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One tribe, many perspectives: Senate passes bill promoting diversity

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March 30, 2016

12:02 AM

During one of the last Student Assembly senate meetings of the 323rd session, senators heard public support for a resolution addressing the climate on race and race relations at the College of William and Mary and ultimately passed it with a vote of unanimous consent.

Sen. Eboni Brown ’17 sponsored One Tribe, Many Perspectives Resolution, which was developed in the context of the findings of the Task Force on Race and Race Relations. SA president Yohance Whitaker ’16 and SA Secretary of Diversity Initiatives Meronne Teklu ’17 also supported the resolution.

Brown, SA president-elect, heavily focused on diversity and inclusion in her campaign platform, as did the two other presidential contenders.

The resolution promotes the creation of a required set of courses in the College Curriculum to teach dialogue and engage in topics on diversity, encourages faculty and administrators to prioritize the hiring of a diverse faculty members, acknowledges the role enslaved Africans played at the College, calls for a memorial, commends the Center for Student Diversity for its commitment to student and appeals the university to support the mission of the CSD better financially.

SA Undersecretary for the Board of Visitors Ryan Goss ’16 spoke in support of this resolution, specifically its goals to address memorials on campus.

“I support this resolution, particularly on the heels of our latest presentation to the BOV on this topic and reflections on the landscape of diversity at William and Mary on the ongoing topics of race and race relations,” Goss said. “Speaking to the importance of memorials, the central issue is not who is represented but who is not represented. We have one plaque commemorating women of color that’s in the basement of Jefferson Hall which is a freshmen dorm. I heard someone say that when you walk around campus you get a sense of dominance and domination. My call to you all is to hopefully pass this resolution and continue to pressure university leaders to work with the Lemon Project and other university groups.”

I heard someone say that when you walk around campus you get a sense of dominance and domination,” Goss said.

Other students, like Mary Ellen Garrett ’17, attended the senate meeting to share their support of the bill, especially its promotion of classes focused on diversity.

Garrett is spearheading a new project called Diversity*. This project, similar to the resolution, promotes the creation of mandatory COLL classes.

“The project we are spearheading is called the Diversity* project, which means diversity in the broadest sense,” Garrett said. “I’m here supporting this resolution because our project has the goal of creating, with the model of the COLL curriculum, classes that are mandatory for sophomores that talk about diversity. Many students don’t go to the events offered on campus and they don’t have a chance to have their questions on these issues answered.”

Many students don’t go to the events offered on campus and they don’t have a chance to have their questions on these issues answered,” Garrett said.

This bill received support from the committees that discussed it, and no senator voiced any objections to the legislation.

Also in this meeting

Sen. Sikander Zakriya ’19 asked for a friendly amendment to the resolution, asking the Board of Visitors to issue a formal apology to the enslaved Africans at the College. According to Zakriya, the BOV issued a formal statement in 2009 that acknowledged that the College possessed slaves, but it never admitted any fault.

Because Brown, the sponsor of the bill, was not present at the meeting, a friendly amendment could not be added to the resolution. While some senators questioned whether or not they should hold the bill until next week to further discuss the friendly amendment, Sen. J.C. LaRiviere ’17 reminded the senate that they could draft legislation asking the BOV for an apology during the next session of the senate.

“We’ve always done a resolution on race every year,” LaRiviere said. “Keep this in mind for the next year.”

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About Author

Sarah Smith

News Editor Sarah Smith '19 is an undeclared major from Ashburn, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.