Watterson Fights to Make SLU Home for All


Tre Watterson, SGA VP of Diversity and Inclusion

Grant Mayfield, Identity Editor

Tre Watterson is a junior in the College of Public Health and Social Justice, but his work does not stay in the classroom. As this year’s Student Government Association Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Tre is fighting to make SLU a place for students of every identity and experience. He is trying to make it their home.

Watterson does not believe that diversity should be a partisan issue. In fact, he sees our polarized campus and nation as the biggest obstacle to his work. “My job is to put students in situations where they can find common ground. That’s the best way that we can make a change.”

Watterson is an extremely optimistic person, but the gravity of his office is not lost on him. It can be difficult to balance SLU’s Catholic identity and the diverse beliefs of its students, and Tre certainly feels that pressure. “If Christians really looked at what it means to be a person for and with others, [diversity and inclusion] shouldn’t be a partisan position. I shouldn’t have to fight the administration on certain things, but I do.”

Not only is Watterson’s position a delicate one, it is also is not what he expected when he was elected last year. “The Stockley Verdict blurred the lines between my role as the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and my role as a
student. That was a struggle.”

Like many incoming freshman, Watterson was nervous to start college when he arrived at SLU, but not for
the reasons one might think. He was apprehensive about coming to a private school where many of the students have the same background and experiences. His nerves were settled though when he heard about the Clocktower Accords.

“They let people stay on this campus for six days just to have conversation and talk, and something actually came out of
that. I knew that SLU was a place for me at that moment.”

The last few weeks following the Stockley verdict have been particularly trying for the rookie VP. He believes an opportunity was wasted for the same kind of dialogue that helped him find a home at SLU.

“I had an opportunity to have those conversations and just walk with people through campus, but we were rejected because we were too dangerous.” He uses the word “dangerous” intentionally. “It was hypocritical by the administration. You can’t get awards talking about how great we handled Occupy SLU and then have that same opportunity and reject it because it was too dangerous.” He continued by saying the administration was wrong to “tell students to shelter in place because there’s black people outside.”

Watterson’s view of his position changed as he walked with demonstrators down Grand Boulevard on Sept. 17. A Department
of Public Safety officer physically barred the SGA Vice President from entering campus. Waterson says he was eventually allowed to pass for one reason: “I was with a white person beside me.” He went on to say, “in that moment I realized I would have an adversarial relationship” [with the administration.]

Watterson wants his legacy to be a campus that fosters conversation among people of differing identities and viewpoints. He
is currently working on several projects to build that community including a speaker series called, “I Am Because We Are.” The series would be an opportunity for students to share their own experiences on campus based on their unique identities. The event would embody Tre’s ultimate goals of community and conversation through a tactic he relies on heavily: students engaging students.

Watterson wants every student to feel comfortable reaching out to him for comfort or criticism. “Feel free to talk to anyone on SGA because we are ‘a resource and a voice for all students.’” True to his position and ambition, Tre would like to plug several upcoming SafeZone trainings. They are Oct. 28 and 29, and Nov. 4 and 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. You can keep up with the above events and Tre’s progress through the SGA weekly mailer or email him directly at [email protected]