May 4, 2014

Additional Student Organizations Required to Submit Plans for Diversity

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The Student Assembly updated the United Student Body resolution, which will require additional organizations to submit a Diversity and Inclusion Plan to receive funding, according to Ulysses Smith ’14, president of the Student Assembly.

Student reactions to the resolution were mixed, with some saying the University will benefit from additional diversity as a result. Other students, however, called the resolution “racist” and “artificial.”

During the 2013-14 academic year, only byline funded organizations were required to submit Diversity and Inclusion Plans under the United Student Body resolution, which was passed last spring by the Student Assembly to aid student organizations with implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Some students have criticized the resolution for artificially implementing diversity plans in campus organizations.

United Student Body was crafted in response to Towards New Directions, a set of University diversity initiatives created in February 2012. On Friday, the Student Assembly expanded the United Student Body resolution to include Student Assembly Finance Commission funded organizations.

Under the updated resolution, organizations will need to submit Diversity and Inclusion Plans to the Student Assembly Committee for Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives prior to Fall Break. Before then, the S.A. plans to notify all affected organizations and host an information session for organizations and advisors.

Members of the Student Assembly Committee for Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives will review the submitted Diversity and Inclusion Plans and meet with student organizations to provide constructive feedback.

Each organization’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan will need to include three annual initiatives. The resolution cites several example initiatives, including choosing event themes that foster a sense of diversity and emailing different organizations, resource centers and student leaders when recruiting members.

The updates to the resolution are a result of feedback from this year’s participating organizations, according to Smith.

“When the University first introduced Toward New Destinations, many people had questions about how the framework would be administered and how the initiatives would be measured,” Smith said. “It was not until after a round of initiatives and trying something that they were able to roll out a method of measuring that fit the initiatives that were submitted. In the same way, we needed to go through a round of initiatives under the United Student Body framework first in order to see what worked and what did not.”

Smith said the changes emphasize that the S.A. and Student Assembly Committee for Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives will work closely with organizations and administrators to implement and evaluate Diversity and Inclusion Plans.

According to Shivang Tayal ’16, incoming international student liaison for the S.A., the updated resolution increases S.A.’s ability to enforce the diversity initiatives.

“The S.A. funding eligibility section of the reformed United Student Body insures organizations are accountable for completing their Diversity and Inclusion Plans,” Tayal said. “In addition, the S.A. will implement a training measure, which could increase enforceability.”

However, some said they remain dissatisfied with the suggestions the United Student Body resolution makes.

“Legislation like United Student Body is what keeps the S.A. from being responsive to student needs … United Student Body gives extremely racist guidance; students were encouraged to recruit from [different minority organizations],” Max Weisbrod said. “Why, out of nearly 1,000 organizations, each with diverse offerings, were organizations with racial and ethnic associations singled out in this document?”

Some students also objected to what they described as the artificial nature of the diversity plan.

“Diversity should be created organically, through a meaningful culture change and by actually making people feel more inclusive across campus. This will lead to an increase in bureaucracy for student organizations, which if done well may be worth it,” said Enrico Bonatti ’14, international liaison at-large for the S.A. and president of International Students Board.

Jadey Huray ’14, former president of Haven: The LGBTQ Student Union — which created a Diversity and Inclusion Plan this academic year — said the United Student Body was “helpful.”

“[United Student Body’s] existence shows the commitment of the S.A. to diversity issues,” Huray said. “For Haven, the Diversity and Inclusion Plan was helpful in framing our agenda for the coming year by giving us examples and opportunities of how to become more diverse.”

As United Student Body expands to some SAFC funded organizations, Smith said that he hopes the intent of the original resolution will not be forgotten.

“The goal is to make sure that everyone is an active participant and using this framework to help further their organization’s development and their role in creating an inclusive culture on this campus, not to penalize groups or create another barrier to funding,” Smith said.