Chancellor Sheri N. Everts is working closely with the Student Government Association to improve diversity and equality on Appalachian State University’s campus.
According to an email from the chancellor, chief diversity officer Bindu Jayne will head a group of students, faculty and staff tasked with implementing noticeable changes. The group will be responsible for the development of a plan to incite meaningful and genuine dialogue, and any other additional actions as they arise.
In addition to the work being done by Jayne, SGA is also working on ways to improve diversity and equality.
SGA recently voted down a proposed bill that would grant the National PanHellenic Council a seat on the student senate. However, Carson Rich, a junior theatre arts major and SGA president, said a modified version of the bill will be presented in the coming weeks, and he is confident it will pass this time.
Rich said the fact the first bill failed is indicative of the work that needs to be done to raise awareness at Appalachian.
“This is just evidence to show that SGA still has leaps and bounds that it needs to make in regards to the education of its members,” Rich said. “If SGA doesn’t start now in regards to changing the culture within our organization, we are being a completely ineffective group.”
Rich emphasized that although he’s working to educate the members of SGA, it’s also important to educate members of the various clubs and organizations on campus as well.
“It’s also important to get other clubs on this campus to jump on board because if [SGA] doesn’t work on educating other clubs and organizations here at Appalachian then we will go nowhere,” Rich said. “We have to not just point fingers at ourselves but point fingers at other groups and say, ‘We’ve got to all be able to work together on this.’”
Rich said the main factor preventing students from realizing the problems on campus is their limited perspective.
“One of the biggest problems here at Appalachian State is understanding the perspective of other students,” Rich said. “Perspective is something that you only understand initially if it’s your perspective. So, broadening our perspective is the first step.”
Another initiative SGA is working on is a component of the first-year seminar, which will educate students on the various components of social justice. The course will be called App 101.
SGA started working on App 101 earlier this year, and after several meetings with Academic Affairs, the interim provost and other university authorities, Rich believes the progress on the initiative is positive.
“Hopefully, students in their first year here can have that better understanding of social justice components,” Rich said. “We’re all paying thousands of dollars to come here, so it should start in the classroom.”
Ultimately, Rich said the issue of diversity is only viewed in terms of student retention. However, he believes the real issue lies in the deeper, underlying reasons why retention is poor.
“I think that while yes, Appalachian State needs to focus on retention, we can only be successful in retention if we actually do something about the lifestyle of the students on this campus,” Rich said. “I know that there are students who feel unsafe being here. It’s horrible, but it’s the truth.”
Story: Thomas Culkin, News Reporter