USG senator title sparks debate about diversity

India Hunter and India Hunter

Last night the Undergraduate Student Government continued the discussion from two weeks ago as to why a name change from Minority Affairs Senator to Diversity Affairs Senator would be better for the organization. Currently the position is called the Minority Affairs Senator, and is held by two people. Though the discussion lasted nearly an hour, the resolution was tabled until next week’s meeting. But before the issue was tabled many points were made both for and against the possible name change. This decision to put off voting until next week was made so other possible names such as Cultural Affairs Senator or Ethnic Affairs Senator could be discussed since some USG members thought alternate names should be given consideration before voting on the issue. ‘I am completely open-minded to any other names you may have for the position,’ Minority Affairs Senator Starmisha Page said. ‘Diversity Affairs Senator is the name I came with that I thought best described the position.’ Some people agreed with changing the name, including those not a member of USG. ‘I completely agree with [Starmisha],’ sophmore Janet Sung said. ‘To me the word minority sounds degrading because it leads you to think of something superficial such as skin color.’ Sung said that by using the word diversity it would be a positive change for the University. ‘Diversity sounds more in depth and would help people to understand the many diverse groups,’ she said. ‘It would also provide an opportunity to educate people more about diversity.’ Minority Affairs Senator Tyler Deitsch shared what people he had talked to thought about changing the name. ‘Most of my constituents I spoke with agreed that the word diversity does sound better,’ Deitsch said. But Errol Lam, a community activist, spoke out against changing the position from Minority Affairs Senator to Diversity Affairs Senator. ‘I feel like, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ Lam said. ‘I feel by changing the name of the position we are doing a dishonor to the black students in 1969.’ Lam is referring to the 105 black students in 1969 who petitioned the Undergraduate Student Government to allow representation since they were not represented at the time. But 40 years later, Page, the author of the resolution, feels the name change is necessary. ‘My constituents feel this would better represent the position and what it stands for,’ she said. At-Large Senator Kevin Basch said he also supports changing the position title. ‘I think in 2009, I feel there are things aside from skin color that can make a person diverse,’ Basch said. ‘This is why I support this resolution.’ But Lam still disagreed. ‘It will not advance the situation for people of color,’ Lam said. Next week USG will continue the pros and cons for changing the position name. However, even if the resolution is passed the name change wouldn’t take place until bylaws within the USG constitution were changed next year. Aside from the discussion surrounding a name change, USG members passed two resolutions unanimously. One of those resolutions includes showing support for a $5 optional student Green Fee that would promote the University becoming more energy efficient. ‘The fee would work the same way as the student legal services fee and students could opt out if they didn’t want to pay the fee,’ At-Large Senator Jon Dinan said. USG members also passed a resolution showing support for the University Marching Band since their practice space could be interfered with once ground-breaking for the Stroh Center begins.