UISG eyes diversity, inclusion


Cora Bern-Klug

Cory Porter, [email protected]

The theme of what the University of Iowa Student Government plans for students this year can be narrowed down to one word: inclusion.

Over the weekend, the UISG held a retreat in Wyoming, Iowa, the first time since May that every member came together to hammer out plans for the fall.

“The retreat is really a chance for us to get together as one big group and set action steps for things that were talked about during our campaign,” UISG Speaker of the Senate Brendan Power said.

Issues such as diversity education, sexual-assault prevention and education, and mental-health awareness were discussed during the retreat.

Speaker Pro Tempore Rachel Zuckerman said starting sometime this fall, the executive boards of collaboratively funded organizations — large UI student groups such as Dance Marathon — would be required to take part in diversity and cultural-competency training.

“We want to be sure that [the] leaders of these large student organizations that touch the lives of many students on our campus are culturally competent and creating inclusive events,” she said.

UISG President Liz Mills said there has never been a diversity requirement before; organization funding would be tied to the training.

Regarding sexual-assault prevention and education, Mills said UISG has looked at how to advance an understanding of an affirmative consent policy and how that affects students not only at the UI but also the other colleges around the state.

Power said creating a campus environment in which mental health is de-stigmatized would be another goal for the student government this fall.

“We really want to get involved in a campus discussion about … creating a culture in which students feel that they can and should seek counseling for mental-health issues,” he said.

UISG also plans to work on transportation, recycling, and affordability, and these issues, too, seem to have the spirit of inclusion driving them in the incoming academic year.

Mills said UISG has started discussions with college administrators regarding affordability, especially for students facing challenges getting into and affording college.

“[We are] looking at what Admissions is doing and what first-year programs are doing for students coming in who already have barriers,” she said.

Vice President Morgan Brittain said a comprehensive transportation review was conducted over the summer and from that, members of UISG have worked on ways to expand services to more students.

Currently, Nite Ride is only available to female students, but Brittain said UISG is in the planning stage so students of any gender identity will have access to the program.

Safe Ride, a once-a-semester emergency service for students needing transportation home, was expanded to include the summer months as well, Zuckerman said.

Finally, transparency is another agenda the government wants to push forward to benefit students.

To that end, Mills said, UISG is working on broadcasting all Senate meetings as well as publishing the voting records of every student senator “so students can know what’s going on in our meetings, know exactly what we’re doing, and how our decisions affect them,” she said.

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