SGA: Diversity position up for referendum

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed a bill March 2 allowing for a vice president of Equality and Diversity to sit on the Executive Board. Before it can be implemented, however, there must be a referendum of the student body, which means students will vote on whether or not to create the position.

The bill, sponsored by Joanna Holgu?n, senator at-large, and Stefanie Nieves, alternate student trustee of the legal and governmental affairs committee, was written to “incorporate the executive positions of vice-president of Equity and Diversity to the Executive Board of the SGA.” It passed with a two-thirds majority vote of 33-7-2 at SGA’s March 16 meeting.

The vice president would be in charge of the monthly cultural displays in Brower Student Center, analyze student survey results compiled by the office of Equity and Diversity, with which the vice president would work.

He or she would also manage the Diversity Ambassador Program. According to Holguin, the program “focuses on students from under-represented communities.”

Also, the vice president would assist with diversity training of students or organizations, keep open lines of communication with them and report on specific student organizations. He or she would also help organizations with campuswide events concerning equity and diversity.

The student organizations specifically involved with the vice president would be those that focus on issues concerning students’ creed, national origin, ancestry, race, age, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, color, marital status, familial status, disability, nationality, liability for service in the Armed Forces, sorority or fraternity affiliation or political affiliation on the College campus.

Noel Ramirez, president of GUTS@TCNJ (Gay Students at Trenton State at The College of New Jersey), said, “Look at the (College’s) mission statement, to create a ‘diverse community of learners, dedicated to free inquiry and open exchange, to excellence in teaching, creativity scholarship and citizenship.'”

“If this is the mission statement of (the College), the VP of Equity and Diversity would certainly reinforce these core values of our school,” he said. “I support it 100 percent.”

A committee containing representatives from student organizations and chaired by the vice president will be created and meet several times a semester.

Committee members can discuss any issues they have with equity or diversity, as can any interested members of the campus community.

Membership to the committee is offered to all organizations. “They will probably be discussing any discrimination issues their members have, or if they feel unrepresented in any way on campus,” Holguin said.

Though she was unsure at the time what the vice president would decide to do involving core members of the committee, Holguin said that she “imagin(ed) that anyone could join at any time,” though “there has to be some sort of stability” in the committee.

The vice president would help in planning activities, but he or she would have no say in what activities the organizations do and do not host.

When asked if the vice president would put on any special forums or programs, Holguin said it would depend on “if they feel it’s necessary. There’s a lot of leeway when it comes to that,” she said, adding that they would be running programs like the aforementioned Diversity Ambassador Program.

“I felt that we needed some sort of infrastructure within the SGA that focused on making the student body more unified and accepting of diversity,” Holguin said, explaining why she wrote the bill.

Kevin Kelly, senator at-large, who abstained from the original vote, said, “The goals of this bill are admirable and should be addressed. I do not, however, believe that a piece of legislation can force a change that must come from within students’ hearts.”

The addition of the vice president would be a change to SGA’s constitution because it would require an amendment. For this reason, it must be brought to the student body for a vote.

“Whenever a bill changes the bylays it can just go through the SGA,” Holguin said, “but this time it’s different.”

The amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote among the students to create the position and edit the constitution.

The referendum will voted upon March 29 and 30 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Brower Student Center. There will be an information session about the position March 24 in Forcina Hall Room 226 at 7 p.m.