As part of the diversity initiatives of the Tampa governor and lieutenant governor, Spencer McCloskey and Zach Blair-Andrews, Student Government (SG) is launching a new Diversity Council to advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion across the Tampa campus.
Though the implementation of the council was largely driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, gaining a diverse perspective was always a goal of McCloskey and Blair-Andrews.
“This was kind of the backbone of our initiatives. This was our number one that we really wanted to focus on,” McCloskey said.
The first step they took to complete this initiative was to hire junior Alexis Roberson to be the Assistant Director of Diversity and Wellness. She is spearheading the formation of the council on the Tampa campus as the council’s chair.
“The Diversity Council is an advisory council comprised of a diverse selection of USF students with body intercultural intersectional viewpoints to advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion,” Roberson said.
The Diversity Council will provide a place to centralize the conversations that are happening all over campus regarding current events and social concerns across the community. Though the social issues to be addressed by the council have not been firmly established, they will most likely include the addition of menstrual products in all bathrooms across campus and the equal treatment of all students by faculty and administration, according to Roberson.
“A lot of problems have been brought up, they are valid problems, and we are very passionate about addressing them,” she said.
The council will meet biweekly in a virtual setting and will have 15 to 20 members. Meetings will include conversations among members and guest speakers about social issues on campus and plans of action to remedy them.
In addition, the council will meet regularly with members of both SG and USF’s administration in order to make changes to the inequality issues brought up in meetings, including campus-specific concerns or national issues that are reflected on campus.
The council aims to guide USF’s administration and SG on ways to strategically improve the atmosphere on campus, according to Roberson.
“We want to integrate diversity management into USF through education, policies and overall cultural change,” Roberson said.
Applications to be a part of the council will be open from Sept. 28 to Oct. 12 on BullSync. Roberson said all students, regardless of previous experience, are encouraged to apply.
“Prior experience based on life experience, what you’ve encountered at USF, will be very helpful,” Roberson said.
Roberson said the council’s goals will evolve and change over time as students join and conversations turn into measures taken by SG or administration.
“One of my main goals right now is to provide diversity training for all organizations,” Roberson said. “Sometimes it is hard for the organizations to find trainings offered at USF.”
SG will be the first organization to receive diversity training, starting “as soon as next week.”
The council will aim to address issues from all demographics, according to Roberson.
“Sometimes when we are talking about diversity, we focus on the Black student population, we want to ensure that the diversity council is addressing every single issue that affects the diverse population on our campus,” she said. “I don’t want to pull from one audience, I want a diverse number of individuals willing to give their opinion on everything that we are doing and plan to do in the future.”
Though leadership experience is encouraged, the council leaders will not be using it as a deciding factor, according to McCloskey.
“In the past, [SG] has been a very elusive organization,” McCloskey said. “With the diversity council, we really want it to be not about what’s on your resume, but more about who you are as a person.”
For Roberson, the council will provide a safe space where students can address any issue related to happening around campus.
“The importance of the diversity council, and what makes it different from anything or any conversation happening on campus now is that we are tailoring the conversation to the specific students,” Roberson said. “You don’t have to be a part of this organization to be heard. It’s for the students, literally.”