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Ad hoc committees, titles finalized at meeting

Karen Langley | Thursday, April 13, 2006

MAC is back.

Two weeks after the Student Senate voted down an amendment to grant permanent status to the ad hoc Minority Affairs committee, senators approved a revised amendment Wednesday that established the group constitutionally as the Committee on Multicultural Affairs.

By also renaming the Committee on Diversity Affairs as the Committee on Social Concerns and delineating the responsibilities of the two newly titled committees, the amendment addressed the concerns that prevented the passage of the original Minority Affairs committee amendment.

The amendment charges the Committee on Multicultural Affairs with representing and advocating for “racially and ethnically marginalized” students, while the Committee on Social Concerns will be responsible for issues arising from religious diversity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic differences. Both committees will make recommendations to the Senate.

After the Minority Affairs committee was established as an ad hoc committee at the beginning of the fall semester, confusion ensued about the role of the Committee on Diversity Affairs, which previously had been responsible for addressing issues of multiculturalism and diversity.

Sheena Plamoottil, the new chair of the Committee on Social Concerns, fully endorsed the amendment of her committee’s name and mission.

“I think [the mission statement] truly encompasses everything we are and everything we want to accomplish this year,” she said.

Refining the committee names was a major element of the amendment.

Chief executive assistant Liz Brown, charged with overseeing both committees, spoke with Director of Multicultural Student Programs and Services Iris Outlaw about the amendment and its precise wording.

Brown said Outlaw advised her to strip the committee’s title of the word “minority,” which Outlaw said can be seen as derogatory.

Multicultural Affairs committee chair Destinee DeLemos praised the choice of the new name, which avoids the confusion some senators said existed between committees designed to address “minority” and “diversity” issues.

“This is an effective name not just because [it is] less ambiguous and less offensive, but also because of its institutional relevance,” DeLemos said.

The use of “social concerns” is appropriate at Notre Dame, she said, as it parallels the Center for Social Concerns, which addresses similar issues as the committee.

At the fall Board of Trustees meetings, DeLemos said the former Minority Affairs committee received the full support of the Trustees after presenting a statement of purpose very similar to that in the new amendment.

The Committee on Multicultural Affairs has specific goals of working on the recruitment and tenure of minority faculty, improving the experience of residence hall life for minority students and addressing issues of cultural competencies in the curriculum, DeLemos said.

Brown worked to revise the amendment with former student body president Dave Baron, student body president Lizzi Shappell, DeLemos, Plamoottil, former Minority Affairs committee chair Rhea Boyd and former Diversity Affairs committee chair Sarah Liu. The group decided to form a focus group of students with varying levels of student government experience interested in the issue to advise them on revisions to the amendment.

“A lot of work has gone into this,” Brown said. “We’ve looked at it from every angle possible, I can pretty much guarantee.”

Discussion on the amendment was brief and focused on the wording of the Multicultural Affairs committee description. Morrissey senator Patrick Brown proposed an amendment to the amendment which would change the term “racially and ethnically marginalized students” to “students of a racial or ethnic minority.”

Keenan senator Chris Beesley spoke for many senators when he defended the original choice of language.

“I believe it’s clear that everyone who worked on it spent a lot of time and effort working on language making sure it was right,” Beesley said.