Treasury rejects diversity council, irking backers
Student Union Treasury on Tuesday barely voted down legislation to create the Diversity Affairs Council, leaving the future of the proposal in doubt.
The vote was 7-6-1. A two-thirds majority, or 10 votes, was needed to pass the legislation.
Earlier that evening, Treasury had gone through the legislation’s articles and approved each one individually. When Treasury voted on the entire legislation, however, it did not pass.
“From a legislative perspective, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Senate Speaker Chase Sackett, a senior.
Treasury Representative Ehi Okoruwa, a sophomore, said part of the problem stemmed from representatives’ uncertainty about what they were voting on.
“A lot of people were confused on whether we were going to discuss the structure, whether we were going to discuss the value this brings to campus, etc.,” Okoruwa said. “Many people were just not on the same page.”
Among the concerns that representatives raised were that the council (DAC) added to the complexity of SU, that this council would allow other groups to unduly influence the executive branch of SU, and that there seemed to be no guarantee that the DAC would accomplish its goal.
SU Senate passed the same legislation last week 22-2-1.
According to the legislation, the DAC aims to “foster connections between members of the campus community, and address issues so as to bring diversity to the forefront of campus-wide and administrative concerns.”
Diversity refers to that of sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, class and philosophy, among many other ways of judging people.
After the vote, DAC supporters left the room.
Diversity Affairs Council: From beginning to legislation
Senior DeAndrea Nichols, president of Connect 4, raised the question of diversity last summer to find groups beyond Connect 4 that addressed the issues of diversity. She said the conversation eventually reached senior Jeff Nelson, student body president.
“He said that there’s nothing in SU that focuses on diversity,” Nichols said. “This is despite the fact that our larger University constantly states that we care about it.”
Sackett, Senior Class Council President Fernando Cutz, Coordinator for Student Involvement and Multicultural Leadership Naomi Daradar Sigg and other student leaders on campus eventually took up the issue.
After drafting the legislation, SU held a Legislative Leadership Council meeting at the beginning of this semester to discuss the legislation.
“Treasury reps saw this very early in the semester and had the opportunity to give input,” Sackett said.
Cutz pointed out that the legislation went through 13 drafts before appearing at the Senate’s University Initiatives Committee, which approved the legislation 10-0 and moved it on to Senate and Treasury.
“Quite frankly, I’m really upset right now,” Student Union Senator Betel Ezaz, a sophomore, said during the open forum portion of Treasury.
Cutz’s criticism of Treasury was much harsher.
“I think Treasury has shown a fundamental incompetence at representing the will of the student body,” Cutz said. “I think they were not voting according to their constituents’ wants.”
But Sackett was quick to point out that 50 percent of the body did support the legislation on Tuesday.
“We absolutely do commend the half of the body that did vote to support the legislation,” Sackett said. But he added, “I’m still unclear as to what the reasons were for voting against it [were].”
After the Treasury meeting, Treasury Representative Peter Glaser, a junior, said it was unfair to criticize Treasury for being insensitive to diversity when the body approves events promoting diversity on a weekly basis.
Jack Kider, a Treasury representative and Budget Committee co-chair, said the DAC legislation failed because its supporters failed to explain why its goals could not be met through school organizations that already exist.
“I believe that many Treasury representatives did not wish to pass legislation that creates more bureaucracy and another organization within Student Union, while there are many institutions within and outside of Student Union that already exist to address the same issues that the DAC would have addressed,” Kider wrote in an e-mail to Student Life.
Now, supporters of the legislation are trying to obtain 900 signatures by Monday so that this issue can go before the whole student body in spring elections.
“We want to give the student body a chance to show they care that SU should make diversity a part of its intrinsic structure, and I think that students do believe that,” Sackett said. “And that’s why we’re so confident and that’s why we’ve been working on this for so long.”