By: Josh Knutsen (Loyola Sophomore)
With the recent announcement of Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney’s impending departure, the university is preparing for a change in management. However, as one president ends their tenure, another has just started her own.
Loyola senior, Margaret Bronec (21), was elected last spring as the new Student Body President and is taking on her first full semester at the helm this fall.
Prior to this election, she first joined SGLC (Student Government of Loyola Chicago) her Sophomore year as a first-year senator on the Residence Hall and Dining Committee before becoming the Justice Chair as a Junior.
As an environmental policy major, Bronec has a focus on sustainability and an appreciation for how vital community involvement is for achieving large-scale change. During a six-month internship for the Edgewater Environmental Coalition, she said she worked with various members of the Edgewater neighborhood and gained a clearer understanding of how even the smallest decisions can ripple through a community.
Using this knowledge and experience, she hopes to leave Loyola better than when she found it.
I sat down to talk with her about her plans for this year and what she hopes to accomplish as SGLC President.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RogersEdge Reporter: Before being elected president, what were the things you wanted to see done differently in SGLC?
Bronec: When I was in my second year, I was the chairperson of the Justice Committee and we worked on both environmental justice as well as social justice, and I was interested in the divestment movement from our current food provider Aramark. I, with a team of folks, drafted a piece of legislation entitled “Separate from Food Providers Invested in the Prison Industrial Complex” and basically called on Loyola to divest from our current food provider because they basically profit off of the mistreatment of prisoners. This term we have a group of senators that are working to follow up on that piece of legislation and create a piece of legislation that is about what we should reinvest in.
RER: Now you’ve been elected and have more power to accomplish these things. What is your number one goal for this semester?
Bronec: I think that [the] top of my list is making sure that students stay safe and healthy. I want Loyola to be a place where students feel seen and [are] being able to be fully themselves. Especially as we return to campus after 18 months of being online, there are a lot of mental and physical health issues that we are running into as a community, and I want students to feel empowered and reach out when they need help, but also to be able to connect with their peers and have those safe spaces on campus, where they could have a friend or take a nap or really engage fully with that other part of the student experience beyond academics.
RER: You obviously knew about the challenges with COVID and a student body who’ve largely been off-campus for a year. In what ways have you adapted or plan to adapt to these challenges in order to successfully engage with Loyola and accomplish your goals?
Bronec: Actually we formed a COVID response team. They really are there to figure out, internally, how do we respond to COVID, but also externally, how do we set the standard for other student organizations. We have over 100 registered student organizations, and we are, as the voice of the undergraduate student body and the student government itself, here to set a good standard, and also empower people to feel like they’re in charge of their own wellness as org[anization]s and as individuals. Another thing is I get the opportunity to meet with a lot of administrators. So keeping wellness and return to campus on the agenda at each meeting, we’re talking about: Okay, how are we responding to COVID and how are we doing contact tracing and even things such as, hey, we’ve got a lot of masks that we’re seeing on the floor, can we talk about a new initiative to recycle the masks.
(Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault)
RER: This year has started off with a bang regarding the sexual assault conversation and the spread of COVID. What has been your process in navigating this storm?
Bronec: Something that I said before is really centering student voices. So I’m showing up as a student at the protest [and] I am engaging in several conversations with my peers in just sitting, listening, and showing up the best I can in my admin meetings to be the voice of the student body. And being clear that when it comes to conversations about sexual assault, and gender-based violence, that there are trained professionals on our campus that have a lot more training than I do. [I’m] meeting students where they’re at, listening to them, and then getting trained and qualified advocates that are meeting students as well.
RER: Now that the first month of the semester is coming to an end, what are your thoughts on how this year will go?
Bronec: I am really hopeful to just be here to support the student body. The first couple of weeks [are] a trial run so we are right now working through things and working together, and here to listen and always open. Something I do know about all the classes at Loyola right now is we are an extremely resilient community. Students, faculty, staff; we’ve all been through something together and as we emerge from a life-altering 18 months I think that we are going to come back and continue to be resilient and work through this year, and I’m hoping that it’s going to be a year full of a lot of joy and laughter and meeting and exceeding challenges. So I’m excited for this year, and I hope that other students and community members are too.
For more information about President Bronec and the SGLC, please visit: https://www.luc.edu/sglc/