At the Sep. 18 Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, it was announced the Senate was working on developing two new chairs: a Multicultural chair and a LGBTQIA+ chair.
The idea for the two new chairs started over the summer during SGA President Samantha Giffen’s internship at Williams College. In her research, Giffen noticed Williams, along with many other colleges, had “diversity” chairs in their student governments.
Originally an idea to implement a diversity chair, the two new chairs would be the equivalent of other senate seats, such as the Athlete Chair and the Commuter Chair, representing those communities.
Giffen began drafting the idea over the summer, reaching out to administration such as Director of Student Development Celia Norcross, Assistant Director of Student Activities and ALANA Coordinator Michael Obasohan and Coordinator of Women’s Center and Identity & Gender Equality (IGE) Resource Center Amanda Beckwith. In addition, Giffen contacted student organizations, specifically the Queer Student Union (QSU) and different African, Latino, Asian, Native American (ALANA) organizations, for feedback.
This semester, Giffen and the SGA E-Board plan on meeting with various student groups and gathering as much student input as possible. If the plan is well-received and the Senate decides to go forward with the idea, an amendment would then need to be made to that part of the constitution.
“If you just take a sample of 20 random students, that’s not going to be representative of the community. We need these specific voices if there’s going to be any progress at all,” Victoria Rodriguez, Vice President of QSU, said. “I went to many SGA meetings last year because I thought our voices need to be heard, but, not everyone feels comfortable coming. There needs to be somebody comfortable in that position to speak out.”
Falyn Elhard, Co-President of QSU, was initially skeptical of the proposal. However, they have reported that Giffen has been responding “very well” to their concerns.
“We went back and forth with her a lot, bringing up our concerns. One thing that I appreciated was that they seemed like they ultimately wanted to do things right,” Elhard said.
Over the summer, in addition to drafting the idea for the two new chairs: Giffen, Parliamentarian Jacob Vitali and the rest of the SGA E-Board re-drafted the Constitution, making several significant changes.
“We were looking for ways to make the Constitution more inclusive, transparent, make sure things were accountable,” Giffen said. “One of our biggest focuses was on how SGA can be more inclusive, diverse and representative of the body. . .because, it’s been told historically that we haven’t been representative of the student body.
“The position is just one of the many things that we’re trying to do to address it,” she added.
In addition to the two new chairs, Giffen and SGA PR Chair Nick Bassett reported that the Senate is using social media and other strategies to make SGA more accessible to all students.
According to Bassett, SGA hopes to eventually offer live streams of SGA meetings on Facebook. In addition, “Senator Spotlights,” profiles of students senators will be posted on the SGA Facebook page in an effort to connect SGA to the rest of the student body.
“We want to try to find a way to make meetings have as much student input as possible and get as much student input as possible,” Bassett said.
An open forum for all MCLA students will also be offered at the SGA meeting on Oct. 30.
“Just over 20 percent of students here are students of color,” Elhard said. “Not only do we want to encourage more diverse voices to come here, but we want them to stay here, to feel comfortable here.”