The Student Government Association (SGA) of Rowan University hosted the Second Annual “Day of Conversation” where students expressed their thoughts on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) issues on campus.
The event took place on Nov. 1, 2023 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Discovery Hall room 227. Students were seated to listen to a selection of panelists who represented their cultural clubs at Rowan as they answered questions provided by the SGA officers.
The panel was moderated by SGA officers, Assistant Vice President, Gabrielle Langevine, and Alternate Student Trustee, Yuval Saar. Langevine discussed what started the annual tradition of holding this event.
“This event held in the beginning of 2022, was more a response to a lot of racial disparities that were happening the semester prior. So SGA wanted to get closer to the BIPOC organizations on campus at that time, so the idea of conversation came up,” said Langevine. “Before it was a bigger event because it was in relation to what happened previously.”
The first “Day of Conversation” she stated was bigger due to a rally that was held on Nov. 2021, where the NAACP of Rowan came together to rally against discrimination on campus. She said that the event had raised awareness for everybody on campus that there was something going on that needed to be addressed.
At the second annual “Day of Conversation,” the SGA officers continued to collect information about how to raise more awareness among administrators about discrimination or DEI issues that students are facing.
Included in the panel were seven panelists who are BIPOC student leaders of their clubs: Daniel Marquez Lopez of United Latino Association (ULA), William Benjamin of Men of Color Alliance (MOCA), Zakeria Sykes of Black Student Union (BSU), Mohini Gulati of South Asian Students Association (SASA), Nia McCombs of Women of Color Alliance (WOCA), Sophie Ogunsanmi of African Student Association (ASA), and Zobia Bokhari of Rowan Progressives.
One of the first questions asked was about their personal experiences with the climate on campus related to DEI issues, and for ULA Vice President Lopez, he believes the DEI issues haven’t been taken into serious consideration.
“I feel like the DEI at Rowan has become very performative. We see solutions that aren’t really being put into action. Even if it’s just small things like representation, like today we’re having a day of conversation. But this is one of the first times we’re doing it with action-based responses where it’s not just complaints, but problems met with solutions,” said Lopez. “I think we’re heading towards the right direction, especially with the SJICR.”
The Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution offices at Rowan have played a key part in giving resources and a welcoming space to the underrepresented students on campus. For ULA, it has helped them plan events for Dia De Los Muertos and for other clubs during their cultural holidays, which has brought newer faces to these clubs as the outreach gets bigger.
Another question asked by the moderators was how the panelists felt after bringing DEI concerns to the university and if they provided enough support for them. The WOCA President Nia McCombs discussed in her response that students need more support from the university.
“Who’s there for the students who do not have resources or direct lines of support? What if you have to do it yourself and like everyone’s saying, when students do it themselves it falls through the cracks,” said McCombs. “So we have to really question who’s being held accountable for fulfilling these questions that students have and not just meeting with them but actually putting things in action.”
The SGA had also asked for the International Student Advisor, Katelyn Sullivan to be present at the panel to inform the panelists and attendees about what international student services offer. Sullivan talked about some of those services after the panel’s opening.
“So we primarily serve international F1 and J1 students. F1 students are degree-seeking students that come here to Rowan and J1 students are short-term exchange [students]. They’re only here for the semester. There are different requirements that the U.S. government has for these students related to their visa.” said Sullivan. “We help them with that paperwork process and we also help them once they get to Rowan with cultural adjustment and learning about life in the U.S.”
Towards the end of the discussion, the moderators opened the floor to the audience members that could give their insight on how they feel about how DEI issues are handled at Rowan, and questions for the panelists.
With the annual “Day of Conversation,” SGA officers are hoping to keep these talks a tradition and continue to focus on the student’s concerns at Rowan University.
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