Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government President Andrew Jackson attended a collegiate diversity summit this past weekend alongside 19 other student leaders from across the country.
Shoah Foundation held its inaugural Intercollegiate Diversity Congress Summit invited the students to participate in a dialogue which explored resources on campus that could create more inclusive atmosphere.
Jackson, a fourth-year in Spanish and political science, was the only Ohio State representative at the conference. He said the issue of diversity on campus is close to his heart, and prior to the forum, he told The Lantern he looked forward to learning about best practices other universities use.
The conference focused on educating student leaders. The Shoah foundation was created by Steven Spielberg in 1994 after he filmed the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” when he heard firsthand accounts from Holocaust survivors.
“We developed the (collegiate programs) as an opportunity to share our toolkit of resources with student leaders looking to affect change on their campus and promote diversity and inclusion,” said Sara Brown, a teaching fellow at the foundation who coordinated the conference.
Brown said these programs allow campuses to combat oppressive actions, specifically following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 which led to the death of a counter protester.
“Although the IDC Summit had already been planned, the Charlottesville tragedy underscores the urgency of empowering student leaders who are in a position to make a wide, positive impact,” Brown said.
Brown said students were able to meet in groups to share best practices and address common diversity issues across campuses.
Jackson and USG Vice President Sophie Chang, a fourth-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, have backgrounds in diversity-focused projects in USG prior to and during their administration.
As members of the diversity and inclusion committee during their sophomore year, the pair were involved in the EndHateOSU initiative, which was created by Jackson with Chang’s help. The initiative challenged stereotypes and focused on awareness through various video campaigns and inclusion events.
Some of their work this year includes advocating for diversity in enrollment and providing preferred pronouns on USG members’ nametags. Jackson said Ohio State is doing a better job of providing gender-neutral bathrooms around campus, but said he hopes to see more improvements through the year.
Once he returned to Columbus on Sunday, Jackson said he is looking forward to using what he learned from this conference to advocate for policies through Ohio State students’ testimonies, one of them being a safe space on campus.
“I think a ‘safe space’ for students to go in and discuss their issues is very different than having a free speech zone,” Jackson said. “There are no free-speech zones on Ohio State’s campus because everywhere you go is a free-speech zone.”
Although this practice has yet to be assigned to any specific USG project, Jackson said he will meet with the diversity and inclusion committee in the near future to begin discussions.