Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Q&A with VP for diversity, equity and inclusion candidate Aubrei Grisaffe

CW / Ronni Rowan
Photo courtesy of the SGA

Aubrei Grisaffe is a sophomore majoring in political science and assistant director of disability affairs on Bella Loia’s cabinet.  

Q: What made you want to run for this position? 

“Thus far, my time in SGA has been marked by an overt productivity, and I felt empowered to make a difference in a way that I have not experienced in other student organizations on campus. I feel as though the platform that SGA provides for making a difference has allowed me to flourish in my leadership skills and serve students in the best way possible. In September of this past year, I was approached by a fellow Crossing Points mentor who had the realization there was not currently a bus stop serving the students in the Crossing Points program to their primary academic building. And in just two weeks’ time, working with the Student Government Association and collaborating with the transportation department, we were able to get a bus stop started. And now, those students have increased accessibility because of it. And I think that experience in particular has been really inspiring and has opened my eyes that I can make a difference on campus, and I can lift the voices of students who are often overlooked and create spaces where everybody feels welcome on campus.” 

Q: What are two initiatives you want to accomplish in this position? 

“Increasing the visibility of DEI passport programming events. I think oftentimes students find themselves in two different categories whenever they’re experiencing a dissonance between the programming that SGA is putting on and the general student body’s perception of it. They either don’t see themselves as an active member of DEI, or they don’t see themselves as welcome in SGA events, because they feel as though those are specifically programmed for students in the Student Government Association. And I think by increasing  the visibility of events and emphasizing that they are approachable and there for all students on campus, we can increase engagement in DEI-centered activities and ultimately teach students on campus that DEI is for everybody, and we have the opportunity to make everybody feel welcome on campus. And something else that’s really important to me is empowering student leaders to collaborate with one another in order for their respective identity groups to feel seen and heard, and so I plan to do this by creating a coalition of student identity organizations or student identity organization leaders so that they can all collaborate with one another, share their successes, share the places that they feel as though need more support on, but also have SGA’s perspective in that so that we can best serve the students in that way.” 

Q: What is the biggest problem you see on campus? 

“As I mentioned in my previous response, I think the biggest issue — particularly with DEI efforts on campus — is that there is a dissonance between the programming that’s currently going on and the general student body. And by recognizing that, I believe that we can begin making steps towards creating spaces where all students feel as though DEI is something for them and DEI is something that can positively impact each student here.” 

Q: How do you foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus? 

“I currently serve as a student organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion chair, as well as serving as a Crossing Points mentor. As I mentioned previously, my experience in Crossing Points has been particularly fruitful; it’s a program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities on campus. With the program, I serve as both an academic mentor and a social mentor. So as an academic mentor, I have the opportunity to sit in class with students with disabilities and sort of serve as the liaison between their collegiate coursework and their abilities. And then as a social mentor, I have the opportunity to do anything that two typical students on campus would do with one another. But I get to do it with a student with a disability and sort of serve as both a friend and a support in the process. In addition to this, I’m currently on Bella Loia’s cabinet, where I serve as an assistant director of disability affairs, where my primary objective is to promote the inclusivity of students with disabilities within SGA. And for me, this looked like facilitating cross-collaboration between First Year Council and the first-year students at Crossing Points as well as implementing a new Christmas party so that SGA students and the Crossing Points program can get to know one another. So those are just I guess a few of the ways that I seek to foster diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.” 

Q: What is your reaction to the University cutting its National Recognition Scholarships? Does DEI here face unique challenges going forward?   

“I am first and foremost incredibly disheartened about the fact that they have chosen to strip the funding for the National Recognition Program. As somebody who grew up five minutes from a high school that gained student status as the Rural Scholars Program, I feel as though it disregards the unique challenges of each student that comes from a rural background or comes from a diverse background and I do believe that the University has unique challenges that they’re going to have to address going forward. But I want to emphasize my commitment to ensuring that every student on this campus feels seen and heard, and I send my deepest condolences to students that feel as though their identity and their hard work is not being properly recognized by the University. And I vow to daily commit myself to making sure that they don’t feel that way going forward.” 

Q: What is one last thing you want voters to know about you? 

“One last thing that I want voters to know about me is that I am daily driven by my passion for diversity, equity and inclusion. At the end of the day, I will do whatever it takes to see progress made on campus, and I want the opportunity to learn from all of the voices around me. I know that at the end of the day, I don’t know every single thing and every single issue that will be tossed my way if selected for this position, but I do know that I can work with student leaders that have that ability, and to have that perspective that I lacked. And I just think that serving as the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion would provide a beautiful platform for me to continue making a difference and serve students in the best way possible.” 

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