Even when she’s on vacation, Morgan Bodenarain represented her school.
Elon’s SGA Executive President huddled around a Connecticut hotel television screen with her family in horror as they watched what unfolded in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend. Three people — two state troopers in a helicopter crash and a 32- year old woman plowed by a car — died Aug.12 when counter protesters clashed with white nationalists at the "Unite the Right" rally near the University of Virginia's campus. At least nineteen others were injured. The group, also filled with neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, congregated there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Street brawls later ensued and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
At first, Bodenarain thought it was just a normal protest. But after seeing the carnage, she looked to her sister and asked, “Is this really happening?”
It was. And after she calmed down, she decided to act.
Fifty-eight student body presidents from around the country, including Bodenarain, signed a joint statement in solidarity for UVA students. Bodenarain said it's a small way to voice her feelings. And while Charlottesville is more than a two hour drive from Elon, she said the events affect the immediate students who elected her to serve.
“I could give you the cliche answer that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ but it’s really true,” Bodenarain told Elon News Network in a phone interview. “Every campus in America is at a standstill right now with how to address these kinds of things. This easily could have happened at Elon and we want to be at the front of this.”
One of Bodenarain's campaign promises was to increase incuslivity, and she said initiatives for this will be announced in October.
The senior attended a leadership conference with student body presidents in June. She called them “some of the most intelligent and ambitious people I have ever met” and their concerns populated her GroupMe as they thought to respond.
Many thought of drafting their own statements. But Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris, student body president of the University of California at Berkeley, suggested they form a cohesive statement. AbdulQadir-Morris dealt with a similar situation in February when right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’s visit to campus sparked violent protests causing more than $100,000 in damage. They followed her lead, and Bodenarain said Elon’s climate mimicked it in a small way last year.
In her three years at Elon, Bodenarain said she had never seen her campus more civically engaged. She credited that to November's presidential election, saying people agreed and disagreed respectfully.
But things changed quickly.
Tensions thickened in May when news broke of a white fraternity president using a racial slur towards a black student and a white student standing on a National-Pan Hellenic Council organization's plot the same week. She said those mindsets — whether intentional or from lack of understanding — are harmful to the community. The events in Charlottesville are an extreme example of that, she said.
She doesn't want Elon to slide down that slope.
“Last year definitely tested some waters,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are doing what we can not to just make Elon a diverse campus, but one that is geared towards inclusivity.”
A statement from President Lambert on violence in Charlottesville. pic.twitter.com/cPvOQOWZ48— Elon University (@elonuniversity) August 14, 2017
Elon University President Leo Lambert issued a statement on Twitter Aug. 14 regarding the violence in Charleston.
Bodenarain said SGA is working on initiatives that will be announced later to address these issues, which fall under one of her campaign promises of creating a more inclusive Elon. But until then, she’s hoping this statement will assure her constituents that she’s committed to fixing campus problems similar to the ones the nation is grappling with, too.
“We need to pay attention,” she said. “People need to know why this is wrong and we need to put a face and a name to it so people can actually relate.”
As Student Body Presidents across the United States, we are deeply saddened by the events that have occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are united with the students of the University of Virginia, as what affects one of our campuses affects us all. College campuses are spaces that students should be able to call home, not places of violence, hate, and racism. Students should always feel welcome and safe at our incredible higher education institutions, never having to fear for their personal well-being. As the voice of our students, we collectively call on one another to speak up in the face of injustice, as silence reduces us to bystanders in oppression. This is a statement to not only support the Student Body at the University of Virginia but to make clear our advocacy for the victimized and marginalized students on all our campuses. We will continue to support students and universities in their peaceful resistance to violence, racism, white supremacy, bigotry, and acts of terrorism on our own campuses and beyond. If the students of the University of Virginia or the citizens of Charlottesville need any assistance, please know you have a network of universities that supports you.
Mugdha Mokashi | University of Alabama at Birmingham | Alabama
Zaynab AbdulQadir - Morris | University of California - Berkeley | California
Ranel Troy Santos | University of California - San Francisco | California
Kevion Ellis | University of Northern Colorado | Colorado
Taylor Dumpson | American University | District of Columbia
Kamar Mack | Georgetown University | District of Columbia
Jalisa White | Florida Gulf Coast University | Florida
Leonardo Cosio | Florida International University-Biscayne Bay Campus | Florida
Krista Schmidt | Florida International University-Modesto Maidique Campus | Florida
Ximena Pedroza | New College of Florida | Florida
Samantha Mims | University of North Florida | Florida
David Thompson |University of South Florida St. Petersburg | Florida
Victoria Brock | Kennesaw State University | Georgia
Olivia Buckner | Mercer University | Georgia
Nehaarika Mulukutla | Northwestern University | Illinois
Raneem Shamseldin | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Illinois
Ramón DeShazer | Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville | Illinois
Dan Niersbach | Indiana University-Bloomington | Indiana
Sam Eschker | Purdue University- West Lafayette | Indiana
Cody West | Iowa State University | Iowa
Sami Dada | Northern Kentucky University | Kentucky
Paige Hungate | Wichita State University | Kansas
Ben Childress | University of Kentucky | Kentucky
Josh Morehead | Louisiana State University | Louisiana
Benjamin Rice | Louisiana Tech University | Louisiana
Seth Leto | Southeastern Louisiana University | Louisiana
Lorenzo Santavicca | Michigan State University | Michigan
Anushka Sarkar | University of Michigan | Michigan
Walter Paul | Carleton College | Minnesota
Trish Palermo | University of Minnesota-Twin Cities | Minnesota
Noah Barberi | Millsaps College |Mississippi
Nathan Willett | University of Missouri-Columbia | Missouri
Noah Teixeira | University of Nevada, Reno | Nevada
Myesha Jemison | Princeton University | New Jersey
Alex Soltany | Davidson College | North Carolina
Riyanka Ganguly | Duke University | North Carolina
Morgan Bodenarain | Elon University | North Carolina
Kevin Kaufhold | Baldwin Wallace University | Ohio
Daniel Oswald | Kent State University | Ohio
Andrew Jackson | Ohio State University | Ohio
Bashir Emlemdi | University of Cincinnati | Ohio
Daysi Bedolla | Eastern Oregon University | Oregon
Tyrell Mann-Barnes | Temple University | Pennsylvania
Kayla Martin | Temple University | Pennsylvania
Paige Hill | Temple University | Pennsylvania
Killian McDonald | Clemson University | South Carolina
Ross Lordo | University of South Carolina | South Carolina
Drew Gilmore | University of Memphis | Tennessee
Kevyanna Rawls | University of Memphis | Tennessee
Winni Zhang | University of Houston | Texas
Barrett Cole | University of North Texas | Texas
Aynoa Rincon | Salt Lake Community College | Utah
Benjamin Pok | Westminster College | Utah
Zach Berger | University of Utah | Utah
Blake Humphrey | West Virginia University | West Virginia
Tiffany Yang | University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley | Wisconsin
Lucas Frey | University of Wisconsin-Platteville | Wisconsin
John Peralta | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point | Wisconsin