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Sunday, August 14, 2022

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Religious student’s SGA Supreme Court bid struck down by Senate


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

This Wednesday’s SGA meeting marked a lively departure from the organization’s more relaxed summer session. What was expected to be a productive, if somewhat dull, session quickly exploded into debate over concerns of bias and religious freedom. 

The dispute initially arose from the potential appointment of Mya Little as an associate justice on the SGA Supreme Court. In her opening address to SGA, Little repeatedly emphasized her Christian beliefs, going so far as to open her speech with a bible verse. 

“I read that scripture months ago and it really inspired me,” Little said. “It made me realize that the world to me, and in my eyes, is made out of love.”

Though Little did go on to say that her love was not conditional on the basis of religion, race or political creed, the religious tone of her introductory speech seemed to strike a chord of doubt in some of the assembled SGA members.

Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Sen. Marie McGrew sought to address these concerns during the questioning phase. Stressing the crucial nature of bias as it applies to the Supreme Court, McGrew asked Little how she intended to account for, and contend with, her own latent biases. 

“Bias has a very negative connotation. I have an opinion,” Little said. “So long as respect is being exchanged between one another, I don’t feel like opinions need to be labeled as biases.”

This answer, however, would lead to only more questions as Little was asked to leave the Senate chanber and the representatives moved for an unmoderated caucus to discuss their concerns openly. 

Several senators immediately objected to what they saw as Little’s potential for bias, both in her religious conviction as well as her perceived failure to account for her own latent bias. Senate Speaker Aryana Azizi highlighted the heightened concern around religious influence in government in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“I personally think it’s a little bit tone deaf given the current political climate,” said Azizi. “I don’t think now is the time to be preaching about religion given the clear lack of separation of church and state in our federal government.”

But Little was not without her supporters, as several sitting members of the SGA high court spoke to her qualifications and highlighted her accomplishments with organizations such as Black Law Students and First Generation Coogs

Hobby School Sen. Nolan Shultz also came to her defense, citing a purported need for more Christian values in the  government. 

“I think with record-level crime, disparity and poverty, we need more Christ in government,” Shultz said. “I need to go on the record saying I bring Christ anywhere I go.”

Though these remarks seemed to only galvanize opposition, Little ultimately failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of the vote required to be appointed to the SGA Supreme Court. This came as a disappointment to several SGA members, as Little would have been the first Black woman to serve as an SGA Supreme Court justice.

Though Little would not be the only student to leave the Senate chamber disappointed that day. Of the four students considered for appointment, none were confirmed. 

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