Donald Trump’s election took many of us by surprise, and while students are understandably shocked, some Undergraduate Students Association Council members are taking it a little too far.
In an emotional meeting two days after the election, council members discussed restructuring the council into a senate system similar to University of California, Berkeley’s student government. Last week, it formally approved an ad hoc committee tasked with creating more offices to increase minority representation, citing the Trump election and issues of diversity in its ranks as the impetus.
Certainly, Trump’s policy proposals have brought palpable fear to many minority communities on campus and USAC council members are not wrong in feeling the same way. But impulsively changing its council structure in reaction to the Trump election and claiming it’s in the name of better minority representation is not going to solve anything.
If USAC really wants to improve its diversity, it must address its current council structure’s issues before calling for sweeping change.
The council has long been plagued with a lack of diversity – far longer than just this election season. Very few of its members are from underrepresented minority groups, such as the Latino or black communities. And while council members may think otherwise, a senate system with more offices and council members will not solve the issue of diversity in student government.
Rather than trying to completely revamp a system that has served undergraduates well for several decades, the council needs to use its existing structures to promote diversity and inclusion. USAC President Danny Siegel’s creation of a Committee of International Relations earlier this year to serve international students on campus is a good example of a way to increase representation without actually adding extra offices.
Furthermore, the council is mistaken if it thinks additional offices automatically translates to more minority council members. Minority students would still need to run for those positions, and candidates generally need the backing of major slates to win council seats. Considering that Bruins United, the largest slate on the council, hasn’t regularly nominated underrepresented minority candidates, it’s clear the council’s so-called reforms will be rendered moot if it does not address these concerns first.
As such, talk of council restructuring and the creation of the ad hoc committee seem more like a reaction to the unexpected presidential election results than a thoughtful consideration of diversity in student government. If council members cared about better minority representation, the slate that currently dominates the council would not have failed to nominate more diverse candidates in last year’s election. And it certainly would not have taken a Trump victory to figure out a solution to this long-standing issue.
The council members need to abandon this ill-fated attempt to revamp the system. Instead, they should work internally with their slates to engage more minority students to participate in USAC. The answer to minority representation lies within this council, not in a new one.