Diversity on our Campus and Special Senate Meeting

Hello everyone,

This week has been rather difficult (lots of bills for student groups-yay!, a couple midterms, problem sets, planning for Greek Week, planning for Publications Solidarity Week, and SURGE/Eshleman town hall stuff). In light of recent events, I have gone through a progression of being upset, stepping back to examine the situation holistically, and then reaching out to my community members and fellow senators. As you all probably know the Berkeley College Republicans posted a Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150808701895478&set=a.192543325477.251202.657130477&type=1&theater (original event screen shot)

And while I respect BCR members’ right to an opinion, I was deeply upset and offended by the way the event trivialized the experiences of so many students on our campus. I don’t think it’s easy for a person to step out of their own shoes and examine life from other students’ perspective especially in the context of race. But I encourage members of my community to try and do so anyway. Being a student of color, there is so much more to it than (literally) meets the eye. And my heart goes out to all students who were offended by the event. BCR members deserve the right to have their own opinions. I definitely don’t agree with the way BCR members chose to express that opinion and am definitely appalled of how inconsiderately insensitive it was to members of our very own Berkeley community, but let’s work together to move beyond this single event and let’s do this positively.

At the beginning of the year, Dean Poullard  gave the senate the most important piece of advice that I have ever been given. He said, “where there is relationship, there is grace.” And while we were all initially upset, angry, and worried about our campus climate, I think it is important that we extend grace. Something I learned from being a Cal Student Orientation Counselor this summer is to separate an action’s intent and impact. We may not intend for an action to hurt others, but the action happens and the impact may be negative and hurtful anyway. We must all be cognizent of this in every action we take and own up to the consequences if the impact doesn’t exactly match up with our intent. This does not mean letting this go and forgetting about it, but using this to foster intellectual dialogue about ideological differences. There is no more room for hate or conflict on our campus, but there is room for dialogue and learning.

Let’s take our very own ASUC Senate for example. There are twenty different people with twenty very different perspectives on our campus. While we all have different opinions on issues that our campus is facing, we use these differences to learn from each other and find collaborative ways to ensure that all of our opinions are heard. It may sound like rainbows and ponies, but the space and culture that we have fostered in the Senate is probably the thing that I am most proud in my life.

As self-righteous as that sounds especially given the way the senate has behaved in the past, I hope that our communities can use the Senate example.  You might call me naive, but let me tell you that this year is different. I admit, there are times when I feel like I am alone or that I can champion an issue on my own, but that is definitely not the case and it’s something I am learning from being a Senator. I have found that I am never alone, there are always allies within the Senate space and within the Cal community. I see my fellow senators as allies in the struggles that my community and I face, and I know the rest of the Senate sees me as an ally in the struggles they and their communities face.

As for BCR event, the senate is working together and convening a special meeting tomorrow Sunday September 25, 2011 at 6pm in the Senate chambers to discuss what positive steps we can take together to ensure that diversity on our campus is respected. I invite you to listen and possibly participate.

with love,

Justin Sayarath
University of California, Berkeley
B.A. Economics | Peace and Conflict Studies Minor | Class of 2013
Sayarath.Justin@gmail.com | (619) 313-3737
Senator | Associated Students of the University of California*
Vice President | Alpha Tau Omega | Gamma Iota Chapter*
Assistant Vice President of Event Programming | Interfraternity Council*
Senior Adviser | Caliber Magazine*
Student Action | “Every Student, Every Year.”

*Titles for Identification Purposes Only


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