As part of university-wide efforts to promote greater diversity among the student body, the Student Governing Association created the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which was approved on Thursday, March 22.
The new committee is intended to combine and reduce overlap between the Special Committee on Membership (SCM) and the Student Engagement Committee (SEC). The chairs of the two committees — Lily Colburn, freshman in political science, and Vedant Kulkarni, sophomore in business administration, respectively — indicated they feel this change will benefit both student organizations and individuals.
“My work was to engage the body of the student government,” Kulkarni said. “To promote student government, to engage student government, to try to get more people involved. When I did that, I saw a lot of work that I am doing has been done by intern coordinators and the communications director, and through a lot of platforms. When I looked into the bylaws of SGA, they were very redundant and essentially said, ‘Hey, go promote student government,’ but there was nothing specific.”
Kulkarni approached Colburn and many other students involved with SGA regarding his idea to change the bylaws. The SCM had just been created, which looked into similar issues as the SEC.
“The special committee’s job was to look into the membership of SGA,” Kulkarni said. “So we just thought that, student engagement [and] special committees, we can combine those to promote equity and diversity within student government and encourage student government to have dialogues within senate and outside of senate.”
SGA approves creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, amends election statutes
Colburn said this is the fourth year of the SCM’s existence. It was created to look at vacancies within SGA and see how to fill the vacant spots.
“It kind of morphed into a way to look at how to reach out to more students and more diverse groups,” Colburn said. “The second year of the committee, they created a demographic survey, which was in the governing documents that the speaker pro tempore needed to perform a demographic survey of everyone in senate every year to get a better idea of what groups are represented and what groups aren’t so we can better do outreach.”
The new SGA intern program is also a product of the SCM, which Colburn said makes senate more accessible by letting more students get involved throughout the year as opposed to 35 select students at the beginning of a school year.
“Based on all that, it seems kind of automatic that SGA will continue to evolve this committee,” Colburn said.
Colburn added that this year, the committee focused on improving communication, diversity and engagement within senate.
This led to the development of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, which will look long-term at these issues, Colburn said.
“What we saw was an overlap of duties between committees and positions such as intern coordinators and communications director,” Kulkarni said. “My thought process was, ‘Why do we have four different committees or positions doing the same things?'”
Colburn’s goal was to go “above and beyond” by getting rid of the overlap. She also said she saw that K-State’s SGA is slightly different than other universities.
“Lots of things I experienced this year led me to interact with different Big 12 schools and Board of Regents schools,” Colburn said. “Almost all of them have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within their structures, so we were like, ‘Why doesn’t K-State?'”
Kulkarni and Colburn both agreed that the university reaffirms its commitment to diversity and inclusion all the time through KSUnite events, diversity summits and more, so SGA should as well.
“How do we translate those words into actions?” Colburn said. “I think the answer is by having a committee within SGA that’s dedicated to talking about these issues and making plans and talking about these every single week. That is the answer to that.”
The new committee will have 13 members, including student senators, at-large members and the chair. Members will be chosen by the speaker of the student senate, a position which is currently up for appointment.
Kulkarni, Colburn and Hannah Heatherman, junior in finance, are running for the speaker position, which will be voted on during the student senate meeting on Thursday, April 11.