Student Association

SA approves creation of Diversity Affairs and Inclusion Committee

Liam Sheehan | Staff Photographer

After weeks of deliberation, the assembly unanimously approved the establishment of the Diversity Affairs and Inclusion Committee at its April 17 meeting.

The Student Association has created a committee tasked with promoting inclusion and advocating for underrepresented groups on the Syracuse University campus.

After weeks of deliberation, the assembly unanimously approved the establishment of the Diversity Affairs and Inclusion Committee at its April 17 meeting, and the committee will begin work next week. The committee — SA’s fifth permanent standing committee — addresses underrepresented identities in terms of race, ethnicity, ability, gender and sexual identity, said Marcus Lane, an assembly member who co-authored the bill creating the new committee.

Lane said he hopes the DAIC will promote unity between different identities within the student body.

“I think it will be the only space where student leaders of marginalized identities can actually discuss and collaborate with each other,” Lane said.

The idea behind the committee is to institutionalize communication between student leaders, particularly of underrepresented groups, Lane said. The committee will listen to the concerns voiced by student leaders to create initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

In the past, collaboration between student leaders hasn’t happened, Lane said. He added that the new committee will help bridge the communication gap between SA and recognized student organizations.

During this legislative session, SA has placed an increased emphasis on events and legislation that helps SA connect and advocate for underrepresented groups at SU.

In February, SA organized a free bus trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The organization also added two adaptive cycles to the bike share program, relaunched on April 4, to help make the program more accessible to students with disabilities. Last week, the assembly unanimously passed the accommodations clause bill, which requires RSOs to display on event posters the contact information of officials whom attendees with disabilities could reach if they need special accommodations.

Diasia Robinson, a junior international relations major, was appointed to the cabinet as SA’s first director of diversity affairs in August 2016. She said the DAIC will continue to organize events like the trip to the African-American history museum, Diversity Week and the Arts Inclusivity Festival.

“There will be a collection of people who will dig in and make these things happen faster so that more things can be done,” Robinson said.

Robinson added that when she took on the diversity affairs director position, she was the only person specifically tasked with promoting diversity and inclusion. With the new committee, she said next year’s diversity affairs and inclusion chair will have additional support. Committee members will be able to voice different perspectives and help shape events and initiatives, she added.

When the new committee begins work next fall, assembly members can join the DAIC to fulfill their standing committee membership requirement. All SA assembly members are required to hold membership in at least one standing committee, according to SA bylaws.

Because cabinet positions are appointed by each administration, Robinson said she wasn’t sure if she would chair the DAIC next year. But she said she would gladly fill the position, if she was appointed.

However, the chair of the DAIC will not immediately be able to vote on cabinet. Eddie Devino, chair of SA’s Bylaw Review Committee, said a constitutional revision is needed to grant the DAIC chair voting rights on cabinet. A revision to the SA constitution must be approved by the assembly and by a vote from at least 10 percent of the student body, according to the constitution.

Because the bill was drafted and passed later in the academic year, Devino said there wasn’t enough time to add a referendum for the revision to this year’s ballot. He said the student body will probably vote on the revision during the 2018 elections.

“I have no thinking of why it wouldn’t pass,” Devino said.

Robinson said that while she believed the DAIC should eventually get a cabinet vote, the lack of voting rights during the next legislative session shouldn’t be a problem because she rarely disagrees with the cabinet’s decisions. Even without immediate voting rights, the DAIC chair will still be a member of cabinet and will have the ability to voice opinions.

Robinson added that she’s proud of SA for recognizing that diversity affairs should have a permanent committee.

“Having this committee just shows that more students want to be involved in diversity and inclusion,” she said.

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