ETSU’s Student Government Association accomplished a lot this past year.

They hosted a month-long civility event, which included speakers such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice King, and professor, speaker and best-selling author, Terrell Strayhorn. They also helped fund the International Student Organization’s Corazon Latino Festival.

One of the major accomplishments in the works, however, is the installation of an interfaith prayer room.

“My personal work within the SGA this year has really focused on meeting with students pertaining to issues regarding diversity and inclusion,” said Nathan Farnor, the exiting SGA vice president. “From these conversations came multiple ideas and concerns, which students hoped to see addressed. Hearing concerns from several students in the Muslim community, Christian community and Hindu community, there appeared to be a reoccurring theme that multiple students did not feel comfortable expressing their faith publicly.”

Farnor and the university started to research different ways to address the problem.

“From this research came the proposal to create a physical space on campus where students of any faith could come to pray, read, meditate or any other spiritual activity that would require a more private setting,” he said. “This was a concept which had been implemented at several universities, airports and hospitals across the country.”

A temporary space for the prayer room has been identified as a room next to the East Tennessean offices and in the Culp Center.

This room will be made into a temporary, inclusive interfaith reflection space, but there is a proposal for a permanent location in the upcoming Culp renovations.

Farnor worked hard this year with the other executives, president Pooja Shah and secretary Emily Marmon, to make ETSU as inclusive as possible.

“In the past, the student government has had a reputation of not properly representing and voicing concerns from all different populations of students,” Farnor said. “Knowing this, our executive team made the decision to tackle this issue as one of the primary goals for this past year. I am proud to say that this year’s Student Government Association was the most diverse in the history of ETSU.”

Shah said that the executives made internal changes to help SGA function smoother. The executives worked hard this past year to give diverse student populations a stronger voice. “We held meetings with university administration and underrepresented student groups to address concerns in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, which eventually led to the President’s Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” Shah said.  “We also made changes to Homecoming and Civility to encourage more participation from students groups and create a sense of spirit and unity on campus.”

The executive branch made their decisions this past year with the mindset to make ETSU a diverse and accepting environment. This allowed for SGA to make important changes on campus.

“We were able to make significant efforts at establishing a safety app for students, expanding our civility week efforts, and participating in statewide lobbying and political efforts on behalf of students.” Farnor said. “All of these were possible due to the hard work and dedication of various members of the SGA. Overall, I would say that this year has been extremely successful, and I am beyond thankful for having had the opportunity to represent our student body and to fight for the issues and causes they are passionate about.”

SGA’s executive branch is thankful for their time in office and is excited for all that is in store for ETSU.

“It has been an honor to serve in this role and I am proud of the entire SGA for their efforts and work,” Shah said. “I am hopeful that the work from this year continues in the future.”