Last week's Student Senate meeting included committee reports and special allocations as usual, but with the bulk of their time, Senators considered the special issue of campus diversity and tolerance.
Suspending their usual "Robert's Rules" code of conduct in favor of what Senate Chair Nicholas Scocozzo called "rules of courtesy," Senators held a free-form discussion on the Report from the Presidential Commission Responding to Issues Raised by the April 2004 Publication of The Natrat. The Report was written by a committee of students, staff, faculty, and an alumnus in response to the controversy surrounding the most recent April Fool's Day edition of The Tartan. Last spring, the "joke" publication garnered local and national headlines when the campus community rallied against its editors for printing material that was offensive to women, minorities, and the GLBT community.
The Report contains recommendations about how The Tartan can restructure and revive its staff following the incident, and also about how the broader campus community can become more sensitive toward issues of diversity and tolerance. Scocozzo asked his fellow senators if and how they believe the Report relates to their own organization.
Though some senators denied thatthe Carnegie Mellon campus lacks sensitivity toward diversity — one first-year senator said the Natrat incident was "blown out of proportion" and its subsequent backlash "sounds like crap" — most agreed that the issue is a pervasive and persistent problem.
Senator Nicolette Louissaint — who sat on the Natrat Committee and alsoconducted extensive interviews with the campus community about diversity — stressed that while the University might boast a statistically diverse constituency, students fail to fully embrace and appreciate their differences.
"I don't see the benefit of being in a place like this if you're not engaged," she said, imploring her peers to examine their surroundings and become more involved in intercultural, interdisciplinary experiences.
Also present for the discussion was Mark Egerman, a fifth-year scholar and the Executive Officer appointed by The Tartan following the Natrat incident. While Egerman concurred with Louissaint's points, he suggested that the diversity issue is a reflection of a larger ethical issue, one borne from Carnegie Mellon's highly specialized academic curriculum. He emphatically charged senators to turn their conceptual discourse into "actionable items," steps that campus organizations and the entire student body can take to rectify their situation.
"As a non-senator, I expect more from you guys," he said. "[You're] glossing over the entire problem."
HSS senator Josh Yearsley proposed creating an ad hoc committee to more thoroughly examine the Natrat Report and develop a specific, tangible plan of action for Senate to follow in promoting diversity awareness and tolerance. Jennifer Parry Bird, the advisor to both Student Senate and The Tartan, supported the idea because it would allow senators to give the issue the time and attention it deserves.
"[We need] to consider deeply each one of these recommendations … and come back to the next meeting with practical solutions," she said.
In other Senate news, the Academic Affairs Committee is looking into implementing an advisor evaluation system to monitor professional advisors' efficacy; the Campus Life Committee is reviewing the campus poster policy and investigating the changes that the Port Authority might be making to their bus lines; and Internal Development reported three Senate vacancies, in CFA, MCS, and SHS/BHA/BSA. Prospective Senators for these seats must submit signed nomination petitions by Tuesday the 19th at 5 pm, to UC Box 46 at the UC Info Desk.
A special allocation of $3,000 was granted to Summit for AB Tech costs. The Men's Athletic Special Interest Housing received $200 towards a Homecoming barbeque and Spirit was given a $175 loan to help them get started on fundraising efforts for victims of hurricanes in Haiti and Jamaica.
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