The Student Government Association created Ithaca College’s first Unity Council last week, aiming to engage student organizations in discussions about student life.
The Unity Council, according to a constitutional amendment passed by SGA, is the “primary venue for student organizations to coordinate their efforts, and for all students to discuss issues related to diversity, inclusivity, and the social quality of life on the Ithaca College campus.”
The council will bring together representatives from all student organizations registered with the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, said junior Aaron Bloom, chairman of SGA.
Bloom said he hopes the council will have a meeting by the end of the semester to establish itself.
“It is ultimately going to be the foremost voice about diversity issues on campus from students,” Bloom said.
Senior Bevin Kennedy, vice president of campus affairs for SGA, said she would be chair of the council if the group holds meetings this semester. Otherwise, the vice president of campus affairs for the 2007–08 year will act as chair of the council. She said she recently drafted a letter to the student organizations explaining the meaning of the council and its advantages.
“It creates a lot of communication between organizations,” Kennedy said.
The amendment calls for the executive board of each student organization to elect a representative to serve on the council, but does not mandate how the election is done. Bloom said each organization would have to amend its constitution’s statement of non-discrimination to include a dedication to “the promotion of diversity and inclusivity on campus” for its representative to attend.
By including the clause, Bloom said organizations will show their commitment to the council.
Bloom said the council formed as a direct result of concerns expressed at the Unity Conference in December and will replace SGA’s Diversity Council. Kennedy said the council will speak to more students on campus.
“The Diversity Council didn’t have a following,” Kennedy said. “People weren’t really a part of it unless they wanted to make a difference about diversity. The Unity Council can make communications not just about diversity.”
Junior Josh Keniston, the student trustee, said organizing the council under SGA is a way to ensure progress will be made.
“By having [the council] under SGA, it gives it validity with the administration,” Keniston said. “It also gives it some stability by having it be a constant thing.”
Bloom said the council is designed to be independent of SGA, but is still chaired by its vice president of campus affairs.
Sophomore Tatiana Sy, a spokesperson for the African-Latino Society, said she thinks the council can be a great opportunity for students, but it’s up to them not to waste it.
“I like it on paper,” Sy said. “But all we have is the paper. It’s up to the people to decide how important it is.”
Bloom said he understands SGA does not have the power to force people to participate in the council, so it is hard to determine what level of participation the council will see.
“It’s [on] a volunteer basis,” Bloom said. “The fact of the matter is, this organization will not function unless people come.”