Meet SGA VP for DEI candidate Teralyn Campbell

Teralyn Campbell is running for Student Government Association vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. The election will take place March 8, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on myBama.  

Zach Johnson | @ZachJohnsonCW, News Editor

Q: How did you get involved with the SGA?

A: So the way I got involved with SGA, I was a member of Black Student Union. Basically what that is, it is the organization that started everything, you know, the expansion of minority groups on campus, and I met a young lady named Alexus Cumbie and also met Demarcus Joiner and Scott Mitchell, and they kind of guided me in the right direction as to what I would want to do [as] a part of SGA rather than just being thrown into a position not knowing what it is, not knowing the significance of it. I didn’t want to take away from anyone else’s opportunities to serve and make a change, but I decided that BSLC — Black Student Leadership Council — was my place. So that’s how I got involved. My first year being involved in SGA, I was assistant director of visual communications. COVID hit, we weren’t able to do as much, but I was still eager to be a part of SGA, so that’s why I decided to progress to be associate director.

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

A: I wanted to run from this position because it’s something I’m so passionate about, being a liaison, being that bridge between the student body and administrators who feel as if, that the students complained with no answer, no plan to change things. I like to be that. It’s something that is extremely important to me to be able to be the voice of those who feel unheard, who don’t know how to become heard. Making friends, building relationships with other individuals at the Capstone is important. So I believe me being as personable as I am, I can become an asset to SGA being in this specific position because people feel comfortable talking to me about their issues, so I’m able to relay that to people who are able to actually make changes that will kind of respond to those issues. Not in such an aggressive way where it’s like, ‘Oh, this is an issue and we need to put it on the newspaper and everyone needs to blow it out of proportion to get change done rather than just kind of gradually coming together and having a discussion.’

Q: Why are you the best choice for this position?

A: Well, I don’t think that there is a best choice. I think the choice is really up to the students. I believe that the best choice would be someone who understands that there is a purpose bigger than themselves when it comes to this position. I believe that the best choice would be someone who understands that diversity, equity and inclusion aren’t just words. They’re actual initiatives. They’re platforms. There are things that you are supposed to stand for. There are things that you are supposed to check people on, no matter the situation, no matter who it is, even yourself. That’s something that you’re supposed to know, that OK, do I actually understand what diversity is? Do I feel that people deserve equity? And is inclusion something that I really do believe in? Because inclusion doesn’t just mean everyone coming together. It means everyone being a part of the conversation as to why unity is important.”

Q: What’s the biggest problem you see on campus?

A: “I believe the biggest problem I see on campus is division. Honestly, there have been times where I’ve invited, for instance, Toy Ball. I was director of Black Student Leadership Council, so I held Toy Ball, I hosted it, I planned it, I was able to get everything running, and I did it all by myself within a month so that was pretty hard. But a lot of the time in the past Toy Ball has been for a Black [Student] Leadership Council, so it’s only been an event that Black students attended. This year I wanted to open it up to all students so they understood DEI isn’t just a minority thing. DEI is for everyone. And I believe that, considering the fact that we make such a big deal about DEI instead of actually doing things that are DEI-related, coming together, like the actual unity aspect of it. I think that’s the biggest issue. I believe that a lot of us have a lot of things in common, but we fail to realize that because we’re not in the same place. And being able to put everyone in the same places, having campus bonding events, having events that evoke the want to understand and to learn about different cultures. It’s one thing to admire it, and then it’s one thing to actually understand it, and that’s what I feel like it’s the biggest problem.

Q: How do you plan to increase transparency in the SGA?

A: Okay, so this is great. The way I plan to create transparency is to have open forums. Like, you know how we have City Hall. We used to have it in John England, town hall, where [Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] Dr. Christine Taylor and [University President] Dr. [Stuart] Bell and other administrators will come and speak to us. I believe that that is essential to understanding, because it’s one thing to tell the student body, ‘Hey, Dr. Bell’s going to send you an email about something that’s going on and no one really knows about, we’re going to be very vague about it,’ but it’s another thing to actually make students comfortable with asking these questions, because students often feel like if they ask a question, they’re going to be seen as dumb or ignorant or, you know, ‘I don’t know much about the school I go to. Does that mean I don’t have a place here?’ But that’s not the case. And also telling students that you have these resources — you have [the Queer Student Association], you have [the Black Student Union], you have the [Student Leadership Council], you have women or gender resources. You have all of these things that will create more transparency because they’ll understand the language that’s being used in those emails.

Q: What are your thoughts on elections being uncontested?

A: I honestly believe that that comes from COVID — a lack of wanting to do things, a lack of motivation. I think that the campus has seen a certain type of seasonal depression that we haven’t seen before in college students, considering the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and there’s so much adversity in the world right now. So the lack of motivation and the elections being uncontested. That’s my biggest reason for running as well. That’s one of my big reasons. To encourage people to get involved with SGA, because it’s not just, “Oh, you’re in [First Yearn Experiences], oh, you’re [First Year Council]. You want to be in politics. You want to run for governor one day. That’s why you should become a part of SGA.” It’s not about that. There’s Senate; there are ambassadors; there are, you know, VP of diversity, [equity and] inclusion; VP of student affairs; VP of external affairs — things that actually matter on campus. People don’t realize they go straight through SGA. And I want to use my platform of students who are just like me who feel like there’s no place in politics for us. I want to use that to show them if you actually want to make change, here’s a route to do it. You don’t have to protest. You don’t have to raise your voice in class. You don’t have to send an angry email to the department head. You can make these changes internally before it even gets to the administration, so they have to enforce the rules, because creating the rules is in our hands, we’re able to do that.”

Q: What’s the biggest thing you hope to accomplish?

A: “I hope to accomplish a general sense of inclusivity on campus. By that, I don’t just mean based on race and gender. Diversity is sexual orientation. It’s ableism. It’s anything that makes us different, and that can be ideas. All of that. The intersectionality of our ideas, of our gender, of our race, of us being actual students at The University of Alabama is what unifies us, and I want to be able to highlight those things. I want to show people that they are important and significant because they are a part of this puzzle, and that no matter what they may think, you can find a home, and that’s the only thing that should be ever, you know. So we have such a warm campus, and I believe that the only way to reflect that is to have an even warmer SGA, a more comforting SGA, a more inclusive SGA. So being able to encourage students and inspire students and lift as I climb, that is what I’m trying to accomplish.

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

A: I can’t do everything. I’m not Superwoman. However, I definitely want to be the reason why someone wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I can actually do something today,’ because that’s something that I’ve always wanted to feel about myself, and to see everyone interact with me wanting to become VP of DEI, it’s been a blessing. It’s been so refreshing. I just told my friends today like, I’ve always had motivation, but self-motivation is something I haven’t found it. And when you’re motivated for other people’s calls and be the voice of other people, it just gives you a different type of care. So thank you. That’s really what I want people to know. Thank you.