Student Body President Hannah Bruns delivers first-ever State of the VUnion Address

The video details the major accomplishments of Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) in the 2021-22 academic year in an effort to foster clearer communication between the organization and the student body.

Screenshot of the title page of the VUnion Address

Emma Kerr

Screenshot of the title page of the VUnion Address. (Hustler Staff/Emma Kerr)

Emma Kerr

Student Body President and senior Hannah Bruns detailed the accomplishments of VSG in the 2021-22  academic year in a “State of the VUnion Address” posted to the organization’s Instagram page on Feb. 15.

The address aimed to create more transparency and communication between VSG and the student body, according to Bruns. The progress made by each branch of VSG—the committees?, cabinet and senate—and their plans for the remainder of the semester were covered, in addition to an announcement about the Adriel Bineza Graduate and Professional Schools (GAP) Fund.

The video began with an acknowledgment, written by ISO, that Vanderbilt occupies the ancestral hunting and traditional lands of Indigenous people, along with a message in support of all Indigenous individuals and communities. Commonplace at all VSG meetings and sanctioned events, Bruns said this effort was designed to normalize land acknowledgments.

“[We wanted to] encourage other student orgs to normally read the land acknowledgment,” Bruns said. “If it starts in the student body and garners support that way, then hopefully our administration might start reading it too.”

The topic of the video then turned to updates about VSG’s initiatives this year. Bruns said that the committee branch’s achievements last semester included many “firsts.” Among these firsts were the opening of a permanent campus thrift shop, the installation of free period product dispensaries in multiple locations and the holding of the “Safety in Our Spaces” talk. 

Bruns explained in the video that the senate branch passed multiple resolutions, such as one in support of the dining workers’ union and another advocating for the renaming of several university buildings whose names are tied to slave-owners. 

Two of the cabinet’s actions that Bruns noted in the video were the hosting of a winter clothing drive to assist low-income students and the distribution of over $10,000 to campus organizations through their requests for funding. 

Bruns also spoke about the GAP Fund, which provides financial aid for Vanderbilt seniors planning to continue their education after graduation. A total of $32,000 is available for students in the Class of 2022. Students can apply up until Feb. 27 for funding.

Committee member and sophomore Rohit Kataria proposed the idea of having a State of the VUnion Address to Bruns as a way of achieving VSG’s goal of informing the student body about their initiatives in a more personal, direct way than their weekly Instagram posts. Through the video, Bruns said the organization wanted to update the student body on its future plans and its progress on promises made at the beginning of the school year.

“It makes sure that we are being held accountable for the things that we are doing and the things that we might not be,” Bruns said. 

While VSG plans to finish achieving all the commitments they made at the start of the year, Bruns stressed the importance of the student body being able to clearly see the progress being made. This practice of transparency and holding accountability is something that Bruns said that she and her fellow VSG members hope will continue this year and in future administrations who choose to carry on with the address.