Associated Student Government moves forward with plans to fill top diversity position

Sophia Bollag, Copy Chief

After internal discussions and consultation with outside officials, Associated Student Government has released an updated job description for its top diversity official in hopes of filling the vacancy next week.

The position of diversity and inclusion associate vice president has been empty since Hayley Stevens’ (Weinberg ’13) term expired in the spring. In May, Senate voted down the confirmation of Stephen Piotrkowski, then a Medill sophomore, whom the cabinet selection committee selected as Stevens’ replacement.

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In response to criticism raised by some senators about the nomination of Piotrkowski — a white, straight male — the changes specify that ASG will not discriminate against applicants based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

“There is no identity requirement for this position,” said ASG president Ani Ajith, a Weinberg senior and former Daily staffer. “You don’t have to look a certain way or be from a certain place, be in a certain group or identify as something to be in this position, and if that’s something we didn’t make clear enough in the spring, then we’re certainly going to make it clear this fall.”

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Three weeks after Piotrkowski didn’t win confirmation, the second person to be nominated for the position, Aanchal Narang, then a Weinberg junior, declined the nomination shortly before Senate was scheduled to vote on her confirmation.

This year, ASG cabinet members rewrote the position’s description in consultation with representatives from the Coalition of Colors and Lesley-Ann Brown, director of campus inclusion and community.

“The fallout from last year, a lot of it, in my opinion, was because there wasn’t a clear description of what this role actually was and what it wasn’t,” Brown said. “So my suggestion to them was to be as clear as possible to be able to get the kind of candidates that they were looking for and the ones that would be successful.”

The new specifications state that applicants must have worked for a minimum of one academic year in a diversity- or inclusion-related student group or committee. It also says applicants must have made “tangible contributions” to diversity and inclusion at Northwestern.

Sofia Sami, ASG’s academic vice president, said the updates also clarify how the diversity and inclusion associate vice president will work with Brown and her department’s student committee, the Inclusion Task Force.

“When that position was created, she wasn’t here,” said Sami, a Weinberg senior. “The position wasn’t created to be malleable when she arrived. We’ve had discussions with her about what the qualifications should be, how she would help to work with them.”

Applications for the position are due 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. ASG plans to have a nominee for Senate to vote on by its Oct. 23 meeting, executive vice president Alex Van Atta told senators at their meeting last week.

“Our administration will be making a concerted effort this year to ensure that the Senate is at the center of these decisions,” Ajith said. “It is the Senate’s call. It is the ultimate decision-making body of our organization.”

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