Student Diversity Action Council strengthens partnerships, increases advocacy opportunities

Eryn Gebacz

The Student Diversity Action Council (SDAC) held its first open forum with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) candidates on Friday in order to accomplish one of its four key initiatives for the semester: creating a stronger partnership with the organization.

The four initiatives are strengthening connections with USG, working on the Sanctuary Campus initiative, funding sources for other student organizations that don’t receive as much attention and LGBTQ initiatives.

During the forum, the council found this strengthened relationship was necessary to better serve marginalized communities in terms of allocations of funds to certain cultural groups and other similar issues.

Matthew Chernesky, founder of SDAC, said the forum was the first for the organization.

“We wanted to work with the candidates to ask them questions about their thoughts on diversity and multiculturalism on our campus, and also to make them aware that we exist as a voice and resource for students to collaborate with,” Chernesky said.

The council has created four basic initiatives for the semester based on discussions with different student organizations focused on cultural and social issues.

Vice chair Raj Nandigrami focused on what candidates had to say about implementing diversity on campus when asking them questions throughout the forum.

“I was trying to assess how much experience they had in implementing diversity related things on campus, and if they had specific framework they can present to us,” Nandigrami said. “Also, what is their view point and what do they think of diversity and inclusiveness?”

The council asked various questions tailored to specific candidates based on the platform they presented.

Executive ambassador Suleika Carlo-Ramos shared how she was happy with the topics that candidates chose to highlight to the council.

“We have seen how most of them (candidates) have said words like ‘diversity’ throughout the discussion and talked about actual initiatives, which is what we’re looking for,” Carlo-Ramos said.

The LGBTQ initiatives are being worked on with Trans*Fusion to tighten up the preferred name policies at Kent State. The council also wants to start working with different student organizations to teach cultural competency and provide sexual assault training for all students, faculty and staff.

“Ever since the election last year there are many individuals that are concerned about their safety and welfare on this campus,” Chernesky said. “They are looking for student leaders who will stand up for them and their rights regardless how they identify. They need people to advocate on their behalf.”

Chernesky feels that within the next year, the community will be seeing a lot from the current presidential administration regarding college campuses and the safety of students.

“Students are looking for a student government that supports them. Tonight was important to alleviate concerns that they had. Basically are they going to stick up for us or not,” Chernesky said.

Chernesky went on to share the effects of low voter turnout on previous USG elections.

“I think that with the 7 percent voter turnout in the previous election, you do see a clear result in the composition of USG,” Chernesky said. “There are going to be three or four women maximum on USG this year, so there’s going to be very little representation in terms of diversity of race and sexuality.”

He also described the specific effects of low voter turnout and how it contributes to the lack of diversity within those who are elected to USG offices.

“When we increase voter turnout, you also increase the composition of the representation in terms of perspective. There are a lot of student veterans, and they have no representation on USG. They need different services tailored to them, and this is a consequence of that low voter turnout,” Chernesky said.

Eryn Gebacz is the international students and issues reporter, contact her at [email protected].