SA diversity and inclusion assembly to start meeting this semester

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Student Association Sen. Jabari Link, Law-G serves as chairman for the SA's diversity and inclusion assembly.

Student Association leaders are taking the first steps to shape the SA’s diversity and inclusion assembly.

The SA released an application Tuesday recruiting students to join the assembly – a first-of-its-kind group that will include multicultural student leaders and SA senators to voice concerns about campus-wide diversity issues. Senators involved in the assembly said the group will lay the foundation for a more inclusive SA and can proactively work to prevent racist incidents from happening on campus.

Ojani Walthrust, the executive vice president of the SA, said that members of the assembly will be “tasked with advocating for concerns and needs of multicultural demographics” through discussions with multicultural student groups. The application for the group – which will start meeting this semester – closes Sept. 20 and will be advertised through word of mouth, Walthrust said.

Members of the assembly will compile a report at the end of the academic year detailing policy changes and recommendations to officials about how to create a more inclusive campus, he said.

The SA bylaws currently require that at least five student leaders outside of the SA join the group. Currently, one student leader sits on the assembly alongside 11 SA senators, Walthrust said.

SA Senators are nominated for the assembly by the group’s chairman, Sen. Jabari Link, Law-G, and Sen. Anisha Hindocha, Law-G and senate pro-tempore. The nominees are then approved by a senate majority, according to the assembly’s bylaws.

“The more diverse opinions that there are, the more constructive the dialogue would be,” Walthrust said. “I think this committee would be a success.”

Imani Ross, a senior and former SA senator, originally proposed and wrote the legislation for the assembly, which was approved by the SA Senate in April.

Ross said she has been thinking about establishing a diversity and inclusion assembly since her freshman year. She said the assembly is necessary at GW because “we cannot uphold our mission of being inclusive if we do not do the necessary work to make students feel safe.”

“I do not feel that is wrong to prioritize certain groups of students if it means the overall well-being of the entire student body,” Ross said in an email. “White students have been prioritized and protected since the conception of The George Washington University.”

Members of the assembly said they hope to work with Program Board, the Multicultural Student Services Center and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement to plan inclusion-focused events, like the diversity summit in February.

Reed Elman, the head of Program Board and a senior adviser to the SA, said that two new members of Program Board – a director and assistant director of staff, diversity and inclusion – will serve as a liaison between the assembly and Program Board.

“The goal of that collaboration is the same as the assembly promoting diversity and inclusion on campus,” Elman said in an email. “Our participation in this assembly represents Program Board’s recommitment to the values of diversity and inclusion on campus.”

Link, the assembly chairman, said the purpose of the assembly is for the SA to show its “re-commitment to inclusion on campus” after a racist incident caused a firestorm on campus last year.

Link said he plans to run the meetings with an “open-door policy,” and students who are not a part of the assembly will be encouraged to attend meetings – which will be held in the Marvin Center, according to the bylaws. Members of the assembly are still developing ideas about how to promote the open meetings to students, he said.

“Those are kind of our two main things – getting our message out there and working to incorporate ourselves into the larger GW structure to make sure that we’re integrated and helping the people that we need to reach,” Link said.

Sen. George Glass, U-at-Large and a member of the assembly, said he joined the group because he was “upset” when the senate failed to censure a senator accused of anti-Semitism last year. He pointed to hashtags posted on social media that read “#FuckTheSA” and “#AbolishTheSA” after the hearing.

“That’s what the assembly is for, showing that the SA is going to do more in terms of diversity and inclusion on campus,” Glass said.

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