New DEI committee members, student advisory group announced


Sarah Impola

New DEI committee members, student advisory group announced

By Campus Reporter

The newest additions to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, as well as a new student advisory group, were announced to the college community in a Nov. 11 email from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim.

As reported Oct. 21 by The Chronicle, Kim announced the nomination process of new committee members to fill vacant positions in an Oct. 3 email.

According to the Nov. 11 email, the newest members of the committee are Precious Davis, assistant director for Diversity Recruitment Initiatives; Raquel Monroe, an associate professor in the Dance Department; Rosita Sands, chair of the Music Department; Michelle Yates, an assistant professor in the Humanities, History & Social Sciences Department and Stephen Chaney, a junior business & entrepreneurship major. Charles Long, an interdisciplinary graduate student, was announced as the second student representative during the week of Nov. 14.

Monroe self-nominated and said she wanted to be a part of the committee because it gives her the opportunity to shape the future of the college.

“Committee work is hard, and I imagine that we can develop very clear policies and really influence the curriculum changes that are happening all around the college,” Monroe said. “Having conversations and ideas of diversity, equity and inclusion are not something that you have a day of, but something that’s truly [embedded] in the curriculum.”

Chaney, who said he talked to Kim last year about getting more involved with the college, said he is excited to serve as a student member of the committee. He added that diversity is something he is passionate about because he is multiracial.

“I’m very excited. I understand I’m in a unique position as far as the committee goes,” Chaney said. “I’m learning about the world around me, the situation I’m in, and what it means to be who I am as a whole, but also in the U.S. and in Columbia. I have enough experience, and I’ve done research to feel equipped to start making change.”

Onye Ozuzu, DEI committee chair and dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts, said the committee is looking forward to working with the new members and having fresh perspectives in discussions.

“Our new members are really great examples of scholarship and experience and the context and reason why diversity work is necessary,” Ozuzu said.

“We’re bringing in people that have experience doing work and understand what it takes to make changes that affect diversity in powerful ways.”

According to the email, Kim formed a supplemental student advisory group to help the committee ensure students are heard and involved in the work.

Members of the student advisory group include Bree Bracey, executive vice president of communications for Student Government Association and communications chair for Common Ground; Kaela Ritter, president of SGA; and Malik Woolfork, president of Black Student Union.

Bracey said she is looking forward to hearing what students think about diversity, how the college encourages it and how Columbia can move forward. Bracey said she thinks the group is necessary ensure student representation in the DEI committee’s actions.

“Having one or two student representatives in the committee is not enough of a student voice because everyone’s experience is different,” Bracey said. “You can’t have a diverse group of people with just one or two students, no matter how much experience they have or what their background is.”

Ritter said she hopes the group will help build a more solid community around diversity at the college.

“Columbia is very diverse already, so we want to build that community and make it stronger and not be afraid to have those tough conversations,” Ritter said.

Kim declined an interview to discuss why he created the group, but the college’s News Office sent a Nov. 15 statement regarding both the creation of his student advisory group and the new members.

“Dr. Kim’s effort is to give more students, in addition to those appointed to the DEI committee, the opportunity to participate in this critical dialogue,” the statement said. “He is looking forward to working with the appointed organizing committee student members while developing a framework to include more student voices. The intent is that this broader student group would continue to participate beyond the completion of the Strategic Plan and become a key student leadership group. We will gladly discuss further once this process has been fully established.”

The work of the committee is important now more than ever, especially because of the climate this year’s political campaign left behind, Ozuzu said.

“The awareness of how necessary it is has been really turned up to a height much higher than I’ve ever experienced it in the time I’ve been a faculty member in higher [education],” Ozuzu said. “[What is] exciting about this moment we’re in right now, the upside of it, is that we don’t have to debate anymore whether there’s an issue to address.”