform and upholding the Student Government Association (SGA) Constitution.
“In my humble opinion, I think we’ve done very well with the semester,” she said. “I think we’ve completed quite a few things from our platform, and other policies and procedures of our constitution. So, I feel good about us and our team.”
For their goals of promoting diversity and inclusion, Haas said student government has been working with the Sexuality and Gender Equity club to both expand the club by including a representative at Holy Cross College and provide a “partnership-buddy” program by offering mentorship for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“Especially as a Catholic institution, we want to make sure that our queer Catholics feel safe and accepted on campus,” Haas said.
Also part of the diversity and inclusivity goal, Martinez Camacho said their administration rolled out a list of off-campus resources for non-Catholic students to practice their faith through their mission committee.
To improve student health on campus, the leaders described working to roll out classes that promote physical well-being as well as making resources for victims of sexual assault more available to students. Haas mentioned that they recently rolled out a “mini-website with links of Title IX and related sexual violence resources on campus.”
Additionally, Martinez Camacho said their administration plans to collaborate with the Student Diversity Board, Black Students Association and other organizations through their campus inclusivity committee in the spring semester.
Along with the three goals mentioned above, their platform had goals to improve campus sustainability, make themselves available to the student body with adequate “student reach-out,” host giveaway events and improve classroom instrumentation at the College.
The leaders said that their administration has made progress for each of these goals, with the exception of the classroom instrumentation policy.
Through the sustainability committee, Haas said they have worked to reduce food waste in the dining halls. In increasing student reach-out, she mentioned that the newly added suggestion box on student government emails has been productive.
Additionally, their administration has hosted multiple giveaways for Saint Mary’s students, including a recent giveaway of 46,556 hats.
“Those were a hit. People love them” Haas said of the hats.
Martinez Camacho said the obstacles to meeting the needs expressed by students of better instrumentation in their classes have risen from the student government’s limited abilities to influence the funding of the College’s academic departments.
“As student government, we can’t necessarily help out with the funding, whereas we thought we could, because that’s just a whole different institutional process which we just can’t touch or be part of,” she explained.
Regardless, Haas said their administration did not fully abandon the issue, and instead has resorted to “acting as the voice of students” alongside professors who are already expressing a need to improve instrumentation for classes.
Outside of their platform goals, the two have worked to continue “sticking to our constitution,” Martinez Camacho said. “Josie and I felt that it sort of wasn’t always being followed with past presidencies. Sticking to all of it through our committees, that was also a main goal of ours.”
Haas and Camacho also expressed gratification to both the student government committees and the Saint Mary’s College administration for helping with their goals of improving student life on campus.
“It’s so fulfilling to see all of the leaders that we have on campus,” Haas said, “To be on the receiving end of people wanting more, wanting to see Saint Mary’s be great, I think it’s exciting to see that.”
Martinez Camacho said taking on the role of student body president has indeed been a difficult job with a lot of responsibility, but she felt that she and Haas were fit for the challenge.
“It has been everything: frustrating, overwhelming, exciting, fulfilling,” she said. “Being a student means prioritizing academics, and then being a leader means prioritizing all of this. It becomes a lot at one moment, but I think that it’s diverse skills and through our experience that we’re able to just manage it all.”
Review: Martinez Camacho and Haas have led a proactive student government administration thus far into their terms as president and vice president. They take their roles seriously and have stuck to the platform that they ran for office on as much as they could, despite a few institutional limitations in SGA. Heading into the spring semester, with their terms coming to a close, the leaders still have work to do. Martinez Camacho and Haas must not let up on plans to collaborate with student diversity groups on campus nor should they let go of ideas to provide classes supporting physical well-being for students. Their platform features mostly achievable goals on improving campus sustainability, inclusion and the like, and it is up to them whether or not these goals are achieved.
Contact Liam Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc Belanger has been an integral part of the Saint Mary’s College faculty for 28 years. Along with being the chair of the global studies department and teaching multiple political science classes, he has also assisted with the Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) program and Model United Nations (MUN). At the end of this academic year, Belanger will enter retirement.
Belanger came to Saint Mary’s looking for ways to broaden its horizons, he said.
“I think my priority from early on has been things related to trying to diversify the curriculum and make this a more welcoming place for students of color,” Belanger noted.
Belanger reflected on the culture of Saint Mary’s and if it was something he wanted his own child to be a part of.
“My son is adopted from Guatemala, and while he would obviously never come to Saint Mary’s, I remember telling people early on if he was a girl, I wasn’t sure if the college would be the most welcoming place,” he said. “The culture has changed for there to be a lot of different ways to be a Saint Mary’s woman.”
However, Belanger said since since starting as faculty in 1995, he believes progress has been made to include students of more races and identities.
“When I first came here, the percentage of underrepresented groups was very low, below five percent,” he said. “It has gone up a great deal over the years and with that, the culture of the college has changed.”
Belanger, along with many other faculty and students, has worked over the years to help Saint Mary’s on its journey to becoming more diverse and inclusive. He has worked with the Student Diversity Board as well as in the global and intercultural studies programs to hear what students wanted to learn.
