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The Carletonian

Senate reverses decision on CEDI seat

<n interesting turn of events, on Monday, the CSA reversed its week-old decision to deny an additional Senate Liaison seat to the Community, Equity and Diversity Initiative (CEDI). Instead, the Senate opted to transfer the Intercampus Liaison’s responsibilities to another senator and to replace that position with a second CEDI Liaison.

CEDI, a subcommittee of the College Council, was formed last year in the wake of the Campus Climate Survey.

As “steward of the survey,” it aims to address the issues raised by the survey’s results and to hold the Carleton community accountable with regard to those efforts, said Religion Professor Michael McNally, Co-Chair of CEDI’s Leadership Board.

Prior to the meeting on May 3, CEDI had two student representatives – one Senate Liaison and one Student-at-Large. At the April 26 meeting, the organization asked for a second Senate Liaison. Initially, this request was met with some resistance by senators, who found it rather unusual.

“It is extremely uncommon [to ask for extra representation],” said senator Gabe Davis ’11. “That is part of the reason the proposal was met with such stiff opposition.”

CEDI leadership, however, was unaware of the unprecedented nature of their request. “We didn’t understand it was unusual,” said Becky Zrimsek, Director of Alumni Affairs and Co-Chair of CEDI’s Leadership Board.

“We were surprised, at the first meeting, that it was controversial,” said Associate Dean of Students Julie Thornton, who also serves as Chair of CEDI’s Learning Environment – Outside the Classroom – Task Force.

CEDI’s rationale for requesting an additional liaison involved the somewhat inconvenient dynamic of their then-current representation structure. As a Student-at-Large and not a senator, Helen Ashton ’10 occupied an awkward place in the dialogue, lacking both a vote in Senate and true recognition of her efforts. “It was difficult for her to find where her voice needed to go,” said Thornton.

“Helen did a fantastic job but felt she was always catching up,” said Zrimsek. McNally and Thornton also praised the work of Noé Hernández ’11, CEDI’s current Senate Liaison.

Central to CEDI’s proposal was the importance and function of their purpose as an agency that connects various corners of the Carleton community.

“We wanted to ensure that our CEDI Leadership Board was hardwired into the representative agencies of, for example, the Faculty Affairs Committee, the CSA, the SAC and The Forum. It was not urgent, but important, to have two CSA senators. It made sense to have them elected, to have them connect more deeply with the representative body,” said McNally.

McNally also wished to emphasize the mutually reinforcing benefits of a second CEDI liaison. “It’s just as important for CEDI to have two senators on CSA as it is important for CSA to have two CEDI seats,” he said.

Senate advocates of CEDI’s proposal spoke to its importance as a committee. “I felt that there was something to be said for including two CEDI liaisons as a means of demonstrating our increasingly serious fight for creating a campus where everyone feels safe,” representative Ned Heckman ’13 wrote in an email.

“Diversity deserves two votes,” said Senator and newly-replaced Intercampus liaison Mouhamadou Diagne ’12.
Initial reservations on Senate’s part encompassed three main concerns. First, senators were reluctant to appear inappropriately biased toward CEDI, said CSA Vice President Isaac Hodes ’12. Davis echoed this concern: “CEDI is important, yes, but so are lots of other organizations-who’s to say OIL shouldn’t get a second liaison seat, or ECC?  It sets a precedent that could have pretty far-reaching unintended consequences,” he said.

In addition, there was some concern over the potential effectiveness of an additional liaison. In the past, liaisons have been known to inadvertently abandon their function as an intermediary between CSA and their respective committees, instead adopting two autonomous roles, one as a senator and the other as a member of their organization, said Senator Rebecca Gourevitch ’12, and the value of their role as a go-between is then lost.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, logistical considerations kept senators from explicitly supporting an additional CEDI liaison seat, though all were quick to affirm their support of diversity-related issues on campus. “I think CEDI is something that Senate and the student body as a whole should be promoting,” Hodes said.
“Senate has been saying all year long they were pushing for diversity,” said Diagne. “It surprised me that they didn’t vote for [the seat] the first time.”

CSA’s Constitution provides for eighteen senators; creating an additional position would require the vote of the entire Carleton student body, a process that has proved difficult in the past, said Gourevitch. However, altering the Senate’s structure — replacing one liaison position with another, for example — requires just the Senate to amend its Bylaws.

Presumably these concerns did not disappear in the span of a week, so why the quick reversal? Gourevitch said that as she thought it over, the value of a second liaison as a vehicle for increased success became clear. Even Hodes, who was absent for the second vote, said he is now in favor of CEDI’s second seat. “Having two people simply facilitates communication,” he said.

“This was more like a ‘step-it-up’ vote,” said Gourevitch. “I thought we should give them a second seat as a message to them and all senators and liaisons that we are really entrusting you with a big responsibility to keep both sides posted — with this seat, your responsibility increases,” she said.

Of note, however, is the absence of four senators at the May 3rd meeting — all four of whom originally voted against the second CEDI Liaison.  An additional two senators who had been opposed to the measure on April 26th abstained from voting on May 3rd.

The presence of Ashton and former CSA President McKay Duer ’10 at the second meeting may also have swayed senators to support CEDI’s proposal.

“It was an intense conversation,” said Diagne. “There were tears.”

Regarding CEDI’s victory, Thornton was enthusiastic about the future possibilities. “It’s wonderful to have it [the second seat]. It’ll help the two work better together, be better representatives of campus, and empower other senators to do other things that relate to CEDI,” she said.

“Our purpose is to keep the CEDI balloon in the room,” said Thornton. “We want to make sure it’s in every room everywhere on campus, so that no college committee forgets about community, equity, and diversity issues.”

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