USG considers adding new Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab constituency senator

USG senators Amisha Mohanty and Ijeoma Ogbonna yielded authorship introduction time to Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab students speaking at the Oct. 25 meeting.


Johnny Jarnagin

Students meet during an undergraduate student government meeting in the Black Box Theatre of the Iowa Memorial Union on Oct. 4 2022.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government voted to push the decision to create  an identity constituency senator for Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab (MENA) students to a later meeting on Tuesday. 

Sen. Ijeoma Ogbonna, co-author of the bill, gave a brief statement before yielding to MENA students present at the meeting. 

“This legislation essentially will be establishing a constituency senator provision for Middle Eastern North African students, but this bill has been in the works for quite a while, over a year at this point,” Ogbonna said.

Ogbonna turned over her time to any present Middle Eastern, North African, or Arab students and faculty. UI student Yasmina Sahir highlighted issues with the bill present at the meeting. 

“Before we bring this bill up to vote, I do want to note that there have been several edits to this bill without MENA or MENASA involvement,” Sahir said. “I do want to note that the title of the bill is not correct. It should be Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab with spelling of MENA in that shortened acronym there correctly, but that I would like that title to be changed for currently.” 

The Middle Eastern and North African Students Association (MENASA) is the Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab student organization at the UI.

Senate Speaker Alexis Carfrae clarified changing the name of the bill would require an amendment and could not be changed at the current meeting. 

A meeting to reconsider the bill was not scheduled at the meeting on Tuesday. 

“There, at this point, are no cultural or representative resources on campus for our community, and this would be step one and recognizing that we are here and we exist in your important part of this university, which up until now, it’s not the message that needs to be seen,” Sahir said. 

Sen. Kyle Clare questioned the absence of Israel from the list of countries included under the Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab term. 

“No one here for MENA representatives is Palestinian,” Sahir said. “We think that questions on Israel and Palestine are first of all disrespectful, not appropriate, but we will also not be answering those questions as no one who is here is Palestinian.” 

In further support for the creation of a Middle Eastern, North African, and Arab constituency senator, Sahir highlighted the initiatives put forth by similar leading research universities such as the University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Ohio State University. 

Currently, USG has 10 constituency senator representatives including Pacific Islander Desi Americans, the Black community, the disabled community, first-generation students, international students, the Jewish community, the Latine community, the LGBTQ+ community, students who are Native American, and veterans. 

In past years, USG added new positions and struggled to fill all the positions. 

“At this institution, we have chosen time and time again to uplift voices who are consistently marginalized, and then the wider world no matter what federal regulations may say,” Sahir said.  “We ask why is this different in the case of asking for understanding empathy towards the MENA community?” 

Editor’s note: Yasmina Sahir is a current opinions columnist for The Daily Iowan.