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Senate discusses campus diversity, inclusion

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

At Wednesday night’s Student Senate meeting, diversity and inclusion were the main topics of discussion, as Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for student affairs, presented her diversity report summary and proposals at the meeting.
Based on answers from a survey conducted among graduating seniors over the past several years, Hoffmann Harding said no group of students is satisfied with the current level of diversity on campus.
“The difference between us [in this regard] and other universities is substantial,” she said.
At the start of the year, the Division of Student Affairs conducted a campus-wide survey to evaluate student, faculty, staff and alumni opinions on how the University handles issues regarding diversity and inclusion, Hoffmann Harding said.
The survey, which was conducted by senior project specialist for Student Affairs Matthew Storin, involved almost 100 students, 50 faculty and staff and a handful of alums, she said.
“[The result of the study] was really reassuring,” Hoffmann Harding said. “Our campus is one that values diversity and students are enthusiastic about it. Storin didn’t find any evidence of prevalent or deeply-seeded ill intent in anybody involved in our campus community.”
However, Hoffmann Harding said some students demonstrated a lack of interest in taking action on the issue.
“In most of the students [Storin] talked to, what he heard was that diversity is a great thing, but not something that’s really important to my Notre Dame experience,” she said.
Hoffmann Harding said the Division of Student Affairs has identified a list of four groups of focus for the future as a result of the survey.
“We want to improve presence and readiness of Division staff to serve a diverse student body, augment MSPS [Multicultural Student Programs and Services] for targeted programs across the Division of Student Affairs, create a comprehensive, cohesive system for supporting students with high socioeconomic need and demonstrate visible commitment to diversity through communication, facilities and measurement of programs,” she said.
Hoffmann Harding said emphasis is on helping students with high socioeconomic needs in the upcoming future, especially with regard to rector funds and availability of meal-plan accessible dining options during breaks. In terms of rector funds, the Division of Student Affairs plans to evaluate their use and determine if there are sufficient funds to help students appropriately.
“In our world today, I feel like it’s our obligation to welcome all and to care about the human dignity of each and every individual,” she said. “And it’s our goal for every student to feel as though they belong here and to have a wonderful experience both inside and outside the classroom.”
At the meeting, an amendment was also proposed to update the non-discrimination clause within the Student Union Constitution, but it was tabled until next week pending further discussion to improveme the amendment’s language.
An amendment stating that all amendments to the constitution must be submitted to the director of the Department of Internal Affairs at least 72 hours prior to deliberation was passed, however.
The SUB executive board was also approved on Wednesday, including Brianna Leon, Alex Ignacio, Caroline Schuitema and Morgan Brennan as Directors of Programming, Christina Senger as Director of Publicity, Harmona Abera as Director of Operations and Stephen Cray as Director of Finance.

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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