Kaylen Jackson ’21
Giovanni Jones ’21 was elected as the 2020-2021 Student Government Association (SGA) President on Sept. 17. Jones is a Sociology major with a minor in Legal Studies and a Hartford native. During his time at Trinity, he has served as Vice President of the Multicultural Affairs Council, a member of the President’s Commission for a Better Trinity, and a member of Budget Committee for three years.
The Tripod spoke with Jones, who has been intentional about having the necessary conversations with different communities on campus, aiming to understand how to build effective bridges that lead to cross-functional collaboration. During his first-year orientation, Jones explained that he experienced a discriminatory diversity and inclusion workshop that offended many new students of color on-campus. This event inspired him to realize that more voices of color were needed in planning for orientation in order to prevent discriminatory and tone-deaf orientation events from happening again. Jones took action and became a co-coordinator for the 2018 New Student Orientation and afterwards yearned for more opportunities to make a positive impact on Trinity’s campus. He started building relationships with various administrators and nurtured his leadership abilities as a member of the Men of Color Alliance (MOCA).
During the spring of 2019, Jones felt the campus was losing touch and diverging from being a community due to a series of contentious SGA hearings on approval of an undergraduate club. “We’re here to build relationships, connections, and expand our ways of thinking,” he reflected on those months. He felt he could do work to build community on a smaller scale—within the College’s Multicultural Affairs Council (MAC). MAC promotes communication and cohesion between cultural organizations on campus by holding regular meetings for these organizations and by representing the organizations in Trinity’s Student Government Association (SGA). Jones ran for the position of Chair/Vice President of the Multicultural Affairs Council and won. His first initiative was relationship building within MAC, seeking to unify the community and its membership. He held a team building retreat where organizations went over with how to market, budget, and collaborate with other organizations properly. As MAC chair, he oversaw Trinity’s 16 cultural organizations, met with heads of Trinity’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to create initiatives that tend to the needs of the BIPOC community, and worked with Trinity’s SGA executive board, where he served a term as chair of the Oversight Committee.
Jones was also instrumental in the founding of the Umoja Coalition, a working group composed of seven Black organizations in the Multicultural Affairs Council (MAC) that was among those calling for increased attention to racial incidents which divided the Trinity community this summer. Jones is passionate about advocating for the rights of Black students on Trinity College’s campus, working with Umoja this summer to develop a list of demands for the College in order to identify the specific changes that must be implemented in order to make the Trinity community more equitable.
Jones’ leadership experience at Trinity has allowed him to to amplify the voices of the voiceless, understand how systems truly work, and most importantly, implement solutions that produce positive change. Speaking with the Tripod, Jones added that “as Trinity must navigate, and address 3 pandemics—COVID-19, racial injustice, and sexual misconduct—it is imperative that we brought to office an executive board that is committed to working hand-in-hand with students, faculty, staff, and administration, to get to the solutions that both, in system and in practice, develop an inclusive environment for every last one of us that will welcome our ability to succeed as individuals and as one Bantam
- What inspired you to run for SGA President?
“As a student here at Trinity, I’m always trying to engage with the community in a multitude of ways. As I started to branch out and experience different pockets of the community, I started to realize a huge issue at Trinity: we aren’t connected enough. There are so many people on this campus with great ideas, talents, and fascinating perspectives on life. But when we hesitate to say “hi” or stay in our social circles (which can be seen by simply walking around in Mather), we miss out on the opportunity to build relationships with one another. The people that I’ve been able to connect with here have been amazing and eye opening. I ran for SGA president on the idea of a unified and engaging campus community. I, too, see where I add to this issue and want to collectively work this year on building school pride with my fellow Bantams.”
- What project at Trinity have you been the proudest of?
“A project I’ve been most proud of is the list of demands created by the Umoja Coalition. I was fortunate enough to work alongside over 75 student leaders to create a 15-page written request to make Trinity an all-around inclusive space for BIPOC students. Trinity is a microcosm of the world. A lot of the experiences and events that take place on this campus are a reflection of the world we will be walking into when we graduate from here. Colleges and universities have the power to make significant change around the world. I feel as though the Umoja Coalition demands and social media campaign targets the root of all issues that BIPOC students face on campus. The response to our efforts has been amazing and I’m excited to see all the good that comes out of this.”
- What experience outside of SGA has best shaped your ability to lead?
“Outside of SGA I’ve been able to lead in a variety of ways. From being a student representative on the board of education in Hartford in 2016 to working alongside trustees, faculty, and alumni on the President’s Commission, I’ve been able to maximize on my voice and be intentional with my input. I’m looking forward to bringing this to SGA this year as president.”
- What are your objectives as SGA President this year?
“Work Strategically with the efforts of the Umoja Coalition and @TrinSurvivors to carry out their demands; highlight and work alongside student leaders outside of SGA; create and facilitate shared governance between the faculty, trustees and administration; create emergency techniques for student-run organizations in the event of another crisis; collaborate and build authentic relationships with Hartford community-based organizations; work closely with the faculty and administration to promote a wider variety of majors and concentrations; and bring more student input into departmental discussions.”
- What would you most want to be remembered for?
“I simply want to be remembered for being an all-around good person. I want to be a president that’s accessible and collaborative.”
The Tripod will be featuring one story every Sunday going forward on its website and social media platforms, either new content or a story that ran this past week. Sometimes, the Sunday article will take the form of investigative news and features stories on important events and issues at Trinity. Other weeks, our attention will turn to interviews with important figures at the College that provide insight and direction to the world we know. We hope to offer as well in this Sunday program in-person, televised interviews as conditions permit with key campus leaders and members of the administration.
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