CREATION OF THE DIVERSITY & EQUITY BOARD
During the Spring 2014 Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate elections, twelve candidates run on a platform that calls for the need of increased diversity and equity at Occidental College.
In Fall of 2014, four Senators create the Diversity and Equity Board Initiative (DEBI) committee. This committee becomes the first committee of ASOC Senate to be open to the public. DEBI calls for the creation of a student-led branch of ASOC Government that focuses on raising awareness and presence of issues of diversity and equity, as well as empowering structurally-marginalized students at Occidental College. Diversity in DEBI includes, but is not limited to, race, gender, sexuality, ability, religious affiliation, age, nationality, and citizenship.
In the Fall of 2014, the DEBI committee hosts a General Assembly (open to all students) to educate and receive feedback from the members of the student body. On November 17, 2014, ASOC Senate unanimously votes to push DEBI as a constitutional amendment to be voted on by the General Assembly of ASOC. Over fifty students attend the Senate meeting to show support for the creation of the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) and to hold their senators accountable to their campaign promises.
December 2, 2014 saw the emergence of two critical events against the establishment of DEB:
1. The Occidental, then known as the The Occidental Weekly, publishes an article on December 2, 2014 titled "Honor Board reviews DEBI proposal, questions student body fee increase" quoting anonymous members of Senate as uncomfortable about voting for DEBI because of the sizable student presence in the Senate chambers during the vote. (A response from a group of student activists is published in a Letter to the Editor on December 4, 2014).
2. Honor Board asserts its Constitutional powers regarding Student Body Fee increases and delays the General Assembly vote, all the while, providing recommendations for a new Student Body Fee increase proposal to come from the DEBI committee in the Spring 2015 semester.
On December 4, 2014, the ASOC Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund (RESF) publishes a signed statement, becoming the first branch of student government to fully support the establishment of the Diversity and Equity Board.
On February 3, 2015 the DEBI committee again brings DEBI to a vote in ASOC senate.
Honor Board rejects an initial $10 student body increase in a 4-3 vote against DEBI. Their reasons for voting DEBI down include:
“The procedures for funding were made clear, yet ultimately how much money was going to be allocated and for what reasons still remained to the discretion of the DEB."“Since the outcome of the DEB’s work cannot be predicted, and since [sic] the Honor Board does not want student’s money to be jeopardized” (Anonymous Jurors).
Attempting to work through these guidelines, DEBI workshops suggestions and returns for an Honor Board hearing on February 11, 2015. Honor Board rejects the student Body fee increase, which is lowered from $10 to $7, in a 3-2 vote against DEBI. Honor Board asks that DEBI members and members of Senate pass resolutions to create the existence of the Diversity and Equity Board with the support of a temporary funding source for the 2015-2016 academic year.
On February 19, 2015, a community teach-in is held to clarify DEBI’s role and authorities and to dispel any rumors or incorrect assertions regarding DEBI’s use of funding. The town hall is held in concert with a photo campaign that produces over fifty individual (across identity groups) student plans for what they would do with DEBI funding.
The student body votes to approve the creation of the establishment of the Diversity and Equity Board in April of 2015, reaching quorum and a 95% approval rating on the first day of voting.
Honor Board, for a third and final time, vetoes the funding component of DEB. In an interview, a juror states, "The majority opinion of Honor Board was that constitutionally, to charge students for something that could be funded from other sources without increasing student body fees [...] would be unfair and unjust." DEBI committee members challenge the viability of these alternative sources, which include the suggestion to draw from the senate savings account until DEB proves itself as an effect branch of student government; this is a trial period that RESF, a branch of ASOC government created in 2007, was not asked to undergo.
On April 13, a student group begins circulating a petition to amend the ASOC constitution; the petition calls for student body fee increases to be approved of through a student body vote instead of through Honor Board. The petition collects 667 student signatures, fulfilling the 600 signature minimum necessary to put the proposal on the ballot. However due to a discrepancy in language between a digital petition and a petition distributed in person, the amendment is nullified. The following semester, the vote is reintroduced and approved of through a student body vote.
From November 16th to 21st of 2015, a coalition of over 600 students occupy the Arthur G. Coons Administration center in a protest for racial justice and equity at Occidental College. On a list of fourteen demands, #4 reads: "Provide $60,000 in funding to the student Diversity and Equity Board to fund programming and provide resources for black and other marginalized students." Partially in response to this demand, DEB is granted $3,000 in interim funding to kick-start project requests, though the Administration maintains that full funding will ultimately be decide through the ASOC.
On March 28, 2016, the student body approves a student body fee increase to fund DEB for a budget of $40,000.00 annually, sourced from the original $10 student fee. Upon approval of funding, the Board publishes the following statement:
"The Diversity and Equity Board is happy to announce that you, the students of Occidental College, approved our Student Body Fee Increase! With this money (around $40,000.00 annually), the Diversity and Equity Board will continue to fill the gap for diversity programs and initiatives at Occidental College. This is a victory that we hope to push into a snowball effect—that this vote is one of many more movements on this campus to substantially change the manner in which equity operates at Occidental College. We take your vote of trust very seriously and with the utmost respect: You have entrusted us with your economic well being, so we will not allocate it casually. We will strive to operate at the highest level of institutional professionalism and excellence to serve our community. Thank you all for believing in the Diversity and Equity Board; we will not let you down!"
This history is based upon the record keeping of the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE)