Alexis Calatayud says, “Student government is the advocacy body on campus for student needs and the vehicle to voice those needs to university administration, local government, state government, and federal government.” She is not met without challenges in this mission, of the 55,000 students at FIU only about 12,000-15,000 of those are engaged students. So, she says, they must find creative solutions. This year Alexis plans to initiate campus wide conversations and campaigns. Her goal is for these dialogues to be ongoing, lasting exchanges that will last beyond her duration as president. She wants to include not only the student body, but faculty and administrators as well. During her second term, Alexis is looking forward to improving student experiences and creating safe spaces on campus. We got the chance to talk with Alexis, and we learned some of the ways that she plans on doing that this year:
1. Sexual Assault Prevention
Providing students with tools to help themselves and their peers including things you can say to a friend if or when they are assaulted, bystander intervention lines, implementing the It’s On Us campaign, and redefining consent. This year FIU is redefining consent by introducing the term ‘affirmative consent’ or voluntary agreement every step of the way during sexual engagement.
2. Removing the Stigma from Mental Health Services
A more clear and approachable university campaign encouraging students to take advantage of the complimentary FIU mental health services and fostering a community where receiving these services is acceptable. Alexis hopes to name this campaign “It’s Okay to Not be Okay” and involve everyone from the university president all the way down to the students. She noted that 73% of students experience mental illness during their college career but, at most, only about 15% of Florida students take advantage of mental health services offered by their school.
3. Binge Drinking and Alcohol Responsibility
Binge drinking affects both mental health and sexual assault and definitely needs to be addressed. Through campaigns and dialogue this issue can be worked through and bring about a climate of change.
Alexis doesn’t just stop at leading on her own campus, she also serves as the legislative chair of the Florida Student Association (FSA). In this role she helps advocate for 330,000 students at 12 Florida universities on the state and federal level. We also got to learn more about Alexis’ top priorities at the state level:
1. Financial Aid and College Affordability
An expansion of need based financial aid is necessary. To do this Alexis hopes to build relationships FSA can keep and learn how to leverage those as a state to achieve their goals. This issue does not just affect the 330,000 FSA students, it affects the 800,000 college students in Florida as a whole.
2. Regional Focus
By dividing the state into four regions student leaders can focus on more specific issues. Through this focus each institution should know who their representatives and senators are and be able to voice their issues to those government officials. Alexis wants Florida’s students to know, “we (FSA and SGA) matter to you, and college issues should matter to you because we will leverage our voices for the issues that matter to us.”
3. Visibility, Influence, and Engagement with Florida legislators
Legislators should know who their constituent schools are and those students should know who their legislators are. With every member of FSA and student governments in general changeing every year and no professional staff this can make it difficult to create lasting relationships with elected officials and administration. By working on visibility, influence, and engagement with legislators students can create a lasting impression and begin to cultivate lasting relationships.
With hopes to engage more students at FIU and campuses across Florida while achieving her goals, she enters her second year as Student Body President and her senior year at FIU this fall.