SGA Battles a Transitional School Year

As the academic year progresses at the Hilton Riverside, the Student Government Association has been trying to find ways to keep the students motivated, while still being displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Because students are not living on campus, fewer activities can be held. Although a variety of events have occurred at the Hilton, they have not been for Dillard students. The conventions, parties, and other events have been for tourists’ attractions.


Cortez Watkins, SGA president, said that it has been a struggle making things work according to plans at times, but students are resilient individuals. “Without a struggle we can’t appreciate our progress, which has been nothing short of remarkable!” Cortez said. He added that he has faced many challenges this semester, including redefining his role as a leader in order to reestablish what he felt was lost in the aftermath of Katrina.  ”God is in control, so why not ask for help.”


Watkins said that the transformation from campus life to hotel living has been a unique experience. “I view the situation as being bitter sweet.  I am ecstatic about being back amongst the people I have grown to love, but just the thought of not being on-campus enjoying the spacious green tugs a little at my heart, those moments determine character,” he said.


Watkins said that when everyone was scattered during the storm, the best avenue for many to keep in contact was by telephone, e -mail and blogs set up by respected members of the Dillard community. “It was always refreshing to hear from someone that you did not know you had an impression on.”


President Marvalene Hughes and the administration had the task of getting approximately 1100 Dillard students back to the city after Katrina. Throughout the two 13-week sessions Watkins has had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Hughes to critically think of ways to make the transition from an academic institution merge with a leisure one to create an environment conductive to promoting student involvement. The result was the establishment of several committees that are functioning. In addition, SGA holds bi-weekly town hall meetings.


The SGA has planned several activities for students throughout the semester.  They range from parties on a cruise ship, community involvement, night of jazz/expression, coronation, rallying for social change, exam crunch and munch Ohana Luau, and many more.


Mahauganee Shaw, Assistant Director of Student Engagement of Leadership Development said the goal for this semester is to have Thursday night events each week. Salsa Night will be held on Thursday’s from 7:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. since majority of the students say their weekends begin on Thursday. A variation of a Spring Fest week and hopefully some movie nights will also be held this semester.


Ashley Clayton, junior Psychology major, from New Orleans said she has not participated in any of the events this semester because she wasn’t aware of them. She added that living in the hotel has its quality points such as more spacious rooms, but there are limited opportunities for events to be held.


“When classes were held on the Dillard University’s campus, I looked forward to attending events. Flyers were posted everywhere when an upcoming event was going to take place,” said Tyesha Alexander, sophomore nursing major, from New Orleans, about the awareness of events.


Courtney Brown, sophomore education major, from Nashville, Tenn. said she has known of events and has attended every one in the hotel. She added that she especially enjoyed the coronation ball after party because she had the opportunity to spend time with some of her friends. “I think that the after party should not have been shut down early because this was one of the last events the seniors had to look forward to.”


Even with all of the event planning, Watkins said he realizes that the most important things students want is for someone to listen to their concerns and follow up with solutions. “We are all in charge of our destiny, but everyone needs a little push.”