Marco Morel joins USG Justice and Equity leadership with focus on accessibility

Morel will be the government’s Justice and Equity Committee deputy director, a brand new position for the organization.


Lillie Hawker

Marco Morel, the new deputy director of the Justice and Equity Committee for Undergraduate Student Government poses for a photo in the USG office in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

Marco Morel will serve as the University of Iowa Undergraduate Student Government’s first Justice and Equity Committee deputy director.

The position was created as a response to low retention rates in the director of Justice and Equity Committee role for USG. Morel, who was confirmed at last week’s meeting, will respond as the committee’s director.

Morel, a first-year student at UI studying Environmental Policy and Planning on the Pre-Law track, said he initially hesitated to apply for the deputy director position.

“At first, I didn’t want to apply because I’m just a freshman. They probably want someone with more experience, but I think having somebody who’s younger is great because that just means more continuity,” he said.

Morel said he is ready to advance justice initiatives in his new position. He said he is used to being around activism because his mother was active in championing social justice.

“She’s been a huge social justice advocate. She’s the president of the Hispanic council where I grew up in Galena, Illinois,” Morel said. “I was not sheltered from the world’s problems growing up. My mom always kept it very real.”

Jenna Yang, the USG director of the Justice and Equity, said the Justice and Equity Committee works on a variety of tasks including advocating for student rights, accessibility, and affordability.

“It is extremely intense emotional labor, and as soon as I hopped into this role, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I totally get why the retention with this role is really horrific,’” Yang said.

In recent years, directors of Justice and Equity have quit within two to three weeks of starting their position. Yang said she is the first director in a few years that has stayed with the role.

Yang, a fourth-year student, said during her remaining 80 days in undergraduate student government, she wants to codify Morel’s position into a lasting one that is allocated for in the budget.

“In the few weeks I’ve had Marco, I think it’s been wonderful. Having a teammate along all of this is so important, and I’m really really grateful for it,” Yang said. “I don’t think anyone should ever do justice and equity work alone.”

RELATED: USG confirms Marco Morel as first Deputy Director of Justice and Equity

During his time in high school, Morel said he created a social justice club upon noticing the lack of support coming from the administration regarding diverse communities.

“My junior year, I finally sent them a very long, lengthy email, kind of chewed each individual person on the board out, and I told them what they were doing is extremely wrong and it’s extremely ignorant,” Morel said.

The club was successful, Morel said, and its creation sparked his passion for social justice.

“Within our first year we had people from all sorts of different backgrounds come and speak with us, to the student body, and we held service projects, so just kind of navigating that, I realized that I definitely wanted to continue that in college,” he said.

In his position, Morel said he wants to address issues with accessibility in the residence halls on campus.

“Stanley [Residence Hall] as a whole just wasn’t built with accessibility in mind,” Morel said. “Definitely fix some of the things like the handicap accessible doors. The second one never opens. You always have to help it along.”

For the laundry facilities in Stanley, the bottom dryers have a habit of breaking, limiting the access to only the top set, Morel said.

“For people who are wheelchair handicapped, they can’t access those top ones. I’ve put multiple requests and told them here are the problems and either they give me back a very general email like, ‘oh, we’ll update you or they simply don’t even respond,’” Morel said. “I can tell they’re very annoyed by my constant need for communication for them.”

Morel said he also wants to work on a standardized rule for faster response times for emails concerning student concerns about accessibility in UI Housing and Dining with greater transparency on plans to fix it and any obstacles — such as supply chain issues — that might prevent repair.

“Because we pay to be here, I think we have a right to know what’s going on with our building,” Morel said.