USG works toward diversity

Hannah Armenta

The Undergraduate Student Government at Kent State was established to represent the voices of all KSU students, which some say should make it the most diverse organization on campus.

At USG’s Nov. 19 meeting, Kent State’s Black United Students asked Senator-at-Large Joshua Lewis and Director of Residence Halls Lauren Buchanan to resign after BUS leaders said the senators made racist comments in the USG office Sept. 14, 2014.

“I mentioned to (Buchanan) how I do not believe she can properly serve black students if she feels this way or if she enables comments, like the one Joshua Lewis made,” BUS President Matthew Thompson said in his formal grievance letter to USG.

This incident raised the question of whether or not USG is an adequate representation of the Kent State campus and why it’s important for USG to have diversity.

According to the Kent State University website, the racial breakdown of students is 88 percent white and 13 percent minority. The campus population is also 59 percent female and 41 percent male.

Only three of USG’s 24 positions would have to be held by minorities for USG to be an adequate representation of the student body, and USG currently exceeds that limit. Comparing USG to campus statistics, 14 positions should be held by females and 10 by males. Currently, 11 females and 13 males occupy USG seats.

“As of right now, that is this year, this is the most diverse I’ve ever seen USG,” Thompson said.

However, BUS believes that simply having a diverse representation does not mean that USG is doing its best to serve the minority population at Kent State. BUS said USG still has an inactive diversity committee, inadequate representation at student events, lack of speaker diversity, lack of transparency, lack of educational programming and a lack of attendance at BUS events.

Members of USG also recognize the importance of having diversity in their organization.

“We all have gone through different things to get to where we are,” said Tia Loop, communications director for USG.

Loop said having diversity in USG helps the organization grow since all members come from different areas, have different ideas and bring different experiences to the table. Diversity helps USG represent the student population, she said.

The organization has recently received criticism from BUS who said that it is not representing minority students. After USG’s meeting abruptly ended Wednesday night, the two groups were able to discuss their issues with one another in a public forum.

“I think dialogue and discourse is an important part of problem solving,” USG Executive Director Marvin Logan said.

BUS also addressed USG’s inactive diversity committee.

“If we are going to critique the system, we have to be active in it,” Thompson said. “We understand they are students and they have a lot going on.”

USG is currently moving to approve a new Diversity and the International Student Affairs standing committee that will work with groups across campus to make sure USG is doing its best to serve diverse groups.

Another under-represented group in USG is the LGBTQ community.

“The LGBTQ community is one of the fastest growing communities at Kent State,” said Brandon Stephens, president of PRIDE!. “It’s important to have LGBTQ representation everywhere, whether its PRIDE!, the LGBTQ center or in USG.”

Stephens believes that by having representation, or at least an open discussion about the LGBTQ community, incoming students will feel like they are in a welcoming environment because at home they might not be able to talk about LGBTQ issues.

Complaints from BUS that USG does not accurately represent the student population are not in the hands of the elected officials or the advisors of USG – it’s in the hands of the students, Loop said.

Since the undergraduate population elects USG, it is up to the students to make sure that they vote for a diverse group, Loop said. Elected officials should also be aware of diversity within the university.

“It’s up to the people who take those positions to know what the school population wants,” Loop said.

BUS’s grievances weren’t meant to be an attack on USG, but a way to improve the system that is in place.

“That’s why we do this, so we can be progressive, and so we can leave our mark,” Thompson said. “We implemented that. Kent State is a better place because of what we did.”

Contact Hannah Armenta at [email protected].