The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) announced last Tuesday, Sept. 25, that it was forming a new subcommittee of the Community Outreach Committee (COCo) called the Committee for Inclusion and Diversity (CID). This committee, which will begin meeting in early October, is slated to work to facilitate discussions about diversity issues at the University through both outreach and organized events.
“[We want] to import consistency into discussions of inclusion and difference on campus,” said WSA Representative and CID Chair Christian Hosam ’15. “Because I think racial discussion, class discussion, gender discussion, sexuality discussion, and anything else…all of those discussions should be happening for everyone on some level. So I think providing a context for it every year or semester is really the biggest part of this committee.”
Members of the WSA and other students involved with diversity issues began discussing the formation of such a committee toward the end of the Spring 2012 semester. Some members of the WSA stated that they wanted to have a better response to controversial issues surroundings topics such as race and ethnicity than they had in the past. Last April, for instance, an incident occurred during the traditional spring festival of colors, Holi, at which time flyers were posted that read “NO COLORED PEOPLE ALLOWED IN USDAN,” in reference to the colored powder that participants throw at each other during the festival. Another discussion about race occurred in the fall of 2010, when the Cardinal Conservatives held an anti-affirmative action bake sale in which baked goods were priced differently for various ethnicities.
“The WSA seemed to lack any structure to deal with issues of diversity and inclusion,” said COCo Chair Syed Ali ’13. “So with incidents such as the one last year with the flyer in Usdan, it was really evident. We have committees on everything from dining options to need-blind…but diversity seemed like a big one to miss out on.”
Hosam echoed the need for a WSA committee that focuses on such issues.
“There was a big discussion on Holi and on the affirmative action bake sale,” Ali said. “These can be productive, but after that discussion takes place it kind of peters out, without there being something to follow up on. There’s kind of an undercurrent of all the ‘-isms’ which are present here, but people don’t have a formal place to have a consistent dialogue about this and that is what this committee would hopefully bring.”
The CID will consist of two WSA representatives and three non-WSA representatives. Though the three non-WSA members have not yet been chosen, Ali did mention that WSA Representative Alton Wang ’16 would be a part of the CID.
“It would [consist of] students who have a commitment to diversity and social justice on this campus,” Hosam said. “They have [to have] a passion and a care for making sure that everyone’s voice is included.”
According to Hosam, the CID would primarily focus on outreach, specifically to the more marginalized groups on campus. He believes this outreach would allow the concerns of more groups on campus to be heard. He also hopes to use the CID as a vehicle for greater interaction between such groups on campus.
“Hopefully this committee is going to coordinate a lot of dialogue between groups that would not have talked previously,” Hosam said. “Kind of like a catalyst that [should] have been there [before].”
The CID would also work on organizing initiatives both on its own and through partnership with people such as Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief of Diversity Sonia Mañjon and Dean of Diversity and Student Engagement Renee Johnson-Thornton. Hosam speculated that such initiatives might include both discussions and events about diversity and inclusion. One idea he suggested was to have a diversity event during freshman orientation, similar to the BiLeGaTAs discussions.
“There’s no big campus-wide event every year that focuses on understanding difference on campus concerning race, gender, or sexuality, [which I’d like to see],” Hosam said.
Given its recent formation, the future of the CID and its effect on both students and the University as a whole remain unknown. Yet both Hosam and Ali were certain that the University needed an organization like the CID.
“There are definitely issues to deal with,” Ali said. “Even though we have a more diverse campus than others, in many ways, it’s still not perfect.”