Is a Berkeley student not diverse enough to fight sexual assault?
A student at the University of California, Berkeley, has recently been rejected from a position on her student government because of complaints from student senators that she does not adequately represent the “diversity” of the student body.
After interviewing and appointing fourth-year sociology student Meghan Warner late last month as the new Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) Sexual Assault Commissioner, the ASUC student senate unanimously retracted her nomination during a weekly ASUC meeting on September 2. An extended application deadline for the Sexual Assault Commissioner senate position was set in place to encourage candidates from other backgrounds to become interested in and apply for the position.
"I really want this to be as inclusive as possible and it wasn’t at first."
Warner had been serving as a director on the board for the past year.
“Very little has been communicated to me, but their decision has rendered the commission nonfunctional until they choose a new director,” Warner told Campus Reform.
Several students on the ASUC senate had voiced their concerns regarding the University and External Affairs Committee’s appointment of Warner.
Alana Banks, University and External Affairs Committee Chair and CalSERVE senator, expressed her concern regarding the lack of diversity in the candidates being considered for Warner’s position on the commission. She said that the position on the commission was not properly publicized to students of underrepresented minorities, some of whom had approached her for the position after the application deadline had passed.
“I really want this to be as inclusive as possible and it wasn’t at first,” Banks said. “So this is why this is really important to me, that this process is really fair and that it reaches out to people of color. So moving forward, I think that we should rethink about how we can make this more inclusive, i.e. reaching out to people of color, that are actually color [inaudible], that are part of the colored community, that are people of color, that also know what it feels like to be personally [inaudible.]”
Warner was the only candidate to apply for the position.
“Just to clarify, it’s not that I don’t want her to be a director,” Banks added, “I just want to be sure that it’s a fair process. So if folks of color actually want to do it, they don’t feel pressured by [inaudible.]”
The ASUC meetings are all filmed on a live streaming YouTube channel.
Thanh Mai Bercher, the assistant director of the commission, said that the process was “hurtful” to many students of underrepresented minorities who sit on the commission because it had been supportive of Warner’s nomination.
“For people who assert that the commission is a white space, they’re just saying that those people don’t exist and that they’re not present, which is really offensive,” she said, according to the Daily Californian.
Warner has been fighting against sexual assault for the past four years on her college campus, her colleagues noted at the meeting last week. In addition to serving as director of the Sexual Assault Commission last year, she has been a co-chair for Greeks Against Sexual Assault and a member of several other anti-sexual assault efforts on campus. A victim of sexual abuse, Warner was named by Glamour as one of Top Ten College Women 2015. She was also one of the 31 UC Berkeley students and alumni who filed a Title IX complaint against the university in 2014 for how it handled sexual assault and harassment.
“I am disappointed that the ASUC addressed a legitimate concern—inclusivity—in such a non-transparent, ultimately damaging way,” Warner told Campus Reform.
“They could have worked with me to advance my plan to make the commission more inclusive and hold events that address the forms of oppression that intersect with violence, but they chose not to do that, and I am unsure of why,” she added.
Sheena Paul, advocate for the Cooperative Movement Party, was appointed as the interim director of the commission. ASUC Executive Vice President Lavanya Jawaharlal said that the recurring search for a student director could take another month.
Paul has promised to make sure that the ASUC properly sees that its commission adequately represents the student body.
Jawaharlal did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time for publication.
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