Thaddeus Tukes hopes to improve communication in first full quarter as ASG's top diversity official
Tyler Pager, Assistant Campus Editor
January 21, 2014 •
Nearly a quarter into his role as the Associated Student Government's top diversity leader, Thaddeus Tukes is working to improve communication and increase the presence and programming in the diversity and inclusion committee.
Tukes, who was confirmed as ASG's vice president of diversity and inclusion in late October, has been working with his committee of 11 students to develop new programming.
"We help with event planning and consulting on how to make the event appeal to as many people on campus as possible so that certain people don’t feel excluded or feel less compelled from attending," the Medill-Bienen sophomore said. "We want to create a framework so that Northwestern can be a more inclusive campus."
Tukes said Eva Jefferson Day, which was planned by the diversity and inclusion committee, is an example of the type of programs they want to continue to hold. The event brought Chicago Public School students to NU to do craft projects and to engage in discussions about Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend.
Currently, the committee is planning an event for the spring with NU's chapter of AIESEC —an international nonprofit organization that provides internship opportunities that celebrates NU's diverse cultures. Tukes said they hope to have performances by dance and musical groups and booths representing different cultures.
"It will be a really nice way to see how diverse Northwestern is," he said.
ASG executive vice president Alex Van Atta said he is pleased with Tukes' approach to increasing communication.
"What we would like to see is really making sure that different communities are informed about what ASG is doing," the McCormick senior said. "There are a lot of things that go on that people don’t know about. Communication was one of the core parts of what Thaddeus felt was important with the different cultural groups on campus.
"I haven’t heard anything but great things about him," Van Atta said. "He’s been extremely open and willing to engage with people."
Last spring, ASG was embroiled in a controversy when the original candidate for the position, then-Medill sophomore Stephen Piotrkowski, was not confirmed by the Senate, after a debate that questioned his ability to lead the committee. As a result, the committee under Tukes' leadership was not established until the middle of Fall Quarter.
"The transition has been very difficult," Tukes said. "There was a framework for the position, but I’m having to pioneer a lot of things as far as the position goes. I’m trying to create a new framework so instances like last year won’t occur, or there will be less of a chance of them occurring."
Van Atta said the controversy shed light on the importance of continuing inclusion efforts.
"I think in a larger sense to have that happen last spring, I think it’s a reminder that ... it’s still a very passionate topic," he said. "It’s still a topic that we need to be very, very careful about how to approach it because — especially when our goal is to bring people together — we don’t want it to become a topic that divides people on this campus. "