SGA committee focuses on diversity issues

Lashana Harney

The Student Government Association is attempting to represent all students with the establishment of the Cultural and Diversity Affairs Committee. 

Seth Church, Cultural and Diversity Affairs Committee chair, said for his leadership practicum for a class, he is focusing on diversity within SGA and on WKU’s campus. Church said one way to increase diversity and positive attitudes toward diversity in SGA was to create this committee.

Church said he collaborated with Nicki Taylor, SGA president, to create the committee.

Taylor said the issue of making SGA more diverse has been an ongoing conversation since her first year in SGA.

“This was kind of the first time, as president, I can establish ad hoc committees, and so this was just a direction we thought we would try just to…increase diversity and also make sure that those students’ voices are being heard in a collective form,” Taylor said.

Church said the committee has two main goals: to increase diversity tolerance within SGA and to increase diversity within the SGA body.

Church said SGA has had trouble bridging the gap between minority students and the organization.

“It’s really this self-fulfilling, vicious cycle,” Church said. “SGA is more predominantly white, predominantly Christian, predominantly Greek. So, these minority students don’t feel welcome.”

The first meeting went better than Church expected with around 13 individuals in attendance.

Church said the point of this committee is to bring the small, specialized groups and SGA together to combat issues pertaining to diversity. Church said there are committee members serving from a variety of organizations, such as Student Identity Outreach, Toppers Uniting for Feminism and Student Veterans Alliance.

Church said during the meeting several ideas were discussed on how to improve diversity issues on campus. 

Pakistan graduate student Abdul Samad, an SGA senator, serves as vice chair of Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin Issues within the committee. He said he is reaching out to more organizations across campus to spread the word about the committee and what it can do for the campus.

Samad said when he applied to be an SGA senator, he was the only international student on SGA.

“I felt that there is a huge gap between the international students and the local American students and the gap isn’t because none of them want to meet each other,” Samad said. “I’ve yet to meet an American student who doesn’t want to meet an international student, and yet to meet an international student who doesn’t want to meet an American student.”

He said this gap comes from a lack of communication between both groups. 

“There is a misunderstanding or miscommunication or lack of communication through both sides,” Samad said. “I think this committee will do a pretty good job of focusing on it.”

Samad said there are several issues across campus people want to share and this committee gives a chance to talk about the issues.

“A lot of times what we see, is that people have a lot of things they want to share,” Samad said. “They don’t share it. I think once they come to SGA or once they get to know about the committee, it will really help them.”

Church said one of the first issues the committee will be tackling is creating a noise ordinance.

“‘Cause veterans, some veterans anyways, have problems with PTSD,” he said. “So you have loud noises, fireworks, and that kind of thing and it can be a real issue.” 

Madisonville junior Joseph Hunter, vice chair for Veterans Issues on the Cultural and Diversity Affairs committee, and vice president of the Student Veterans Alliance, said he can work on affecting policy changes through this committee. 

“This school actually has a lot of resources compared to others schools, but there are some small things we would like to smooth out, such as Study Abroad, credit transfers and access to all buildings for people with disabilities,” he said. 

Church said SGA could help these groups both monetarily and by supporting their issues through resolutions or bills. 

Hunter said when working with several different groups of people, he found that some of the groups shared common issues.

“There are a lot of issues we all want to bring up and find solutions to,” Hunter said. “We’re finding that a lot of these issues aren’t unique, so we’re able to connect on similar issues. We’re able to work together to make change happen.” 

Taylor said SGA can amend the constitution to make the committee permanent.

“If we continue at the success that we have now, it is an action we will look into doing,” Taylor said.