Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
Committee for Diversity and Inclusion(CDI) will be a new movement at WKU to celebrate the diversity of our student body and empower all Hilltoppers, especially those who often go unheard, to make this campus their own. SGA can make sure that — no matter who you are or where you come from — the Hill is a place where you know that your voice truly matters. The impetus for CDI stems from the disconnect between the demographic composition of SGA and the diverse makeup of our campus. While this does not automatically inhibit our ability to represent these students, we often do not realize what grievances or concerns they have. Across the boundaries of gender, race, nationality, and sexual orientation, we all experience life differently and therefore have different concerns and needs. It is the mission of SGA to fully represent all students and we cannot achieve that when the perspectives of some students are left out. Our organization and governance is only as strong as our representation, and SGA can do better at ensuring that underrepresented and marginalized students feel welcome at WKU.
CDI has four major components that we hope will be pursued and implemented throughout the year to maximize student interest in SGA and increase our legitimacy as the official voice of the WKU student body:
1. Encourage Underrepresented Students to Come to Our Weekly Meetings
By simply extending an invitation to multiple student groups on campus and speaking at the organizational meetings of various student groups, we can build a more diverse presence at our weekly meetings. We already have the Student Speakers portion of the Senate agenda reserved for any WKU student who wishes to speak about an issue regarding the university, but visitation to other groups’ meetings and distributing useful information and promotional literature has the capacity to generate a great deal of interest in our institution. Part of this outreach will consist of encouraging students from minority populations to become engaged in the work of SGA and potentially even run for office. The representation of minorities is negligible, and given the diversity of our student body, that is unacceptable. We must generate more interest in students who would love to have a voice in university governance on the student level.
2. Place Special Emphasis on International Students
International students studying at WKU form a distinct community at WKU and differ from other minority groups in several ways. They are citizens of a foreign country, often speak little English, and generally associate with one another in their own tight-knit circles. While these close bonds with fellow international students are vital, there is also more we can to socially integrate these students into the broader WKU community. Not only will this serve to make international students feel more welcome at our university, but it will also provide unique cultural experiences for U.S.-born WKU students. Ideally, a course called “Friends Without Borders” will be established at some point in the near future that will consist of U.S.-born and international students alike signing up to be paired with a friend from the other group. Any U.S.-born student who wants to earn course credit and befriend an international student will be encouraged to complete the application. Based on individual interests and personality characteristics, U.S.-born and international students will be matched into pairs. These pairs will be part of larger groups that will gather for course-wide activities and events. The intent of this program is to create a social and cultural exchange between a U.S.-born student and an international student and to create experiences that will serve as valuable lessons for each individual. Both students will keep a journal recording their experiences over the course of the semester to receive credit. WKU SGA will push strongly for the adoption of such a course. If this does not become a course, we can work with the International Student Center and Diversity Enhancement Committee to implement a similar, less-official program.
3. Hold Special Forums Outside of Our Weekly Senate Meetings
The Senate will continue to meet every Tuesday at 5 PM. In addition to these meetings, voluntary participation in special forums will be a unique opportunity for students. While different organizations and offices on campus have special seminars for students to attend, this will be SGA’s way of holding deliberative and useful discussions every month on issues relevant to college campuses across the U.S. For example, if our monthly seminar was concerning sexual assault on college campuses, we could establish a panel of professors, our campus Title IX Coordinator, counselors and activists from the university and the community, and possibly students who want to share their stories, and hold a meaningful, open dialogue on how to best move forward as a university to tackle this difficult issue. Other potential topics range from LGBTQIA resources, racial relations on campus, drug use among students, campus safety, potential ramifications of social media, and college affordability.
4. Establish an Official Task Force
In order to best disseminate information from SGA to the groups we wish to further incorporate into SGA, the official CDI task force will be comprised of student leaders from various backgrounds. There will be no official election procedures or Bylaws for this component, but instead will be our main route of communication between SGA and various groups and organizations on campus. The current Cultural & Diversity Affairs Committee will become the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. To be clear as to why the task force is necessary, our organization represents all WKU students, present and future. While we do not necessarily represent all students’ ideologies, we do represent all cultures and ethnicities and are entrusted with respecting them. Thus, it is only logical to be an organization that encourages international student/minority student participation at WKU sporting events, WKU events in general, and success within the classroom. We must serve as the official forum for students to voice their opinion on what they would like to see happen at our university. Through the official CDI task force, we can do just that for these students and be the ultimate organization on campus for campus inclusion efforts.
If you would like to be a part of this initiative and serve on the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, please come to our Student Senate meetings every Tuesday at 5 PM on the 2nd floor of the Downing Student Union.