Treasury rejects diversity council, irking backers

Senators passed same measure 22-2-1 last week.

| Staff Reporter

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.

Reactions

“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.

Next steps

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.”

  • Ezelle Sanford III

    In response to Irritated:

    Your frustration is totally understandable, however I would like to point out several things

    1. Connect 4 as well as students who are working on the DAC (we are not all the same) recognize that Washington University is a very diverse camppus. (Just look at the sheer amount of cultural groups on campus). We do believe, however that having students from different backgrounds is not enough. The purpose of the DAC is to foster these relationships across the barriers that separate us from one another.

    2. If you are frustrated with what a student group is not doing, then I think it would be a great idea to go to that group and to make your concerns known. Connect 4 is a very open and accepting group. We have many students who make visits to our student group and we would like more. How can we know what we are not doing if it is not brought to our attention.

    Also, that is one of the purposes of the DAC. We have realized that having a student group is not enough. We need some sort of legitamacy to really make effective change on campus and in the Saint Louis community. Being a student group is insufficient. Having the Diversity Affairs council as an entity in Student Union will grant it not only legitimacy, but also some sort of authority (for example in making policy recommendations which directly effect the student body)

    3. In terms of your last statement that is what Connect 4 is trying to do. Have you heard of Culture Shock (it is on facebook if you would like to join). It is a new “diversity initiative” created at the Redefining Community Experience retreat, where students can get together and go to cultrual group meetings and events and to really reach out to other student groups. It is, by the way, a Connect 4 subsidiary group, and many people, besides people in Connect 4, are apart of this wonderful group. I suggest you join. We also have a wonderful initiative headed up by a C4 member called Need More Players, in fact we had an event at the spring activities fair, where a group of students (not necessarily apart of C4) will get together and play a game spontaneously on campus in hopes of getting others to join. The sole purpose of that being: break out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. We are a big proponent of that in Connect 4.

    I hope I have adequately addressed some of your concerns. Again, I encourage you not only to join these “diversity initiatives” but to take part in them, because as they are saying in the SU Elections: “Love it, or fix it”

  • Irritated

    The people involved in the DAC are the same people involved in Connect4 and other “diversity initiatives” around campus. Just like nightclubs and restaurants on the Loop, we have a case of same ownership, different name.

    As a “multicultural” student (and one who is “diverse” in several other ways too), I do not support the DAC. I believe quite strongly that, like Connect4, it will be the same group of “diverse” people talking about how little diversity there is on campus. The people who have the least amount of diversity in their lives (and this is not relegated to racial diversity only) don’t come to these events, meetings or programs, and Connect4/other diversity initiatives have not effectively made an impact around campus.

    Maybe instead of trying to start a new group every 1.5 semesters, these kids should go sit at “the black table” during lunch in the DUC, attend an AAA meeting, support an ALS event, go to a Bhangra dance practice, patronize the group for Women and the Arts, or meet some new friends before class. That’s how genuine diversity happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chase.sackett Chase Sackett

    I would actually agree with studentc that WashU is built from relationships, and those relationships are what the DAC is intended to facilitate. At its core, the DAC is intended to serve as a forum where leaders from diversity-focused student groups, as well as all students interested in the subject, can come to discuss these topics. There are a lot of problems with scheduling and overprogramming, and the hope is that providing this venue will help these groups and students work together to schedule their events and to coprogram more, not just cosponsor (while not being forced to do this). People learn about people different from themselves not just by interacting with them, but by working with them.

    Also, many of these groups are interested in policy issues, and the DAC would serve to better connect them with Senate to see their recommendations put into action, on issues like racial profiling, absence from classes for religious holidays, socioeconomic diversity and much more.

    Thirdly, the DAC would help to coordinate diversity training efforts on campus. There’s a lot of groups that provide it but it’s hard to know where to go to get comprehensive training, but the DAC would help connect interested groups or bodies on campus with organizations like Safe Zones or WU/FUSED that do training in different areas.

    Over the next week and a half, we’re going to be reaching out to students to let them know what exactly the DAC would be and how it would benefit them. Send me an email at [email protected] if you have more questions and I’d be happy to answer them.

  • studentc

    I agree with “student”

    I also attended multiple DAC /connect four meetings. The majority of the people in attendance or in their movies were students that were already in Connect 4, Wu/Fused, or were Ervins. If this is supposed to be about diversity, were was Pride, Ashoka, CSA, JSU, and all other diverse groups. As far as I know, these groups dont care enough to make it a priority, so why add another layer of beaucracy in student union.

    ALSO… doesnt making something like this apart of student union essentially reducing the amount of power it can have in the first place? People don’t listen to institutions, people listen to OTHER PEOPLE they respect. Our schools is built off relationships, not systems or councils.

  • StudentB

    “Studlife reporters could do a better job covering this important decision.”

    Important decision? Well, probably, but I think the general consensus is that most people at WashU don’t really care about this stuff, so who’s to say that’s important if it’s not important to everyone else?

  • Student

    I agree with the above comment.

    As a student who attended one of the roundtables, I am still not sure exactly what the DAC is supposed to do or be.

    Is it Connect 4 reincarnated with official powers?

    I am glad that our treasury did not vote for something vague and I think the DAC can expect support when it explains its specific role.

  • Kate

    “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.”

    How does Cutz know what the constitutents want? From everything I’ve heard about this on campus (which has been minimal except for pressure to vote in favor if it) most people don’t firmly grasp what the proposal aims to do or how it would make issues related to diversity more streamlined and less bureaucratic. I think it’s the responsible thing to not vote for something if the implications of the vote aren’t clear

  • Dave Shapiro

    This doesn’t surprise me. As a former member, I am well aware that treasury is by far the most conservative institution on campus (indeed, perhaps even more so than Students for Liberty, or whatever they call themselves these days).
    While I personally believe that the diversity council should exist, and that treasury was wrong to deny their application, I can also imagine reasons why this occurred.
    Treasury members have a lot of power. They are in control of a lot of money. They do have to reject student group requests for money. The thing is, when groups (and proposed groups) appear before treasury, they often arrive unprepared. They expect to be funded, and indeed, ideally, they should all be funded. Each group that I heard during my treasury stint provided some service to at least some students on campus. There is no doubt in my mind that treasury has a ridiculously high standard for what it expects from students making proposals, and with good reason.
    I also feel, however, that Treasury members become so quickly entrenched in a mindset that is exclusive to treasury. The only solution is to have new members every year. Even I quickly became ready to veto any sort of funding I felt could have been more effectively spent elsewhere, and I originally considered myself to be quite liberal in my willingness to dish out money.
    That said, the problem is that there is a learning curve for treasury. Having new members going in and out just isn’t feasible. Therein lies the problem.
    Unlike the United States Supreme Court, however, treasury is an elected body. They are accountable to voters. Thus, I have no worries that this will not eventually pass.

    Studlife reporters could do a better job covering this important decision. You need to quote more treasury members. What was the meeting like? How could this happen? What was the proposed initiative in detail?

  • Posting anonymously so groups I’m part of won’t be defunded next year

    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.

    Seriously? This is basically the same as saying, “I could never be racist, I have a black friend!” How can Treasury possible approve each individual part of the DAC and then fail to pass the whole thing? It doesn’t make sense, and it’s the reason why so many students don’t participate in the enormous cluster f*ck that is Student Union. Want to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy? Eliminate Treasury.