The Community Outreach Committee (COCo) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) held a Student Group Leader Summit on Feb. 2. Leaders from various student groups assembled to discuss their goals for the spring semester, to learn about new tools available to them, and to inform COCo about the difficulties that they face.
“Our two main goals were to disseminate information on resources, especially those that people might not be familiar with,” said COCo Chair Syed Ali ’13. “Our second goal, which is just as important, was to increase student group collaboration.”
Ali commented that because Wesleyan is one of the schools with the highest student group-to-student ratio in its peer group there was much that could be done to increase collaboration and to celebrate diversity.
“As a campus, we are often together but divided,” Ali said. “One of our goals is to get a more unified, cohesive school spirit.”
The event began with a brief introduction from members of COCo, the Student Budget Committee (SBC), and the rest of the WSA. Later, students were divided into groups based on a numbered card that they received upon entrance to the Woodhead Lounge.
In these small-group discussions, members of COCo and student leaders exchanged ideas for increasing collaboration between the groups. Among the event’s main goals were furthering communication between different student groups and raising awareness of the diversity of student interests on campus.
Students were then divided into sections according to their student group categories. In these groups, they met with their specific liaisons. This provided an opportunity for category-specific concerns to be addressed.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is to assess student group concerns more effectively and to try to adjust them one by one,” Ali said. “We want more feedback from student groups.”
Many students suggested that a directory be created allowing for group leaders to contact one another. Some commented that events like the Student Group Leader Summit were helpful tools for connecting with other campus leaders.
“This event was great,” representative from Democracy Matters and Mental Illness and Neurological Disorders Foundation-India (MINDS) Alicia Gansley ’15 said. “I thought it was a great networking tool for us to use as group leaders. I’m happy to be able to meet with other political and health activists on campus.”
Representative for Peer Health Advocates Carolyn Tusa ’14 was also happy to see that the WSA was increasing its communication with student groups.
“I think that this is a really good initiative that WSA is putting forward,” Tusa said. “I am a junior and this sort of stuff hasn’t existed until this year, so I think it is a step in the right direction, to strive to more fully use the WSA’s potential to connect to all the student groups.”
The organizers felt similar enthusiasm about the summit.
“I think the major way they benefited was just seeing each other,” Chair of Committee for Inclusion and Diversity (CID) Christian Hosam ’15 said. “I think that it is so much easier to develop collaborations once you know who is doing something else. I think, if anything else, just the ability to see what another [leader] was doing was great.”
After the small group discussions, different subcommittees of COCo and the SBC made presentations for all of the groups informing them of the tools available to them in their transactions with the WSA and explaining how they can more effectively request funding from the SBC.
They also introduced some of the new projects that the COCo is developing to increase unity between the groups as a form of battling issues of separation, including the Allyship campaign, which will debut during the Student Group Fair.
“The Allyship campaign is basically focused around fostering allyship and the idea of allyship on campus and raising awareness,” Alton Wang ’16 said. “What we’ve seen is that people know what allyship is, but it’s limited to certain groups. We really want to expand that a lot more, and give the ideas to all students that they can be allies to each other.”
Another tentative initiative is for a multicultural show organized by the Spirit and Events Committee (SEC).
“The multicultural show was thought about at the end of last semester in response to a lot of the diversity issues on campus,” Hosam said. “There was a thought that student groups could come together and do something they’re really passionate about in a multicultural fashion to raise awareness not only implicitly, but explicitly as well, in terms of inclusion, diversity, discrimination, but also celebration.”
At the end of the day, Ali reflected that he hopes to see more student groups collaborating and helping one another.
“I just hope that people don’t just end now, and [that they] actually reach out to the people they met today,” Ali said. “I learned new things, and I hope everyone else did as well.”