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Saint Mary’s diversity board discusses goals and plans for academic year

| Tuesday, September 26, 2017

As the academic year starts to get into full swing, Saint Mary’s Student Diversity Board (SDB) prepares for a year’s worth of events promoting inclusion and diversity.

SDB’s core value this year is justice, senior and vice president Megan Uekert said. This means to go beyond the typical definition of diversity and shine a light on all forms of injustice, she said.

(Editor’s Note: Megan Uekert is a former News writer for The Observer.)

“The goal is we really want to be more inclusive this year,” Uekert said. “That means like disabilities, and not just race and religion, but we are trying to expand past that diverse definition that a lot of people think of.”

One way SDB plans to promote their mission of inclusivity and justice is by hosting not only their usual events, but introducing some new events, Uekert said.

“It’s been my experience that we kind of stage the same events every year,” Uekert said. “This year we definitely want to add more.”

Among these events that are in the works is an event in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving, featuring the perspectives of the Potawatomi, and a world religions panel, Uekert said.

“We did [a world religions panel] last year for the conference,” Uekert said. “We want to make it a singular event, because you know I don’t really know much about other religions and I feel like since this is a Catholic institution a lot of other people don’t as well.”

Uekert said that this event will help with dispelling stereotypes about some world religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as give a look into Catholicism and other forms of Christianity.

“I was raised Christian and even mass is so confusing to me, and Catholicism is so confusing, so it’s good to learn about other religions,” Uekert said.

In addition, Uekert plans to make changes to the Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference, held each spring, to allow for more student participation.

“I am very excited for the conference because we do want to promote inclusion and I want to restructure it, so more students can come,” Uekert said. “A lot of times it’s a more professor-oriented event.”

In addition, Uekert said she hopes to host another “Donuts and Discussion” event, like SDB hosted last year.

“It’s just students, no faculty allowed,” Uekert said. “ It’s just students talking about the social issues that may be controversial, and me and someone else would facilitate that discussion.”

Last year, Uekert’s position as treasurer aided her in her transition to planning events this year.

“I did go through all the events last year and I helped plan the events, and I was in charge of the finances so I knew where we could cut costs this year and where we could move costs elsewhere,” Uekert said.

The planning of these events has been affected by the political climate, Uekert said.

“Last year’s speaker was an undocumented speaker … I think we would get more backlash now if we got something like that,” Uekert said. “It’s hard to navigate the political climate but we are here to promote diversity, and if that interferes with the political climate then it’s going to.”

Uekert attributed this interaction with politics to be due to the presence of diversity issues in politics, which she said leads to the desire for SDB to bring more people into a conversation about issues of injustice.

“There’s definitely a lot of intersection with politics now which is unfortunate because Black Lives Matter and racial justice should not be a political matter. It should not be coined too political to have an event.

“We want to bring more people to the conversation, not just the same people,” Uekert said.

Uekert said it should be a priority to learn about the diverse experiences and backgrounds of all students.

“We’re such a small school, so it’s easy to know everybody but we all come from very different places,” Uekert said. “I know a lot of us do come from the Midwest, and most of us are white, most of us are Catholic, but we do have so many people who come from different religions, different races, different backgrounds and even sexual orientations and abilities as well. Our goal is to support Belles on campus, we don’t want anybody to feel excluded from our campus.”

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About Jordan Cockrum

Jordan Cockrum is a junior at Saint Mary's studying Communications and Humanistic Studies.

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