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GSU Dean of Students: 'They really just want their voice to be heard'

Due to current controversy surrounding city council elections, some students voice concerns

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Posted: October 25, 2007 5:32 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2007 5:01 a.m.
    Many Georgia Southern students feel disenfranchised and isolated from the Statesboro community, according to several students at the university.
    With the controversy surrounding the city council elections, some students have become both angered and discouraged from further involvement in Statesboro.  Some say they want to feel as if they belong to the community, but recent events have caused a division between students and locals.
    Georj Lewis, the Dean of Students at GSU, moderated the city council candidate forum held on campus October 9th and was able to get several different insights from students.
    “There really is a variety of concerns,” said Lewis.  Each student has his or her own issue they want addressed.
    “They really just want their voice to be heard,” said Lewis. “They want to feel like they contribute to the community.  Many are afraid there is a misrepresentation of them right now.”
    Lewis stated that students want the community to be strong because it reflects upon them.  They are serious about academics and want a good reputation for both the university and the city of Statesboro.
    “I am really proud of the professional and appropriate way they are getting their voices heard,” said Lewis. “It really is a testimony of the type of students we are bringing in here.”
    Jon Simpson is a senior at the university majoring in logistics and is the president of the Student Government Association.  Simpson stated that SGA’s key goal of the semester was to increase student involvement in the community.  The panel held on campus and the voter registration drives were planned months ago.
    “SGA serves as a platform to give students a voice and to get them involved in the democratic process,” said Simpson. “We strive to inform students of the candidates running, what they stand for, and how it will affect students.”
Although some candidates have campaigned more strongly and frequently on campus and among the student population than others, SGA attempts to provide unbiased coverage of all of the candidates running.
    Simpson believes that many Statesboro natives are reluctant to trust students with votes because they assume students only care about loosening alcohol ordinances.  He reiterated the fact that students have an opinion on a variety of things, including ways to bring new restaurants and businesses into the community.
    “It is hard to define exactly what the ‘student voice’ is because of the diversity on campus, but we try to serve as a platform for whatever it might be.”
    Simpson also stated that he is not surprised to see that so many students want to vote.  Many work, eat, and shop here; as well as participate in many community philanthropies.  Hundreds of students are active in Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Keep Bulloch Beautiful, several canned drives, and also through local churches.
    “Students want to feel as if they are a part of the community, they don’t like feeling like a just a visitor,” said Simpson.  “The fact that some citizens are challenging them makes them feel unwelcome.”
    Ryan Anderson, a 21-year-old sports management major at GSU, has lived in Statesboro his whole life.  As both a native and a student, Anderson can see both sides and acknowledges that this election seems to be deepening divisions between the college and the community.
    “It would be good if they could find a way to meet in the middle,” said Anderson.
    Anderson added that he would not mind if new students were allowed to vote on community issues.
    “Whether they vote or not is their option, but they need the opportunity because they do live here,” he said.

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