Letter to the Editor | USG wants to hear from you

Reagan McKinney

In case you clicked on this article without knowing exactly who I am, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Reagan McKinney, I am a senior from Virginia Beach, Virginia but my family recently moved to “fake Dallas.” 

Last year, I served as the executive vice president of the 23rd Senate of the Tulane University Undergraduate Student Government. Try saying that three times fast. I was not a candidate during last year’s elections. 

This is not going to be your drama gossip-esque letter about USG. No, I am not undermining the articles written before. 

My decision to not run for president after my successful year as EVP was a hard one, and it was guided by multiple different reasons. These reasons include but are not limited to multiple experiences of anti-Blackness, racism, homophobia and sexism from my peers on the executive board, cabinet and senate as well as from various administrators on campus. 

I was also EVP to a non-Black POC president who left me to carry most of the labor of holding USG together last year. 

I became EVP because I believed that USG was in need of a little Botox here and there, but little did I know USG actually needed a whole new face. I’m talking Michael Jackson in the 80s vs. in the 90s. Or even, Kylie Jenner before the lips. 

Before the elections I spoke to Sienna Abdulahad, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Assistant Vice President Laura Osteen and then USG Advisor Andres Gonzalez about how I was done with the organization and instead wanted to research and restructure from the outside. They all supported me, and I tucked the ideas away, planning on addressing them after the election of the new executive board. But the work would begin sooner than I thought. 

The chaos and violence that occurred during the USG elections pushed me forward sooner than expected. When USG was faced with mass resignations during our 12th Senate Session, I immediately gathered the executive board via text and GroupMe and allowed ample space for those affected to speak. 

I suspended Robert’s Rules and created a space led by ground rules and empathy for the body to talk about what we just witnessed. During this session, I was the first to directly call for USG to be abolished and replaced with something better. 

In the 13th session, I pushed back against using the organization itself and operating from within it to rebuild it; I quoted Audre Lorde and asked my peers if tearing down the master’s house with his own tools was really going to work. Short answer: no. 

If the events of last semester show us anything it’s that USG, as it exists right now, inherently dehumanizes BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students and student leaders through what I like to call the big three: exploitation, tokenism and division. 

The experiences that BIPOC and LGBQT+ candidates expressed are not random or sudden —  this has been happening for years. I want to take this moment to thank those before me: those who organized the Call for Unity in 2015, the Les Griots Violets and the Equity Fee Legislation in 2019 and many other students and student organizations, mainly led by Black queer women, that have done this work

I spent the summer recharging my body from my, honestly speaking, hell year within USG. On day two of classes, Vice President for Student Life, Osteen, and I got to work. 

I am a research aid in the Division of Student Affairs, and I work directly with Osteen. My work includes mapping the extent of the USG problem at Tulane, researching theory on leadership that rejects white supremacy culture, researching student government reform at institutions across the country and spearheading the not-yet formed committee on rewriting the governing documents of USG. 

I can’t do all of this alone. This does not even touch on the optics of a Black queer woman carrying the work of fixing white supremacy culture in student government by herself. We need as many student voices as possible. We need your voice. The voice of our collective student body. 

It seems like everyone’s favorite word on this campus is intersectionality. If you really want to do the term and Kimberle Crenshaw justice, then recognize that intersectionality has to be at the forefront of student government work, not simplified to a committee.

Over the next few weeks, Osteen and I are hosting a series of listening sessions. These sessions are aimed at asking students exactly what they need from their USG to feel supported and comfortable with its student leaders. 

I want to hear from my peers who exist on the margins. I want to hear from those who student government, as we know it today, does not reflect. I want to hear from those who don’t know much about USG.  

Use this link to sign up for a listening session or use this link to fill out a google form about USG restructuring. 

Feel free to email me: [email protected] with questions, comments or concerns.