Some such classes included Latin American Politics and Introduction to Cultural Studies, where students learn about privilege, identity and racism, Belanger explained.
“I taught it to introduce issues that my students had either never really thought about before or, if it was a part of their life, they perhaps didn’t have any concepts, categories, language to talk about it with other kids,” he said.
This past Saturday, a group of students got together to thank him for all he has done and send him toward retirement with Christmas cheer. Organized by sophomore Liliana Lomeli, a small group of SMC students visited Belanger’s house to sing Christmas carols.
Lomeli said she was inspired by Belanger when she first came to Saint Mary’s as an intended global studies major.
“Just taking his classes and seeing his passion not only for Saint Mary’s students but the global community [inspired me],” she explained.
Sophomore Ana Baca also participated in caroling. She said she loved the idea of giving back to Belanger.
“He’s such a great professor. He really cares for students and does so much for the Saint Mary’s community,” she said.
Baca explained that the group sang Christmas carols such as “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night” and more.
“It was an in the moment thing, we decided on the songs like 30 minutes before we arrived,” she said. “I’m not the best singer, but it was fun.”
Baca said she remembers having Belanger as a professor for the first time.
“He just wants to get to know you. I remember I asked a question, and you could tell he really just cared about his students,” she said.
Mackenzie Bledsoe is a senior political science major who also participated in caroling on Saturday. She was happy to celebrate “one of her favorite advisors” in this way. Bledsoe has taken several classes with Belanger.
“He always encourages us to learn more and travel the world,” he said.
Bledsoe was advised by Belagner as part of Model UN last fall. One of her favorite memories from the trip was him guiding her to the Bean.
“It was my first time in Chicago and I didn’t know where to go. Then he walked me to the Bean, because that’s where I was trying to get, too. I really appreciated that” she explained.
When Belanger leaves at the end of the school year, students said the College will lose a community member who changed many lives.
As Lomeli phrases it, “I’m glad to call him professor, but he has also been a great mentor in my life.”
Belanger said he wishes his students nothing but the best in the future.
“You have no idea how smart you are, how capable you are,” he said. “You are capable of things beyond your imagination.”
Creighton University theology professor Julia Feder spoke Tuesday night in Carroll Auditorium about using a Christian worldview to deal with human suffering, especially with regards to sexual violence.
In her lecture, which was the final part of the Center for Spirituality’s “Developing a Spirituality of Resilience” series, Feder sought to distinguish between the theological notions of God being goodness and God being “all powerful,” arguing that the former is stronger.
“It’s only a God of love, and one who never desires human suffering, that can provide a foundation for a proper Christian spirituality of resilience,” Feder said. “The God of love opposes human suffering and empowers humanity to resist dehumanizing violence by sharpening our powers of perception of evil and feelings of indignation.
Feder, author of the forthcoming book “Saving Grace: Sexual Trauma in Christian Salvation,” also distinguished between forms of stress which “are good for us,” using a weightlifter’s improvements as an example and other forms “which are not good for us in any quantity at all.”
Sexual violence, Feder said, does no good and doesn’t have a role to play in God’s plan for humanity.
“Rape is an authentic breaking-apart of the human person and is never willed by God. Rape is senseless suffering,” Feder said.
Feder used the story of Jesus suffering on the cross in order to illustrate God’s role in dealing with human suffering. The brutal, painful suffering was inflicted on Jesus by sinful humans, not by God, she said.
The power of resurrection, she argued, does not derive from Jesus having suffered on purpose, but rather by how Jesus overcame that suffering.
“At the last supper, Jesus places his confidence in God as one who champions humanity and places his trust in this God in the face of death,” Feder said. “Despite his torture and death, Jesus trusted, somehow, some way, that his life’s work would not amount to nothing.”
Applying this to the interpretation of sexual violence, Feder said survivors could be better equipped against the propensity of self-blame.
“Our history of sexual violence can be a part of our story of being saved by God only insofar as it marks the evil that is committed by human beings that God is overcoming, not which God has given to us as a test,” she said.
Feder said responses of pain, anger and disappointment of traumatized survivors are caused by a “negative contrast” with God’s goodness and reflect “what God does not want for us.”
“Salvation is not just this spiritual and personal process, promising some other worldly reward, but instead is a restoration of the whole human person as she was created to be,” Feder said. “Salvation concerns the whole human person and all her created dimensions, physical, material, interpersonal, social, political and spiritual.”
Feder used this idea of salvation to recommend steps for Christian communities to take on the issue of sexual violence. She also acknowledged that the measures she recommended wouldn’t solve the issue once and for all, but at least would constitute good work with real influence.
“I would say Christian salvation must then include community denunciation of sexual violence. It must include clear reporting guidelines… and free psychological resources for survivors,” she said. “The sum of these measures doesn’t cause doesn’t constitute the fullness of Christian salvation, but salvation is at least in these measures.”
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