Courtesy of App State SGA
At a university where 18% of its student body consisted of “racially and ethnically underrepresented students,” the position of director of diversity and inclusion in SGA has never been permanent, until now.
The position’s permanence was initiated in a bill by a freshman senator, aiming to help the cause for diversity at App State.
The position has had its inconsistency throughout SGA over the years. Before it was named director of diversity and inclusion, it was called director of social sustainability. The name changed during the Milbourne-Kelly administration in 2018. The position has never been explicitly defined in the SGA constitution.
A newcomer and author of the bill, Ben Negin in only his first year at App State, initiated the bill to make the position permanent in the fall.
It will become permanent after a two-year trial period and the senate body’s consideration. It will lead a diversity and inclusion committee and committee chairperson.
Those in the position previously worked for the same cause of inclusivity at App State. In 2017, the social sustainability committee passed a bill to rename the former Hoey and Lovill Residence Halls.
The halls were eventually renamed last summer in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black at App State Collective’s demands.
Korbin Cummings, the current director of diversity and inclusion for SGA, said that the diversity and inclusion work has always been happening. Because the permanence of the position was a part of Cummings’ strategic plan as current director, she co-sponsored Negin’s bill.
The permanent director of diversity and inclusion position was part of Black at App State’s demands in July. Cummings is a leader in the Black at App State Collective.
She took to Twitter to celebrate the milestone.
“There’s always going to be a personal relationship that works with the Black at App State Collective due to folks existing in the collective,” Cummings said.
“This bill is just in salute to those who have done the work before us,” Cummings said. “But also show the student body, and to show SGA that we’re very serious about making sure that equity, diversity and inclusion is something that we are going to always make a priority within our organization.”
Negin reached out to Cummings to get the initiative started.
“A lot of the work that SGA does is about curriculum, just sort of the everyday goings-on of the university,” Negin said. “So it’s also important for that director position to look out and make sure that all those policies are fair and equal for everybody.”
The bill passed during SGA’s first meeting in the spring semester and was brought in the fall, taking approximately six months from start to finish.
Cummings said the extended timeline is abnormal to SGA. Bills are usually passed within the week they are introduced, but because this was a change in the constitution, factors such as the bill’s language increased the time.
She said she hopes the new diversity and inclusion officer will have experience organizing on campus and working with organizations such as Intercultural Student Affairs, because she is graduating this spring.
“I think Korbin has set a great example of what to expect from someone in this role. Specifically, creating bridges between faculty, staff and students,” Negin said. “Really working towards real, concrete change.”
Cummings said it is “quite obvious” that the economic recession, the 2020 election, Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19 mean that diversity, equity and inclusion need to be a priority.
“That’s kind of where I got the idea from that it should be permanent,” Cummings said.
The bill reads, “these positions becoming permanent are integral to the continued work towards full inclusivity of underrepresented students at Appalachian State University.”