November 15, 2018

SGA revamps Diversity and Inclusion Committee in preparation for spring conference

Written by John Hund

Student Government is revamping their Diversity and Inclusion Committee to encourage more students to get involved in events on campus. Matt West, Ambassador of Student Inclusion for the Student Government Association (SGA), has spearheaded a movement in the organization to get more students involved in diversity based discussions on campus.

“My job is to create a platform for all of us to come together and talk about [campus inclusion], so we can collectively work to embrace diversity,” West said.

West said the president’s office contacted him last year to come up with a plan to get more students involved in the annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference in February. West’s idea was to revamp a committee sponsored by SGA by getting clubs to work together and create more student involvement toward the Diversity Conference in February.

The conference, happening Feb. 26-28, is going on its fourth year. Webster’s new Chief Diversity Officer Vincent C. Flewellen and Director of Community Engagement Jennifer Starkey are organizing the event.

The university created the conference as a response to the Delegates’ Agenda four years ago, Starkey said. The Diversity Officer and the Ambassador for Student Involvement positions were also formed as a result of the Delegates’ Agenda.

Flewellen is the current Chief Diversity Officer. He is also the newest member of the Diversity and Inclusion Conference staff.

“Outside of this conference itself, we will have some ongoing programs throughout the rest of the academic year that we will call students in our Webster community into conversations,” Flewellen said.

Starkey and Flewellen have been working with West to try and give this year’s conference a much better student turnout. Starkey said she hoped SGA could listen to students and help them.

“Finding out what students are concerned about and being able to tie those into the larger things going on in the world is going to be really educational for everyone.” Starkey said.

West’s goals for the committee include making it a means for different clubs to plan events around each other’s schedules and with each other’s input. He said this compliments his role as an ambassador to bridge the gap between student government and student body.

The role of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is not yet certain, West said. The committee is new, and his role in student government is only about two years old. He said there is an advantage in that he can design it how he wants.

“My biggest ideological understanding of what SGA needs to turn into is more about community and less about self,” West says. “It’s not about me. It’s about how can we get as many people talking about this as possible.”

Sarah Hill is a member of the committee and Senator-at-Large for SGA. Her ideas for the committee are rooted in what students can give to the Diversity Conference.

“We have a small portion of the conference, but it’s going to be big on student involvement,” Hill said, “We are still brainstorming on what role we want the students to play.”

For West and other members, West said, brainstorming has become a frenzy to try and discover ways to catalyze student involvement. In a recent pitch to the conference committee, West proposed poetry and essay contests, a bazaar style market similar to a club fair, student led presentation and SGA panels to hear what students have to say directly.

“[This committee] is unique because it’s not made of just SGA members,” West said

According to Starkey, professors are looking into getting the conference interwoven with their spring semester syllabi to help students find time to attend.

West said he is eager to plan events as soon as possible. West said group leaders will start meeting weekly to organize time and pitch ideas.

“Students want two things,” West said. “One, they want free food. Two, they want a platform to share their beliefs and perspectives and feel like it’s being heard by administration, and people are working on this stuff.”

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