Student Association president gives State of SA Address

Gunnar Haberl highlights Student Association’s successes, areas of improvement, SA’s future

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Student Association President Gunnar Haberl presented UB’s State of the Student Association address on Wednesday night. 

Haberl addressed a crowd of roughly 140 students, the majority of which were SA members, faculty and staff in the Student Union Theater. 

Haberl began by summarizing last semester’s events and addressing the audience with his “newfound energy” for the future. He said the successes of SA included a campaign for promoting sexual assault awareness and increasing transparency. SA’s spring agenda includes finalizing UB’s food pantry, a new recreational center on North Campus and more resources for students who experience mental illness. 

In Haberl’s opening slideshow, messages of “SA represents you,” and “together we can achieve our biggest ambitions,” flashed across the screen.

“I am able to stand here confident to say that the state of our University at Buffalo Undergraduate Student Association is strong,” Haberl said. 

Haberl discussed fall-semester successes, focusing primarily on SA’s sexual assault campaign as well as its efforts to increase transparency. 

“Sexual assault is a reality on college campuses — on our campus — and this cannot be ignored,” Haberl said. “I assure to you that any silence on this issue is complicity.”

SA promoted sexual assault prevention last semester with a week-long campaign to create solidarity for survivors. Events such as Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and UPD self-defense classes brought SA clubs and UB community members together to open up the conversation of sexual assault, Haberl said.

Haberl also said he believed the Fall Fest Concert Series “was not a failure” during the address. Haberl previously told The Spectrum that Spring Fest will remain in its original single-show format.

Haberl said he believes SA has greatly improved its transparency in the last semester since SA began posting meeting minutes online for the first time. Haberl said the address itself was “a positive step in the right direction.”

“I think getting the elected officials out and talking can always improve transparency,” Haberl said. “Also, I post my office hours on my door every week for students to come by and visit. I think transparency is there.”

Haberl addressed SA’s ambitions and potential improvements for the spring semester. He said counseling services are “nowhere near” what UB needs to serve its students. 

“Every year UB increases incoming students in the freshman class but we don't increase the resources available to them,” Haberl said. “So UB really needs to take a look at putting more financial resources into our counseling services.”

Haberl said although “the expectations for what SA will accomplish [this semester] are low,” the SA board plans to “continue to keep pushing for the progress on the work that still needs doing.”

Haberl said he looks forward to continuing to serve on the food pantry task force “to assure that the pantry operations open before the end of [his] term,” and announced the pantry will be held in the SA office.

He addressed his previous aspirations for a campground on campus and said he has altered his goal to create a new recreational center for students instead.

Haberl said cooking seminars, Earth week and Distinguished Speaker Series events are among SA’s spring semester plans. He also promised the beginning of a pilot program to provide free menstrual products in select UB bathrooms by May 20. 

He hopes to propose revisions to the Excelsior Scholarship and SUNY Educational Opportunity Program at the upcoming higher education action day in Albany.

Jacob Virchau, a freshman political science major, is a member of SA and said UB is “full of possibilities” and enjoyed the address. 

“I think Gunnar did a great job,” Virchau said. “It made me feel hopeful and optimistic about the future of student life.”

Haberl hopes next year’s SA board continues programs such as the fall food festival, sexual violence prevention week and mental health awareness events. He said future board members should continue to work on the Student Union reconstruction plan and building a new recreational center.

“The stepping stones are there, the foundation is there,” Haberl said. “But next year's e-board is really going to have to continue it or it's going to be pushed aside.”

Jacklyn Walters is a Co-senior News Editor and can be reached at jacklyn.walters@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @JacklynUBSpec.

Jordana Chazan contributed reporting for this article.