SGA's diversity heads share plans for a more inclusive campus
With the national conversation shifting to diversity, students are looking towards people who can make an inclusive impact on campus culture.
Central Michigan University's Student Government Association made plans to approach educating students, faculty, and the administration differently this year by reaching out to the administration more and making concrete changes.
Kevin Bautista-Mancilla is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion within Central Michigan University’s Student Government Association’s cabinet this year. Starting from IMPACT, Bautista-Mancilla worked his way up the ladder during his time at CMU. He works with the administration directly along with SGA President Katie Prebelich and her vice president Brett Houle.
A goal for Bautista-Mancilla is to make tangible change on campus, he said. One of the ways is to have teachers educate students on prejudice within their respective fields.
"What we're thinking right now with CMU is getting everyone to take some kind of racism or cultural class to learn how racism is very real within their careers," Bautista-Mancilla said. "I'm going into healthcare, and I'm studying these kinds of things right now and it's very real and very scary."
Miracle Berry is new to SGA, landing as SGA’s Diversity Chair this year. She said that starting at the top would give her connections quickly and establish communication with minority students.
Establishing "neutral ground" within the university would make more equitable decisions, Berry said.
"We've had a lot of events this year, or even the past three years, that are very questionable," she said. "We deal with so much out in the world that being in college should be a safe space."
Berry and Bautista-Mancilla serve on the University Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Helmed by Stan Shingles, its function is to address inequality at the university with a direct line from the student body to the administration. Different colleges, institutions, and offices on campus contribute volunteers to serve on the council and craft decisions to create an inclusive campus.
Yet, Berry and Bautista-Mancilla aren't sure that the university is making progress.
"It’s starting to show that we come to (CMU) with our problems and then they are pushed under the rug or addressed in very negative ways," Berry said.
“Why do we hold off for so long to the point it makes it even worse at the end while we have (other universities) taking action very quickly and moving towards that next step of wanting to make (their campus) a better community for their students?” Bautista-Mancilla said.
Despite the mixed messages from the university, both of them are excited for SGA this year, they said. They're confident in the organization's abilities to make CMU a more inclusive and diverse campus and to get things done.
Getting things done sometimes requires money. Committees within SGA take money out of a pool of funds that any committee may draw from. The Diversity Committee is required to host at least one event every semester, said SGA Vice President Brett John Houle, and they tend to draw from that funding.
This year, there won't be much funding needed since it's virtual, Houle, who was previously the chair of the committee, said. Most of the funding was spent on incentives, like snacks.
"Not because the funding isn't there for them to use, but because the events themselves aren't going to have a lot of funding requirements for them," Houle said.
SGA doesn't have to be the only entity to work on diversity within CMU. Individual students could also make changes and help.
"I just say (spend) time educating yourself," Berry said. "There's a lot of diversity resources. In the (the UC), each office can give you some kind of information if you need it."