The Student Association’s diversity and inclusion assembly is trying to give nearly every minority group an opportunity to air concerns throughout the academic year.
Members of the diversity and inclusion assembly will hold the group’s first town hall Thursday in the Multicultural Student Services Center, where Latino students will be able to discuss the issues they face on campus. The town hall is the first of a series of 10 events the assembly plans to hold throughout the academic year to ensure members of the assembly are garnering input from a wide array of students, SA leaders said.
The roughly 30-member assembly plans to host about two town halls each month, each focused on a different marginalized community. The group will host a session for students with disabilities next month, the black community in February and the LGBTQ community in April, SA leaders said.
Members of the assembly are promoting the town halls online through a Facebook event. As of Wednesday, 11 students indicated they would attend the town hall for Latino students and 11 said they were interested.
Sen. AJ Link, Law-G and the chair of the diversity and inclusion assembly, said the upcoming town hall is “an open forum for students to discuss any issues they have on campus,” and will inform the SA about how student leaders can address issues relevant to different minority groups.
“The assembly is young and finding its way,” he said. “We have so much potential and so much opportunity to do good work on campus. We have a real genuine opportunity to make a difference for people if we do our jobs right.”
During the town hall, members of the assembly will ask questions to attendees about when they first felt included on campus and how they cope with stress.
Link said the town halls will be run entirely by members of the assembly, with no administrators or faculty members present – something he said will make students feel more comfortable speaking up about their concerns because discussions would be facilitated by peers.
“Hopefully, in a couple years, we’ll get around to every marginalized community on campus,” Link said.
Sen. George Glass, U-At-Large and a member of the assembly, said he wants to build trust and community by reaching out to minority student organizations and attending their events instead of waiting for minority students to come to SA meetings.
“In the past, the SA has been deemed too snobby or too elite sometimes,” Glass said. “Students might not feel that they can come forward to the SA with their problems.”
Glass said that if students see the SA is willing to reach out, they might be more likely to attend SA meetings to voice problems they see on campus.
“The upcoming town halls will bridge the SA and minority communities on campus by showing those communities that the SA is willing to make an effort to go to them and open up important dialogue about specific issues pertaining to each minority community,” Glass said.
Madalena Monnier-Reyna, the vice president of the GW League of United Latin American Citizens and the assembly’s Latino representative, said the town halls are a step toward establishing a sense of understanding between members of the SA and the GW community. In the Latino community, she said students often deal with microaggressions and a lack of support from administrators.
She said the purpose of the town hall is to allow the SA to understand exactly what issues minority students face without preconceptions. Members of the SA often “come from a place of privilege” and don’t fully grasp different issues relevant to her community, she said.
“Students are not super into being vocal about issues like this that are really personal to them,” Monnier-Reyna said. “It’s on us as community members to step up and be a part of this.”