Courtesy of Student Government
President: Ethan Wearner
I am a junior from Colorado with concentrations in history, political science, and Middle East and South Asian affairs. I have served in Student Government for three years – first as a senator, then as chair of the Judiciary Committee and currently as historian. I have also served as a member of the Honor and Ethics Council, as a member of the administration’s Honor Code Task Force, as a member of the Title IX Task Force and as a voting member of the Online Education Committee.
Since the spring of 2019, Wake Forest has been in crisis mode. From COVID-19 to ICE directives, RA walkouts, students protests, and a fertilizer fire, most Deacs have never enjoyed the fruits of a normal campus life. Now, as we begin to emerge from a deadly pandemic and think about rebuilding, we are at a unique juncture in Student Government history. The next student body president must be capable of helping Deacs rebuild. As we transition back toward a state of normalcy, we need a president who can put the forest first. As a three-year veteran in student government, I have come to realize that our greatest failure is an inability to engage with students directly. I am running a campaign to put the students back in student government and to restore the body politic. We, as a student government, have failed to put students first. To restore and rebuild our mother, so dear, we need a president who can put the forest first. I am that candidate.
At the heart of my platform is a mission to engage with students directly. As president, I will do everything in my power to make student government a home for all students. Since September of last year, I have worked to develop one of the most significant reform packages in student government history. My constituent outreach program would create a formal partnership with the Office of Residence Life and Housing. Student government senators would be paired with resident advisers so that all students can have their ideas and concerns heard by the Senate. The plan has received the complete endorsement of the Resident Adviser Leadership Council, Dr. Stephanie Carter and Dean Matthew Clifford. As president, I will ensure that the student government puts the onus on itself to engage with students – not the other way around. Additionally, to make student government a home for all students, I will appoint a number of ‘Community Liasions’ to help represent students that have been excluded from student government decision-making. As president, I will appoint a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Liaison, a Domestic Student Policy Liaison, an International Student Policy Liaison, a Resident Adviser Liaison and a Student Athletics Liaison. I will also ensure that senators feel comfortable reaching out to their constituents and are capable of helping student organizations plan and promote events through co-sponsorship legislation.
As I work to bring in more students from the periphery, I will advocate for greater accessibility and inclusion on campus. As president, I will hold the administration accountable for failures to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act. More than that, I will raise the bar beyond Title II of the ADA and ensure that students with disabilities have the same opportunities as their peers. No student should face significant hardship navigating campus because of their disability. We need a campus that is accessible for all students. We also need a campus that can better accommodate those with technological disabilities. One of the legacies of the pandemic will be an increase in the use of online educational materials. As president, I will demand that any third-party software conforms to the standards of Title III of the ADA and Section 504 which states that universities and colleges are required to make accommodations for equal access. I will advance policies that promote technological accessibility across all online media that is used, procured, maintained, or otherwise distributed by the University and University School of Business. Quality captions, transcripts, audio descriptions and accessible visual content for all students is just the beginning. We need online education that is perceivable, operable, robust and understandable. Technologies used for educational content should not be burdensome or a hindrance to our students’ studies. As a voting member of the Online Education Committee, I am uniquely qualified to advocate for these changes. A more inclusive campus can also be built by better addressing interpersonal violence. As a former member of the Title IX Task Force, I would ensure that mandatory reporters are capable of responding to student trauma and that our sexual misconduct training modules are more robust and understandable.
Within student government, I would introduce a series of sweeping reform efforts. Since 2020, I have worked to improve campus civic engagement. Two years ago, I introduced legislation to create a campus holiday on national voting days. As president, I would seek to have classes canceled or reduced during the 2024 national election. I would also continue my efforts to work with the Winston-Salem community on civic engagement. I would continue to work with ZSR, as I have since 2020, in developing civic engagement activities and programming for students across the city. As president, I would also seek to reform cabinet operations. My community liaisons will visit with cabinet members to ensure that cabinet is a space for innovation. I will also seek to empower senators by amending the Constitution to allow them to serve on more than one committee. As Historian, I launched a three-year effort to digitize our records and make student government business more interesting and transparent to our community. As president, I will ensure that the next historian is capable of continuing that process. Finally, in an effort to foster cross-institutional collaboration, I will create a student government coalition with sister organizations across the state to improve the quality of our advocacy. I have formed relationships nationally with student body presidents from Stanford University, Colorado College and Washington University in St. Louis. I will do so again as President.
As president, I will also advocate for increased mental health resources. I have been a long-time advocate for telehealth services – having introduced legislation in 2020 for the liberalization of interstate licensure regulations on counseling services. In addition to providing greater access to the University Counseling Center, I will work with the administration to bring in more accessible telehealth services. Beyond that, I will advance innovative strategies to confront mental health woes on campus. Instead of relying solely on clinical intervention, we must ensure that students can access third-party telehealth services, can make use of group therapy, and can find mentors that will help guide them through periods of anxiety or stress. I will also look to make health and dental products more accessible. I will work to confront so-called ‘dental deserts’ and period poverty within Winston-Salem. Finally, I will make sure that non-traditional dining options are made more accessible and affordable for all students. I will work with the administration to ensure that vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and halal dishes are easier to procure. For a healthier, sustainable, more ethical dining menu, we must look to cut back on meat and dairy consumption.
Lastly, I will advocate for university judicial reforms by working with the Faculty Senate to standardize language on the Honor Code across syllabi and by standardizing judicial liaison referral policies. I will coordinate with the Dean of the College and Faculty Senate on helping faculty better understand our Honor Code and its applicability in their classrooms. Finally, I will work with the Honor and Ethics Council to evaluate our standard sanction and include pathways for restorative justice for students found responsible for an offense.
If you are to take away anything from my platform, it is that we need a president who can put the forest first. The time is ripe for policy – not platitudes. We need a president who can work to restore a sense of normalcy. We need a president who can help the campus rebuild while charting a path toward a brighter, better tomorrow. I hope you will join me on my journey to put the forest first.
Editor’s Note: This statement has been edited for clarity and AP Style.