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SGA forum discusses diversity, inclusion on campus

College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences Lecturer Ulana Klymyshyn, speaks on a topic during the Diversity and Inclusion Forum on Mar. 23 in the Park Library Auditorium. Josh Barnhart | Staff Photographer

Student Government Association hosted a Diversity and Inclusion Forum to discuss and promote diversity on campus.

Five students and one faculty member discussed inclusion at CMU and in the community on Thursday in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

Galen Miller, an SGA senator in the College of Education and Human Services, opened the forum by introducing the participants: Chuck Mahone, Autumn Gairaud, Allison Tobey, Olivia Cyman, Jene’a Johnson and Ulana Klymyshyn.

“It’s very important that we have people who are interested and invested in these issues and to start a conversation here on campus,” said Mahone, a former SGA president.

The first topic spotlighted segregation within the populace of the student body, staff and administration.

Klymyshyn, a lecturer in the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, said she doesn’t think there are enough content between students and faculty outside of the classroom at CMU.

SGA Diversity Committee Chair Jene’a Johnson agreed and said she has tried to link with professors but they are never available.

“When you try to make an appointment after class the professors are already gone before you put things in your bag and they don’t respond to emails,” Johnson said.

The forum participants discussed how to educate peers and allies on diversity, such as gender identity issues, stereotypes and hate speech.

Many of the panelists had agreed that having education on these topics is a very important factor.

Gairaud, an intern for the Office of LGBTQ Services, said students who need to be educated on diversity and inclusion aren’t the people that show up at these events, but it is those who already care about these issues and are interested.

Mahone said there are a few ways allies are created. People either see an issue and want to help or they have a connection with someone that they see in the community treated unfairly.

“Connection doesn’t help if we don’t have contact with each other,” Mahone said.

Miller said three different diversity studies released in the previous years showed at least 60 percent of minority students felt CMU was not doing enough to promote diversity on campus. Another 40 percent of minority students felt that they were being discriminated here at CMU and Mount Pleasant.

Another question was if CMU could create a mandatory event or seminar to educate students on cultural, social, inclusivity, sensitivity and promote social and equity on campus.

Tobey and Mahone agreed that CMU should find a more effective system for students instead of “AlcoholEdu” because students just click right through the program.

“If we are going to have a program make it personal and in-person,” Tobey said. “I just think doing it online isn’t very effective.”

When the panelists discussed the differences they have seen on campus involving diversity and attitudes towards equity, Johnson said she had seen a lot of issues from the outcomes of the election.

Johnson viewed the live video of a protest on campus following the results of the election, and all she saw were derogatory comments, she said. Many were from students on campus.

“We have a president who is racist, sexist, who has sexually harassed and assaulted women,” Johnson said. “It’s fine to be sexist in public, it’s fine to call people racial slurs or do whatever you want to because our president does and says whatever he wants to do, I see it a lot.”

Multiple forum members agreed that a way to help promote diversity on CMU’s campus and in Mount Pleasant is to be educated on what is happening in the community and in government.

The Gender and Sexuality Center was brought up, following SGA Senator Olivia Cyman, saying that the petition for the center is more than halfway past their goal.

“Student activism is super, super powerful,” Gairaud said.