The Student Association has completed revisions to their constitution, and the elimination of a change to the position of Vice President for Multicultural Affairs has us wondering if the SA missed an opportunity to improve the resources available to several underrepresented minority groups on campus.
In the past, the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs has primarily been responsible for dealing with SA-chartered cultural groups on campus and promoting diversity and inclusion on behalf of those groups.
Two proposed changes to the Constitution were expanding the role of the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs to include other minority groups, most importantly students with disabilities and LGBT students, and changing the title to Vice President for Diversity and Inclusiveness, which accounts for the new groups being represented.
In the final draft of the Constitution, the expansion of the role is still in place. However, the title remains.
The rationale behind discarding the revision is that there is name recognition with the VPMA — students are familiar with the SA E-Board as it is, and the change would cause confusion. But with such an expansion in representation, wouldn’t changing the name let students know that it is, in fact, something different?
While we do have Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), an SA representative in charge of communicating with students with disabilities is valuable in giving a voice to those students in the context of a student assembly, which is not provided by the SSD office. Student-to-student interaction and advocacy goes a lot further than just providing accommodations, and a lot can be accomplished when students are given the opportunity to speak up.
It’s a huge step forward that LGBT students and students with disabilities now have formal representation in the SA, and more comprehensive promotion of diversity and inclusion will benefit a large population of students who want their voices heard. But if the SA is going to follow through with the proposed role expansion, then they should make sure the students it affects know about it. Inclusion is hardly inclusive when students are kept in the dark about opportunities available to them.
Multicultural affairs implies a much more limited scope than diversity and inclusiveness; a student with a disability, or an LGBT student, may not automatically assume that he or she would be factored into this category. If the SA is really serious about accounting for this new constituency, and about continuing their improved transparency and communication, then changing the title would make a difference.
With much-needed condensing and minimal substantive changes to constitution, we’re pleased with the final draft. We just hope that the SA will take the necessary steps to ensure that future students in the newly represented minority groups know that someone is advocating for them.