New ASG committees, administrative positions address campus issues

Lauren Caruba, Assistant Campus Editor

Both Northwestern administrators and Associated Student Government have designated new positions to address two major issues on campus this year: diversity and sustainability.

Last quarter, the ASG Senate created the Sustainability Committee and the Diversity Committee, which joined ASG’s 11 existing specialized committees.

The ASG committees mirror new positions at the administrative level addressing the same issues. Last November, NU established the Office of Sustainability and in April announced the formation of the University Diversity Council. The administration gave further significance to the subject of diversity over the summer with the creation of a director of campus inclusion and community.

ASG President Victor Shao said the new ASG committees and administrative positions will give more priority to two important topics that have not received “as much attention as they needed to have.”

“In the grand scheme of things, these are two really big areas of student life that we just haven’t covered,” the Weinberg senior said.

Representatives from the two new ASG committees will meet with NU officials throughout the year  to discuss common objectives and goals, Shao said. ASG representatives already sit on both the University Diversity Council and several of its five working groups and have met with Rob Whittier, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Dona Cordero, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion and chair of the University Diversity Council, said getting input from ASG representatives and other students is important for identifying the major issues.

“If we don’t work together, then we don’t have a sense of what’s important to the students,” Cordero said. “ If we don’t have a sense of what’s important to them, then we can go down the wrong path and not meet those needs.”

In addition to the University Diversity Council, ASG will also work closely with Lesley-Ann Brown, the new director of campus inclusion and community within the Office of Student Affairs. Brown is currently assembling a student task force to examine the current state of diversity at NU.

The heavy focus on diversity by administrators stems from a series of culturally insensitive incidents last year that spurred numerous student forums and informal discussions across campus about the state of diversity at NU.

Hayley Stevens, associate vice president of the ASG Diversity Committee and a member of the University Diversity Council, said it is too early to determine exactly how the Diversity Committee will interact with the administration. However, she said the new administrative positions for diversity are a “step in the right direction.”

Stevens, an active advocate for the adoption of an academic cultural competency requirement for students, would like to develop an emergency response protocol for racially motivated incidents and training sessions to inform students about other cultures, she said.

In terms of implementing these ideas, time will be the biggest obstacle for students who want to see real change during their time at NU, Stevens said.

“Their definition of action is definitely different from ours,” the Weinberg senior said. “I wish they would adopt our definition of action.”

The ASG Sustainability Committee will serve as a source of funds and support for the environmental organizations on campus, said Mark Silberg, associate vice president of the ASG Sustainability Committee.

“What we want to do with this committee is say, ‘We’re here, what can we do for you?’ for these student groups,” Silberg said.

Although the committee’s plans are not yet fully developed, Silberg said ASG hopes to implement the installation of water bottle filling stations across campus to encourage the use of reusable water bottles this year.

Silberg also wants to revive the Northwestern Sustainability Fund, which was established several years ago and used to finance large projects like the installation of solar panels on the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center last year.

This fund could be financed by a $10-20 “green fund” fee added into student tuition every quarter, the Weinberg junior said.