This week in Senate

Jenna French

Assistant News Editor

Published partially in the print edition, full story here.

Fatima Rodriguez Johnson, Canisius’ dean for diversity and inclusion, attended the April 23 Undergraduate Student Association Senate meeting to discuss her role at Canisius College and some of the projects she has been working on.

Rodriguez Johnson, an alumna of Canisius, is required through her role to oversee the diversity and inclusion programs at Canisius. She said she works with faculty, collaborates with Student Life, and provides the Canisius community with tools to diversify the campus. The richness of diversity in her life has helped her to build a basis for her work at Canisius, she said.

Recently, the Campus Climate Survey was released and the results are in. Rodriguez Johnson has been reviewing the data and has seen some common themes arising. Through the information gathered, she will work on a plan with others to combat these issues. Also, Rodriguez Johnson mentioned how she has been working with Student Life and hopes to work on Student Orientation to begin this conversation.

Rodriguez ended her discussion by encouraging others to come to her with ideas or concerns.

Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations Jakai Harrison brought up concerns about the current climate in the United States and how there is much pushback in the country for diversity and inclusion. Harrison followed up by asking Rodriguez Johnson why her role at Canisius is so vital. Rodriguez Johnson responded by saying that she looks for missing opportunities and challenges the institution by holding people accountable to push for change.

Junior Senator Abigail Hughes asked Rodriguez Johnson what the biggest problems or concerns minorities have are, based on the Campus Climate survey. Rodriguez Johnson said that through this survey she found that experiences in the classroom are significant, such as the interactions between faculty and peers. She expressed that there needs to be a balance between free speech and being respectful in the classroom environment.

Executive Vice President Olivia Owens was curious about Rodriguez Johnson’s involvement with ULOC, a national diversity network system. Rodriguez Johnson mentioned that she has had the opportunity to work with the advisory board and has had other opportunities to be involved with this organization.

Senior Senator and ITS liaison McSteve Ezikeoha questioned Rodriguez Johnson about the possibility of having a center for diversity and inclusion on campus. Rodriguez Johnson said she has seen them in other institutions before and it acts as a “physical marker” that points out the the college is committed to this work.

She said she oversaw them in other institutions and made note that many students found this center to be a vital part of the campus community. The implementation of a diversity and inclusion center will be supported by Rodriguez Johnson and she would like the center if one were implemented to be student driven, she said.

USA President Matthew Smardz asked Rodriguez Johnson about her plans for the upcoming fall semester. Rodriguez Johnson responded by saying that she plans on reaching out to more students and clubs on campus. Another goal she said she had was to create clearer goals and strategic plan work. Also, Rodriguez Johnson said she would like to get to know her team members better and have shared goals amongst her team members.

The last topic discussed was about the current hiring practices to have a more diverse staff, brought up by JUSTICE chair Toby Patrick. Rodriguez Johnson said that she is not too familiar with the hiring process. She expressed it all starts with how one looks at the resume. At Canisius, Rodriguez Johnson said, the college needs to create a mindful mindset to support the new hirees. The new employees want to see change and a commitment to cultural inclusion, she said.

Next, Senate voted on their single-use plastic resolution. Before proceeding to vote Smardz pointed out that the purpose of this resolution is to make a suggestion to Chartwells and the college to demonstrate that the student body is passionate about this issue.

Sophomore Senator Matthew Duke questioned the solutions presented and asked if Senate should figure out the exact solution first. Smardz responded by explaining that this decision for the solution is up to the school and with this resolution the college will see that the student body is passionate about this issue. Sophomore Senator James Garvey and junior Senator Andrew Sagun, contributed to this conversations with various questions concerning the resolution.

Ezikeoha motioned to pass this resolution with edits and the senate approved to pass the single-use plastic resolution.

Senate discussed rollbacks from various clubs on campus to reduce last minute rush spending. Sagun asked if the clubs were notified. Executive Vice President for Business and Finance Cameron Rosenecker, who was not able to attend the meeting, reassured over a phone call that the clubs have been notified.

Next on Senate’s agenda was the discussion of the year in review, which was a recap of what Senate has accomplished this year. Some of the major capital projects voted on were the renovations for Palisano, Pegula Sports, Free Senior Week and the Canisius esports team.

Major legislation included the smoke free resolution, single-use plastic resolution, adding a TSA representative to the cabinet and seeing Senate’s new constitution drafted and enacted. This year there was also the founding of the national Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA). The committee work projects were CPR training, Earth Week, Enlight the Night, Easter in the Quad, Local Urban Market, Town Hall with President Hurley and allowing senate members to review and give feedback.

Senate came to a close with cabinet and committee reports given by the representatives from each. Before the meeting adjourned, Smardz was awarded Senate Member of the Year.

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