The vice president of equity and diversity bill was tabled due to time constraints at last Wednesday’s Student Government Association (SGA) meeting.
Thirteen minutes remained in the meeting when SGA representatives on the speaker list finally began debating the bill. Even with a one-minute speaker’s time cap and 30-second response period, the discussion had not concluded by the 5 p.m. adjournment.
Stefanie Nieves, alternate student trustee, and Joanna Holgu?n, senator-at-large and communications director, sponsored the bill.
“We want to make sure every student voice is heard,” Nieves said. “This will be good for organizations that are small or marginalized.”
Some SGA members felt the bill was unnecessary and even harmful.
“Bills like these often draw lines instead of destroying them,” Lee Whitesell, vice president of academic affairs, said. “For the sake of our school and nation, we should vote against it.”
SGA representatives suggested modifications, including adding “religion” where only “creed” stands as a topic for the vice president to review.
Eric Pasternack, vice president of legal and governmental affairs, suggested the sponsors change “vice president” to “director.” A director would mirror a speaker of the senate, with full senate voting rights and executive board speaking rights, but would have no executive board voting rights.
“The vice president (or director) of equity and diversity will represent only the clubs and constituencies that are represented on the equity and diversity committee, unlike the other vice presidents who are supposed to represent the entire student body,” Pasternack said after the meeting.
Holgu?n said taking away the vice president title might trample on the power of the position and could suggest SGA is not strongly committed to diversity.
“I want to see Stefanie (Nieves) come up with specific activities that the vice president could do,” Matthew Civiletti, vice president of administration and finance, said after the meeting. “She mentioned diversity training. I would like to see more, such as coordinating specific events between clubs.”
If the bill passes, the new SGA leader, modeled after the College’s director of equity and diversity, would encourage communication among campus groups.
“I plan on reaching out to every student organization that is recognized by the school if the VP position is approved,” Holgu?n said.
Six ethnic organizations, three multicultural Greek organizations, GUTS@TCNJ, First Year Government, Leadership Development Program, Islamic Society, VOX-Voice of Planned Parenthood and Women in Leadership and Learning have expressed interest in sitting on the vice president’s committee if the bill passes, according to Holgu?n’s and Nieves’s PowerPoint presentation.
“I can’t do equity and diversity by myself,” the College’s director of equity and diversity, Jerusalem Howard, said before the debate. “I will work very hard with the vice president of equity and diversity. My office will stand behind this person 100 percent.”
Benjamin Akuma, senator of art, media and music, motioned to table the bill until today, when it will require a two-thirds vote in the general body to pass onto referendum.
Also, Whitesell switched his seat from its former place among senators of culture and society to the executive board panel at the front of the room, after he was appointed and sworn in as vice president of academic affairs.
“Currently our governance assignment scheme is in disarray. My first priority is to straighten that out,” Whitesell said after the meeting about his goals for the semester. He also said he will be working with the faculty senate to create an online advisor evaluation form for students.
SGA also approved a communications studies club, which will help students learn about the major, help underclassmen network and hold career nights.
Some SGA members objected to the club because there is already a communications honor society, Lambda Pi Eta.
“It would not be redundant, because the other organization has a more selective process,” Allison Mandara, senator of culture and society, said.
The honor society requires that students have a 3.3 GPA in the communication studies major, but the club will include all communication majors, minors and any other interested students.