A Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) resolution to institutionalize the Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) as a standing committee was passed unanimously by the WSA with zero abstaining votes on Sunday, Sep. 20. The EIC will be chaired by the resolution’s primary sponsor, WSA senator Ariana Baez ’22 and will consist of four other senators: Anthony Lulgjuraj ’24, Elena Brennan ’24, Cypress Hubbard-Salk ’24, and Daëlle Coriolan ’24.
Previously, the EIC was considered a WSA subcommittee, and because its senators were also members of other standing committees, the EIC was not their primary responsibility. As such, the EIC’s objectives were often inconsistent, and subcommittee members rotated frequently due to the senators’ other WSA responsibilities, according to WSA President Felicia Soderberg ’21.
“Institutionalizing the Equity and Inclusion Committee (EIC) as a standing committee is of utmost importance because its effectiveness as a subcommittee was severely limited because its members’ primary responsibility was to their main standing committee,” the resolution reads.
With the passage of the resolution, five seats—one chair and four additional senators—have been reallocated to the EIC from the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC), Community Committee (CoCo), and the Student Life Committee (SLC).
Furthermore, the EIC Chair will have a seat on the WSA Leadership Board (LB) and will hold the eighth student representative position on the Board of Trustees. As a student representative to the board, the EIC Chair will be a voting member on the Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee.
This marks a significant change from the 2015 WSA resolution which opened the application to all students at the University regardless of prior experience on the WSA. Since the 2015 resolution, the position of the eighth student representative to the Board of Trustees has been open to any student who applies and was voted on by the WSA. According to Soderberg, the goal of opening this position to any student within the University was to include a greater number of traditionally underrepresented identities on the LB. However, the lack of demonstrated interest and applications for this position led the LB to decide that the position could better serve as a way for the EIC chair to be a part of decision making.
“We really felt that it was important that the student doing this work as the Chair of Equity and Inclusion…be present at these Board of Trustees meetings,” Soderberg said. “And we specifically put them on the finance committee because oftentimes a lot of initiatives and work starts in the finance committee because if you can’t pay for it, you can’t do it.”
The resolution also gives the EIC official responsibilities. As a standing committee of the WSA, the EIC will meet and report to the WSA regularly. Additionally, the EIC will focus on acknowledging and addressing the instances of systemic inequality within the WSA and the University at large.
“By establishing the EIC as a full standing committee of the WSA, the WSA commits to interrogating its historical role in perpetuating an inequitable environment at Wesleyan and commits to working to reconcile this history with committed action to represent and serve marginalized students,” the resolution reads.
Institutionalizing the EIC also enables the WSA to work closely with administrators in the Office of Equity & Inclusion and the Resource Center in addition to serving as a liaison between the WSA and the FGLI Advisory Board to effect campus-wide change.
“Having an established committee dedicated solely to equity and inclusion is so important because that’s an initiative that Wesleyan University, the WSA, and everyone on campus should just be actively supporting and fighting for,” Baez said. “It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It shouldn’t be a sub thought or an expectation that every committee should be having in the back of their mind because when it’s laid out like that, then it’s not at the forefront of issues.”
For one of their first initiatives of the semester, The EIC is hosting an Anti-Racism Workshop this Sunday, Sep. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. which will feature speakers Kevin Booker Jr. and Anne-Marie Knight. This workshop will be open to all University students and is mandatory for WSA senators.
“This workshop will be a good opportunity for all community members to continue the never-ending process of evaluating their roles within the efforts to continuously partake in Anti-Racist action within our community,” the event description read.
Hallie Sternberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @halsternberg.