Student Senate recently formed and staffed their newest student committee, the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion. After a year in consideration, the Committee was officially announced in the January 2021 meeting minutes.
According to the January 2021 meeting minutes, the Committee is staffed by five pre-existing senators who also represent the committees of Student Affairs, Governmental Affairs, Academic Affairs, Finance, and Public Relations. This ensures that “the Senate as a whole is actively working towards [supporting the entire community],” President Katharine Campion wrote in the minutes.
Committee Chair Josh Hunte added, “by having it formed from one member of each committee already in placed, we’re trying to show that this is not a separate issue. Diversity and inclusion needs to happen throughout everything that we do; academics, public affairs–everything.”
The importance of diversity, and the creation of this committee, cannot be understated by those who helped create it. Senators were passionate about creating this committee to express to the community how important it is to be inclusive. “You can say you have diversity and inclusion, but actions speak louder than words. Forming this committee shows the senate, the students, and Stockton as a whole, that we take this very seriously,” Hunte emphasized.
Those involved with Student Senate report that the Committee’s creation has been a long time in the making. Jeff Wakemen, the Director of Student Development and Student Senate Advisor, stated, “its been well over a year, maybe two, that the Senate has been talking about this. Senate has been talking a long time about increasing the diversity and inclusion efforts.” This action has been proceed by the creation of more training for student groups that work for social justice, including programs such as Deeper Spaces or diversity and inclusion focused student Officer Training events.
According to Hunte, a large focus of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is encouraging multicultural learning and personal development. One of the first and primary goals of the Committee is the development of a Multicultural Center. The Multicultural Center is described by Hunte as a lounge space for students, faculty, and staff to learn about other cultures. The Center is planned to have staff, programming, and a feeling of support and connectedness, Mr. Wakemen added.
Hunte emphasized the feeling of community and education that he hopes come from the center. “Its not just for people of color or minorities. Its really just a space for people to learn more about cultures that they may not know,” Hunte said. “The lessons that we learn here, I want them to be lifelong lessons. A lot of diversity issues are not just within the school system–they happen with regular employment jobs.”
Craig Stambaugh, the Assistant Vice President of Engagement and Community Development emphasized the potential for this group to make change at Stockton. As a part of the Bias Prevention Education and Review Team (BPERT), Mr. Stambaugh said he always saw the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion working closely with the Team. “I do see them playing a role in the widen campus picture,” he added.
As committee members begin their spring classes and meetings, Hunte reported that they will soon begin planning for the upcoming semester. “For the first week, we’re just making connections with different offices and having some meetings, and then next month we’ll be starting on some projects,” he described. “Reaching out to the people, letting them know that, ‘Senate just formed this new committee, this is what we’re doing, look out for us.’”
Hunte was optimistic about being able to influence the campus and community. “This is Stockton wide. It doesn’t just have to do with students, it has to do with faculty members, staff, and alumni,” he stated. “I’m pretty sure any ideas we have we can make happen.”