The Daily Gamecock

Letter to the editor: Former Student Body President Issy Rushton reflects on 2020-2021 school year

<p>Headshot of Issy Rushton, USC’s student body president for the 2020-2021 school year.&nbsp;</p>
Headshot of Issy Rushton, USC’s student body president for the 2020-2021 school year. 

2020 will forever be remembered in the history books. Through not only a global pandemic that flipped the world upside down but a Black Lives Matter movement that defined the future of the United States, the University of South Carolina stood strong and exemplified what it meant to be made of boundless resilience. While my tenure as student body president was never easy (it rarely is), this year of great tribulations made the triumphs well worth the fight.

On March 10, 2020, the university extended its spring break schedule in an effort to mitigate the risk of the rapidly emerging virus, COVID-19. Students expected to return in a matter of weeks but were eventually sent home for the remainder of the semester, leaving Columbia, South Carolina, and the on-campus college experience behind. Thankfully, the university jumped into action, forming a community of students, faculty, staff and administration that worked tirelessly to find a solution to the pandemic.

The year ahead was hard, but our commitment to the student experience rang true when the university triumphed with the return of students to campus in the fall of 2020. Masked up, socially distanced and with a movement titled #IPledgeColumbia, students filled the Horseshoe and the Russell House once again and proved relentless in their passion for the university and personal resilience.

Students proved this once again when, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was murdered after being handcuffed and suffocated by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Students at the University of South Carolina jumped into action and protested in the name of social justice across the country, passionately fighting for what they believed in.

As a result of these protests, student leaders from across campus gathered to create the 2020 Revision, a set of demands pertaining to diversity and inclusion that were presented to faculty, staff and the university board of trustees. These demands saw a new era in student advocacy, with the following year filled with monumental movements such as the re-establishment of the NAACP, student calls for the renaming of all buildings on campus named after racist historical figures and the development of a 2020 Revision working group. It became clear in 2020 that the student body at the University of South Carolina was passionate about real and actionable change to make campus a more diverse and equitable environment.

Finishing up my term as student body president and reflecting on the past year, I have served through the COVID-19 journey and have seen first-hand how our student body waded through campus closures, cancelled commencements and an unprecedented year of highs and lows. I have seen a group of student leaders come together in pursuit of real diversity, equity and inclusion and advocate for the community they call home. It was the honor of my life to serve through a year of triumphs and tribulations and to forever reflect on how the year 2020 changed us forever.