Undergraduate Student Government aims to break new ground as it seeks to fill an LGBT+ emissary seat in the organization’s General Assembly for the first time.
An emissary seat serves on the General Assembly to better represent a group the body feels is underrepresented in the current administration and is part of an effort by USG to make students feel like their voices and issues are heard and appropriately addressed, said USG representative Cade Santha.
He added that although having this seat is unprecedented, this administration thought it was best to include as many opinions and voices to represent the student body.
“With 52,000 students it’s hard to do that with a room of 40 people if we’re not diverse and inclusive within our own chamber when it comes to introducing legislation or recommending changes for the university,” Santha said.
Santha, who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, moved to have the seat in the General Assembly during elections this fall. His motion was approved unanimously. He said students who apply for the position by Nov. 11 can expect to have the same speaking and voting rights as any other member of the chamber.
Santha said part of his inspiration came from Ohio State being announced as one of the top universities for the LGBTQ population. He said 15 percent of students on campus identify as not heterosexual.
“That’s 15 percent of students on campus that might not be getting heard enough and we’re only really pertaining to 85 percent,” Santha said. “85 percent is not good enough for me. We want to go for 100 percent, so adding that new voice is very important.”
Although he said he can’t speak for the entire chamber, Santha said one of the biggest qualities he is looking for in for a candidate is someone who has a different perspective and experience in the LGBTQ community than him.
“I don’t want someone that looks or thinks like me. I want someone that’s going to come in and really challenge us and bring something new to the table,” he said. “I’m really hoping that as a chamber, we develop more, open our ways of thinking and start to include different areas of people that aren’t represented and finding those communities that need the extra representation and doing what we can to serve them as well.”
USG Vice President Shawn Semmler said that because the position is an emissary seat, it will expire at the end of the current administration, but future administrations may chose to add the LGBT+ emissary seat again. Semmler said the emissary seat is a step toward achieving the administration’s goal of making USG more inclusive.
“I think it’s always a good thing to include more underrepresented voices at the table and that’s something we try to do all the time in USG,” Semmler said. “That’s why we try to continually uplift all different kinds of student voices.”
General assembly positions, Santha said, are not limited to members of USG. They can be filled by anyone at Ohio State who they feel would fit the role appropriately. Santha said that whether the candidate fully backs USG is not necessary, and he encourages anyone who considers applying for the position to get involved because their voice matters at the university.