Minority students and underrepresented groups on campus have a new advocate in Undergraduate Student Government at Ohio State.
The USG Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution to create a Diversity and Inclusion standing committee April 13. The new committee will focus exclusively on issues concerning minorities and underrepresented groups of the student body, according to the transcript of the resolution presented before the Senate.
Michael Mbagwu, a fourth-year in biomedical science and senator for allied medical professions, said he created the idea for a Diversity and Inclusion committee after the two senate seats reserved for diversity were eliminated last year.
“One of my campaign promises was to bring back the senate seats,” Mbagwu said. “We do need more people from different backgrounds.”
Mbagwu said his initial goal was to restore the two previous senate seats, but a resolution for a committee would have been more likely to pass through the senate. This committee will be the fifth standing senate committee, according to the USG website.
According to resolution 43-R-113, “A Resolution to Amend the Undergraduate Student Government Organizational By-Laws,” this new committee “shall seek out and advocate for issues pertaining to underrepresented students … with the intent of properly representing its diverse constituency.”
The Diversity and Inclusion standing committee is not solely for minority students.
Mbagwu said it’s also meant to advocate for students of all religions and sexual orientations, as well as those involved in the military. He said the purpose of the Diversity and Inclusion standing committee is to advocate for students who may not have the resources or connections to stand up for themselves.
“There’s no consistent way to handle problems pertaining to those populations,” Mbagwu said about USG’s current procedure for handling this type of issue.
The Committee on Diversity and Inclusion will also focus on all legislation involving OSU’s nondiscrimination policy, according to the resolution.
James DeFrance, a fourth-year in Middle Eastern studies and geography, is a South Campus senator for USG.
“We specifically say we’re going to look at diversity … every year until not needed,” DeFrance said.
DeFrance said the recent changes to the nondiscrimination policy showed the need for a committee to deal with diversity issues. This new policy will require student organizations to accept members regardless of factors that may not line up with their values, such as sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
The Lantern reported on the new nondiscrimination proposal April 13. The new resolution eliminated religious groups as an exception to the changed nondiscrimination policy.
“Students should know that any problems they have … USG is a venue that is made to deal with that problem,” DeFrance said. “There wasn’t a committee especially for that.”
DeFrance and Brett McFarland, a fourth-year in finance and chair of the Budget and Finance committee for USG, were two of 11 senators who co-sponsored the resolution.
“It’s time that we revisit the makeup of minority groups on campus,” McFarland said.
McFarland said a Diversity and Inclusion committee wasn’t a student request, but it will give senators a chance to reach out to student organizations.
The resolution passed with at least 30 votes in favor of the committee with one vote opposing the resolution and two abstentions.
Mbagwu said those who opposed this resolution worried that minorities would receive special treatment or extra votes in USG, but he said a committee would not allow for an imbalance.
McFarland said the opposition also worried diversity would be too narrow of a scope for a senate committee. He said people questioned whether the committee would have to redefine its role every year.
“The committee’s mission is to make this university the most open and accepting and comfortable place for every student that is here,” DeFrance said.