Student Senate approved a mandatory leadership and diversity workshop during one of their executive meetings. To be funded by Student Senate, student organizations had to send their incoming president and one other executive member to the workshop. The idea for the workshop was pitched when Director of the Center for Intercultural Life (CIL) Tianna Cervantez decided to expand on a voluntary workshop she had been hosting for three years.
“What we looked at was the fact that the information that we provided was helpful, and for some organizations, they hadn’t had these conversations before, ” Cervantez said.
Cervantez was joined by Coordinator of Student Engagement Andrew Salemi. Together they conducted three workshops at Alumni Hall’s Trustee room. The first was held on April 29, the second on May 1 and the last will be held on May 6.
During the first hour of the May 1 meeting, Cervantez reminded students that the workshop was for them. She restated a personal slogan to the crowd: “I am not your mama.”
“Part of being student leaders is learning how to be organizers and use the tools available to you,” Cervantez said.
Some points Cervantez touched upon were reminding students to keep responsibilities clear and fair, communicate openly and address conflict in a contained manner.
One of the areas Cervantez says she sees conflict arise often is when leaders are elected, but subsequently go abroad. According to Cervantez, this elicited a negative reaction from her audiences, but she still thinks boards should be careful about electing members that will go abroad.
“I think it boils down not to the fact that members go abroad, but that they don’t do the communication part well. If they haven’t set the expectations for how that transition is going to happen, it can create conflict,” Cervantez said.
Junior Ella Thomas attended the workshop with her co-editor in anticipation of their executive role in Catch Magazine. For Thomas, the event warranted a long workshop, but she was still frustrated by the amount of time attendees were required to spend.
“[Conflict resolution] portion was the most impactful for me. It’s just hard because it’s four and half,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what the solutions of that is. No matter what it’s gonna feel annoying, but I’d rather learn something here while I can.”
Photoclub president and junior Elena Bannat shared a similar sentiment. Though members found the workshop useful, they felt the times of the workshops were inaccessible.
“I understand there are some limits and we finished early, but it’s a lot on me as well. This is a meeting about diversity and inclusivity, and they scheduled [two out of three] meetings on a Sunday morning. In my culture, Sundays are not a work day.” Bannat said.
During the second half of the workshop Salemi spent time going over the various processes that went into financing and planning events.
For Salemi, ideally an event should be thought about two months prior to the event. This way, a club has a clear idea of what type of event they want before setting up a meeting with Campus Life.
“That should always be, in my opinion, thought about two months in advance if you’re going to truly have a successful event,” Salemi said.
During the presentation, Salemi reiterated the school’s policy on ordering food. He referred to it as the “150 and up rule.” The rule is in reference to an agreement with dining services which states that an event with expenses that exceeds $150 must be catered through bon-appetit.
“As far as paperwork, that is a 3-to-4 week process … Most of that stuff is something students don’t have to do anything with. It’s just me having an awareness of the event,” Salemi said.
During the diversity and inclusivity portion of the lecture, Cervantez stressed the importance of understanding and respecting the different identities that a club might come across.
“Why is it important for you to know this as a leader and organization? You’re in a leadership position, your voice naturally carries more weight,” Cervantez said.
She joked that clubs should be wary of ending up on a ‘Buzzfeed list’ of culturally insensitive events. Cervantez then pulled up a slide show of primarily white college students wearing culturally appropriate attire.
“There was a thing that Greek life did that no longer exists anymore. It was an auction, a ‘buy a date’. The sorority that was hosting the event happened to partner with a fraternity with a high percentage of African American males. That seems very innocuous until we think about the history of our nation and the messages that could be received. I wasn’t trying to say don’t have a fundraiser, but let’s think about what we’re saying when we do these events,” Cervantez said.
She urged students to come talk to the CIL, Campus Life or an advisor if they ever were unsure about an event.
Sophomore Ravie Boungou came to the workshop in anticipation of her role in Harambe Club next year. She felt like the time allotted to the workshop was worthwhile, and even wished the diversity aspect of the event had been extended.
“All the information given was really useful … I think the time was appropriate, but the social aspect of it at the end could have been talked about in depth more. Though like [Cervantez] said, she had to be sensitive about the time,” Boungou said.
Cervantez agreed that timing could have been handled differently. However, she would like to keep the workshop as one block of time, as she feels it is easier for students to attend one event rather than several.
“The goal [was for] students to walk out with something useful. Whether it’s a new idea to try with their exec board, or [a way] to build community within their organization,” Cervantez said.