Emily Tomasik, Contributing Writer
Nearly four months after winning the June election and with a speech dedicated to Marcus-David Peters, senior Taylor Maloney was inaugurated Friday as VCU’s student body president.
Peters, a 24-year-old VCU alumnus and high school biology teacher, was shot and killed during a 2018 encounter with Richmond police while experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Today, I carry his name as I assume responsibility of becoming student body president,” Maloney said.
During their speech, Maloney said the university should acknowledge Peters’ death.
“They lost someone valuable to the VCU community,” Maloney said.
The SGA president said the university “has been a product of and sustained by Black death.”
During a 1990s construction project at MCV, workers uncovered remains of at least 53 African Americans in a pit near the Kontos Medical Sciences Building. In 2019, after spending 25 years at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the remains returned to VCU.
“VCU itself has been a product of and sustained by Black death, by not only digging up the remains of Africans for unethical medical research, but by existing on the remains of the gravesite of what was once known as the Harlem of the South itself,” Maloney said. “And this isn’t a past tense, as VCU continues to buy and gentrify Richmond, like Jackson Ward. And, as students, we are all complicit in this.”
Maloney said it is not the responsibility of Student Government Association leadership to “find middle ground” between members.
“I would like to be honest about my political alignment and argue this is — and always has been — a fight to liberation,” Maloney said.
SGA hosted its induction ceremony Friday in the University Student Commons with virtual attendance on Zoom. Undergraduate Senate Speaker Udhanth Mallasani led the ceremony.
“SGA has changed a lot since I first joined,” Mallasani said. “It’s been a pleasure participating in that.”
SGA’s undergraduate senators were inducted during Friday’s ceremony. The SGA announced the election of 14 senators in a June announcement:
- Fatima Malik
- Mekdes CharlesChanaiya Jones
- Nadar Khan
- Siara Lawson
- Sydney Biondi
- Udhanth Mallasani
- Sabeeka Khan
- Shay Miller
- Rachel Delgado
- Jordan James
- Zhakyia Woodley
- Leah Kaylor
- Joshua Hartt
Student body elections were delayed due to campus closures in March, instead occurring over the summer in June.
Vice President Alexander Chong, who was inducted on Friday, recognized the life and accomplishments of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during his speech. Chong also asked the student body to accept and overcome differences between themselves and others.
“Having different viewpoints is a huge plus that will give us that checkpoint to see if we are going the right way,” Chong said.
This article was updated on Oct. 2 to include an additional quote from Taylor Maloney and context.