As the semester draws to a close, Binghamton University’s Student Association (SA) has made efforts to create a more inclusive environment on campus.
On Nov. 10, the SA approved the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee in a near-unanimous vote. The approved resolution mandates that the committee consist of at least seven members, including the vice president for multicultural affairs (VPMA). The DEI committee will send members to represent the SA in University committees and in Cultural President’s Council meetings, which are monthly meetings with the presidents of every cultural organization on campus. The committee aims to further diversity, equity and inclusion within both the campus community and the SA itself.
Jacob Eckhaus, SA vice president for finance, SUNY SA member and a senior majoring in accounting, authored the committee proposal and first introduced the concept to the SA in a meeting on Oct. 27. Inspired by his work in the SUNY SA, Eckhaus felt he could expand upon the groundwork laid by the SA’s already-present Student Life and Academics (SLA) Committee.
“Although the SA did have a diversity subcommittee in our SLA Committee, I thought it was important to formalize it as a standing committee, similar to how our Elections and Judiciary Committee functions,” Eckhaus wrote in an email. “By expanding it, my hope was to allow for more broad student representation — allowing each community to have a representative if they choose — and more official operations.”
The DEI Committee joins the Elections and Judiciary Committee as the only two standing committees within the SA. As a standing committee, the DEI Committee’s members were chosen by the SA Speaker of Congress, and the chair will be officially chosen by the first SA meeting of next semester.
While the committee has already found seven members, David Hatami, VPMA and a junior double-majoring in political science and business administration, is serving as its temporary chair. According to Hatami, the DEI Committee will, in addition to promoting inclusivity in campus groups, cater to the needs of students in residential communities.
“This committee will also allow for the SA to connect with greater issues and needs of students living in residential communities in regards to diversity,” Hatami wrote in an email. “This will be done through the channel of communication SA congress representatives have with their communities.”
While plans are still being developed, Hatami plans for the DEI committee to meet at least once every two weeks, aiming for a first meeting before Thanksgiving. Until a permanent chair is chosen, Hatami views his position as important to determining the future of the committee.
“Come next semester, the SA will be searching for a permanent chair to lead the committee into the future,” Hatami wrote. “As VPMA, it is my goal as of now to guide the first steps of this committee so that members will be fully prepared to create programs and tackle issues relating to inclusion on campus and within the SA.”
Among the committee’s current members is Catharine Carfagno, an undeclared freshman. Carfagno first heard of the committee following the Oct. 27 SA meeting and quickly became interested.
“I was motivated to join the committee because I have always been passionate about creating inclusive environments and bettering our community in a way that promotes equality and respect,” Carfagno wrote in an email.
While some of the committee’s concrete plans have yet to be established, Carfagno views the committee as a force for change within the BU community.
“In the committee, I personally hope to become more aware of issues on our campus that are not equitable and inclusive and work together to change these systems,” Carfagno wrote.
According to Eckhaus, many aspects of the committee were left intentionally vague in order to allow its members to guide its future — a future he also hopes can bring positive change.
“I really want the representatives to make this committee whatever they think is needed,” Eckhaus wrote. “My hope would be that it has become a body for significant change, both within the SA and within our University.”