On Wednesday, May 2, I stood before the Texas A&M University Student Senate for a second time in order to humbly seek confirmation for the role of Diversity Commissioner in the Student Body President’s Executive Cabinet. I did not receive the two-thirds vote needed for confirmation. Our Student Senate will not meet again until the upcoming Fall Semester, and Student Body President Amy Sharp will be unable to present a candidate until that time. This means that the university will be without a student Diversity Commissioner for the next four months.
I would first like to express my gratitude to everyone around me which has lent their support in my pursuit of this goal, to the members of my family which have provided me with invaluable lessons and words of encouragement, to my friends and fellow student leaders who took time to sit in during the hearing to support me with their presence, to the members of the Student Senate who shared my and SBP Sharp’s vision for diversity and inclusion. I want to thank SBP Amy Sharp for putting her faith in me, and to all the incoming Executive Cabinet members who welcomed me with open arms to their team; particularly as I was a stranger to all but one of them. I am proud to know these student leaders, and know they will do great things for this university.
I set out to apply for the position of Diversity Commissioner with one goal in mind: to speak the truth. I firmly believe in the importance of difficult dialogue, and the need for honest and truthful conversations in order to tackle the challenges facing us today. In the context of the position I intended to fill, I firmly hold that being fearless on every front is the first pre-requisite. This includes being fearless in the face of a history of oppression and exclusion in the world, the country, and the university. Being fearless in highlighting the barriers to success and self-realization that persist even after decades of activism and struggle. Being fearless in confronting those who stand in the way of progress and who seek to ignore the real world in favor of a fantasy with which they can avoid the cognitive dissonance of realizing their complicity in institutionalized oppression. I also believe in the significance of being unapologetic and of being honest, and find that these three characteristics are the founding principles of the Aggie Core Value of “Integrity.” I stand firm in my statement that we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and acknowledge the room for improvement as an opportunity to embody Texas A&M University’s core values in search of inclusivity, understanding, and respect.
Before highlighting the full extent of my experiences on the Student Senate floor, I want to reiterate my appreciation for all of the Student Senators who share this vision for the university and understand the importance of staring the facts in the face and never looking back. You are among the model leaders of the university, and you represent what we should all continually strive for. I also want to thank the Senators who sought to get a better understanding of me as a person and as a leader in order to make a more informed decision. Lastly, I want to highlight the role of all of us as students and members of the Aggie Family in fighting for what is right.
On the Student Senate floor, I was the target of personal attacks, micro-aggressions, and a slew of remarks, during both question and answer and debate, which besides affecting me personally highlight the persistence of negative actors within the Student Government Association. My character was put in question, my experiences as a Hispanic and Latinx student reduced in their significance, my ability to compromise and respect others challenged baselessly, my clear and cogent arguments mischaracterized purposefully, and my leadership qualities and qualifications dismissed strategically. Rumors and distortions of reality were spread by some in order to distract from my qualifications and from the words that came directly from my mouth. I felt deeply disrespected by the way a number of students addressed themselves towards me, specifically during the first hearing. These interactions are, in fact, on tape, and I encourage anyone doubting my statement to take a look at the facts for themselves and form their own opinion.
Having expressed this, I need those reading to understand that the Student Senate’s decision does not anger me, it saddens me. I do not feel frustration at the behavior of some of the student body’s representatives, I feel a deep sense of disappointment. The only thing that brings me pause is that those students who are responsible for wasting one third of the time a commissioner has to make inroads will have no remorse in regards to the role they have played in disadvantaging the university and its students. I see it as a great injustice that students were unable to put their personal beliefs aside to satisfy their responsibilities as student leaders. I did not lose anything, nor did those in the Student Senate; the greatest loss of all will be felt by the student body and future students, who will not have someone fighting for their rights, representing their perspectives, and lead groundbreaking initiatives in the position for four months out of this upcoming academic year. This reticence to compromise and trust has almost become a “tradition” within the Student Senate, one which scores its reputation and reflects poorly on Aggies’ abilities as leaders and supportive members of one Family. I truly hope that these student leaders which have been trusted to represent the student body heed my words and take it upon themselves to change the culture of the Student Senate, and prove to the rest of the campus community that they are able to rise to the occasion of the responsibilities entrusted to them.
I am proud to be an Aggie, and it is for this reason that I expect more from this university, and in my role as a student leader I strive make it a better place for all people. I refuse to believe that Texas A&M university is not ready to make the changes it needs to build a truly inclusive Aggie Family. That the students are not capable of having the difficult dialogues which will help build bridges and heal wounds. That we should not expect more from those who claim to be representatives of the student body, or those in the university administration. That changes can’t be made from the inside, and that outcry and activism will only get us so far. I know that the campus is ready because I am part of this campus, and because I have met so many amazing people that share a vision of unity, respect, and dignity for all. I am as committed as ever to making changes happen, and want to set an example that highlights that you don’t need a title to do good. Please remember, decisions made out of fear will never have the power of decisions made out of love.
Ricardo Andre Mercado Arroyo ‘19