Plattsburgh State Student Association’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity Chelsea Green held the first Diversity Committee meeting of the semester on Tuesday, along with the SA’s Student Services Senator Zyaijah Nadler, in hopes to establish an understanding about the word ‘diversity’ and the underlying impression it leaves on campus.
Green, who is in her first semester holding a position with SA, has prior experience working with groups and organizations that aim to help those that are marginalized and oppressed.
“I look forward to using my experience with those other organizations to help out with my position as VP,” Green said. “The overall goal is to have people understand that although they may not experience the realities of someone who is oppressed, that does not mean they can’t help and be an ally. Collectively, we all need to help everyone, and we are all oppressed in our own right.
It’s very easy that if you do not live that reality, it is easy to brush it off and not care.”
In the aftermath of the President’s executive orders, the committee is focused on taking action, rather than just talking about what needs to happen. While talking is important and is required in order to take action, the main idea of the committee is to include a group of proactive people, not too large nor too small, who are determined to make an everlasting change in their surroundings.
“To me, having the campus become more aware of the differences we have, and how fluid those differences are on a spectrum that can build a level of understanding and compassion toward each other,” she said. “Like with the travel ban, there are students on campus who are affected and concerned about what is going to happen to them. We hope people can start to understand what someone else is going through and feel the need to support them, even if something like that doesn’t apply to them.”
Green realizes that there is nothing wrong with having conversation; however, in order to tackle an issue like diversity, action is required.
“Action is what we’re focused on. There is nothing wrong with having conversation, but after a while you do have to put some value in your words, and the best way to do that is through action,” Green said. “We’ve realized that in order to tackle this issue, multiple pieces have to work simultaneously.”
At the meeting, Zyaijah Nadler, who is the SA student services senator, mentioned at the meeting how the word ‘diversity’ does not sit right with her, especially with how institutions implement and broadcast their diversity.
“Diversity to me does not mean black and white, or ‘I’ve reached my quota’,” Nadler said. “I think we’re all stuck thinking that diversity is only race, but it’s not.”
Nadler applauds the work that Plattsburgh State has done to accommodate the LGBTQ community by implementing gender neutral bathrooms in buildings on campus, and believes that is a step in the right direction.
“I think the gender neutral bathrooms are amazing,” Nadler said. “I think it’s a great step, but I think we can push forward. There are still people who are hesitant on going in them, and I think we just have to get people to be more comfortable with going in there no matter what you identify yourself as.”
The diversity committee will look to tackle the underlying segregation on campus, whether it be socioeconomic diversity, racial, religious, gender, ability, sexual orientation, etc. the committee will treat it as a problem of its own and take action against it.
“It’s more than just saying, ‘we’ll do our best to protect you,’ it’s, ‘we’re doing every single thing in our bone, blood and body that we can do to make sure that you are completely protected no matter who you are,’ which is part of being an ‘Active Ally’ – someone who can stand up no matter who is in your face, and doing more than you think is enough.”
PSUC is advertised as being a very diverse university, which may be true when looking at the numbers, but some students do not feel that way when they walk around campus.
“I think there’s subtle segregation,” Safara Wanjagĩ said, who attended the meeting Tuesday. “Whether it be friend groups or in clubs, people are afraid of branching out and talking to people that are different than them.”
Wanjagĩ, who is an entrepreneurship major and grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, hopes to bring a different perspective to the diversity committee.
“I feel like my perspective would be different because I come from being a majority for the past 18 years, to suddenly being the minority,” Wanjagĩ said.
Wanjagĩ was one of three other students who showed up, which she said is something she liked.
“I liked the meeting because it wasn’t what I expected,” she said. “I liked how it was a small group of people, because I know that when you try to do things with a large group of people, things can get carried away.”
The committee’s first goal is to have more people to attend. In order to be successful, the group will need to be well versed, while maintaining a common understanding of what needs being needs taken action against.
“Meeting to meeting, we would like more people to attend,” Nadler said. “We all need to be on a common ground of what we understand diversity to be. In some aspects, we need to be like minded, and a group that reflects Plattsburgh as well as the real world – which I’m not sure we have really.”
Anyone is able to attend the meetings, which are held every other Tuesday 6 p.m. in the ACC meeting room three.
“These issues get more and more important every day,” Nadler said. “Each and every day it gets more imperative because you want to make sure the isms are being addressed.” ww will be a greater push for people to educate themselves on the challenges and issues marginalized groups face.
“It’s a good time to have this conversation, but at the same time, it isn’t just a conversation,” she said. “We’re actually taking action as an administration. We’re not just going to talk about it.”
Email Ezra Kachaturian at firstname.lastname@example.org