Engineering group to fund South Asian Heritage Celebration speaker

Jennifer Bryan, the director of diversity and inclusion in the Student Association, said students have to be more aware of diversity when it comes to funding events. Anne McBride | Hatchet Photographer
Jennifer Bryan, the director of diversity and inclusion in the Student Association, said students have to be more aware of diversity when it comes to funding events. Anne McBride | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Feb. 23, at 1:57 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writers Crystel Sylvester, James Levinson and Sera Royal.

The American Society of Civil Engineers will cover the cost of a keynote speaker for the South Asian Heritage Celebration after students protested comments made during a finance committee about the event.

The Student Association voted to allocate $27,387 to the engineering group after two hours of debate, and members of the engineering organization said they would donate $18,000 of that allotment to the South Asian Heritage Celebration.

Organizers of the South Asian Heritage Celebration had initially requested $21,000 for Hasan Minhaj, a comedian and correspondent on the “The Daily Show,” to speak at their keynote event next month. The finance committee twice declined to fund the keynote.

About three dozen students, many of whom were affiliated with South Asian student organizations spoke during the meeting’s public comment, calling for a public apology from the finance committee after members of the committee made inappropriate and insensitive remarks during the debate on the South Asian celebration funding.

Sen. Paden Gallagher, SoB-U and the chair of the finance committee, later apologized on behalf of the finance committee. He also asked that if the senate decides to censure the finance committee, which Sen. Nick Watkins, CCAS-U, proposed, the senate should only censure him and not the entire group.

Aisha Iqbal, the vice president of the Pakistani Students Association, repeated the comments members of the finance committee made during the meetings, including telling organizers of the South Asian Heritage Celebration that they “do not know what they’re doing it” and “they’re holding us hostage.” She did not mention the members of the committee who made the comments by name.

SA President Andie Dowd said she reached out to Michael Tapscott, the director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, to arrange diversity and inclusion training for the senate.

“I apologize to the community and demand that the finance committee publicly apologize,” she said, minutes before Gallagher’s apology.

Some students in public comment said the finance committee unfairly compared the heritage celebration months of other multicultural groups, like this month’s Black Heritage Celebration.

Jennifer Bryan, the director of diversity and inclusion on the SA executive cabinet, said students should aim to not just tolerate members of minority, but accept and understand them.

“This is a global hub for international affairs and diversity, which means we should have heritage celebration. We shouldn’t push anyone down or give preference to one or the other,” she said. “It’s an embarrassment for GW.”

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