Black students at Ohio State packed the Senate Chamber in the Ohio Union by 6 p.m. and four overflow rooms half an hour later for the Undergraduate Student Government’s General Assembly meeting Wednesday in support of a resolution that demands that Black History Month be recognized by USG.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee called for an emergency resolution due to outrage stemming from USG’s failure to recognize Black History Month and its black members in general. The committee also sent a letter to senior staff expressing its concern.
The resolution, which was introduced by Sen. Amanya Paige, was passed 34-0 just before midnight after five-and-a-half hours of open public forum.
More than 50 individuals spoke during the public forum, advocating for USG to better represent black students at Ohio State, with many speakers citing the fact that no African Americans hold leadership positions in the organization.
“USG, we demand you to do better,” Attiyya Toure, a fourth-year in journalism and public management, leadership and policy, said. “As our representatives, it is your duty to respond to these claims and not only make change, but make it now by prioritizing the claims made in this resolution.”
According to the letter, Tuesday evening at Cabinet — USG’s weekly organization meeting — a USG member expressed concern regarding a lack of acknowledgment of Black History Month during the meeting in the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center.
“After bringing their concerns to the attention of a senior staff person the member was told that ‘it was not in their systems or processes’ to recognize all of the cultural months that the Multicultural Center does,” the letter states.
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.
“For three years, I have heard USG claim to represent all students, but I haven’t seen USG represent nor reflect the diversity we claim to have,” Destiny Brown, a third-year in political science and member of USG, said.
In the letter, nine action items were presented on behalf of the committee that demand change from USG’s leaders.
The committee asked USG to publicly apologize to the entire black community; formally recognize Black History Month from this year on; recognize the historical importance of Ohio State’s land with relation to African American history; offer more transparency in the USG application process; create an established avenue to have consistent representation of African Americans in the organization; not limit student voices both inside and out of the organization; collaborate more with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee; increase collaboration among USG, black student organizations and the Multicultural Center; and create more opportunities for students to voice their concerns with USG.
“These action items present ways in which the Collaborative Leadership Team of the Undergraduate Student Government and the Organization as a whole can begin to address the needs of Black students,” Sen. Ose Arheghan read from the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s letter at GA.
The meeting was stopped on multiple occasions to address senators who were not paying attention to each speech given during the public forum. Sen. Michael Kohler was dismissed by Speaker Cade Santha during the meeting for failure to adhere to the request.
“I thought I made myself clear earlier to the senators, but at this point I have no choice, but to dismiss Michael Kohler from the chamber in this session,” Santha said.
Kaitlyn Jones, a fourth-year in nursing, said the appearance of diversity is not reflective of inclusion on Ohio State’s campus.
“I think that the university constantly makes an effort to sit there and say, ‘Let’s make this picture look nice, but let’s not deal with the actual picture,’” Jones said.
Arheghan yielded their time toward the end of the assembly to USG President Kate Greer, requesting her comment on what would be done in the next six days prior to Cabinet. Arheghan also said that if no progress is made in the next six days, there will be similar disruption at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
“What I would specifically like to know before I yield my time to President Kate Greer is what in the next six days are y’all going to do? Because if nothing happens, we are going to show up and take over Cabinet,” Arheghan said.
Greer said USG has the responsibility to act on the requests made by the speakers.
“We owe you everything that you called for today, and here are some specific things: elevated programming, entering the spaces and events that you would like us in, true inclusion in spaces beyond diversity summits, advocating to the university on your behalf for more black programming and continuing to empower younger leaders in our organization that called for it tonight,” Greer said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the resolution passed unanimously. It has since been updated to accurately reflect the vote.