After students brought a call to action to the General Assembly meeting Feb. 4, Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government gathered in Hale Hall Tuesday to present its initial action plan regarding diversity and inclusion.

The Feb. 4 meeting allowed more than 50 speakers to voice concerns for five-and-a-half hours regarding USG’s failure to recognize Black History Month and advocate for an emergency resolution to be passed to show USG’s dedication to being more diverse and inclusive in the future.

The Resolution to Acknowledge Black History Month calls for the annual recognition of Black History Month in USG, an effort to diversify the senior staff and recognition of African Americans and other minority groups’ celebratory months into its systems and practices.

Throughout the past week, senior staff put together a first draft that emphasized internal accountability, community relationships and institutional advocacy as ways to make Ohio State more diverse and inclusive. They allowed all feedback at the public meeting attended by about 30 people. 

USG will work with university leaders to create internal accountability, Maggie Ash, USG chief of staff and a fourth-year in English, said.

“We do intend to work with our advisers, with Student Life, to kind of implement some sort of an actual accountability measure, so whether this is conversations that we need to have, whether that eventually would lead to dismissal from the org[anization] and every step in between that, that is something we are taking very seriously,” Ash said. 

 Sri Vidya Uppalapati, fourth-year in material science engineering and public policy and Undergraduate Student Government senior director of operations, faciliates a discussion on USG’s proposed action plan to increase diversity and inclusion initiatives Feb. 11. Credit: Akayla Gardner | Lantern TV News Director

USG will also look to be more inclusive in GA, and Ash said the addition of the Black Caucus is something the organization feels is important and looks to include representation to senior staff positions.

Sri Vidya Uppalapati, USG’s director of operations and a fourth-year in public policy analysis, said USG recognizes the importance of having ethnic diversity on various committees. 

 “We could see the lack of diversity, and we could feel it,” Uppalapati said.  “We recognize that there are many types of diversity, and we’re also appreciative of having on our team, but the one that we also were able to pinpoint was related to racial and ethnic diversity on our entire collaborative leadership, so that’s senior staff, the directors of the Issues Committee, vice chairs of the Undergraduate Caucus and General Assembly leadership, as well as chief justice.”

USG is also aiming to create a universitywide definition of diversity and inclusion, Julia Dennen, USG vice president and a fourth-year in public management, leadership and policy, said. 

“This is a really big problem. There is no consistency, and it makes it harder to create something that is up to standard,” Dennen said.

Dennen said USG will work with Melissa Shivers, vice president of student life, closely on this issue.  

“Dr. Shivers — Melissa who’s right there with us — she was an integral part in creating this at the University of Iowa, so we’re really excited to be able to work together with her to create something for Ohio State that will help move us in a hopefully really good path forward,” she said.