Student body vote approves DEBI and VP of sustainability

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Two amendments to the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) constitution passed Monday. One established the vice president of sustainability position on Senate and the other created the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB), a separate branch of ASOC.

According to the ASOC constitution, 20 percent of the student body must vote—with two-thirds of those votes in favor of the proposal—in order to pass a constitutional amendment.

The vote, which ran from March 30 through April 5, reached quorum on its first day—an unusually high voter turnout for the student body, according to Vice President of Internal Affairs Rachel Young (junior) and Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Romero (junior). In comparison, the vote for the constitutional amendment to turn Bike Share into a student service last April had to be extended in order to reach quorum.

Both Young and Romero emphasized the importance of the efforts of student advocates in garnering support and awareness for the amendments, including spreading a social media campaign encouraging other students to vote.

“I feel that the votes are just a testament of the student support that there is on campus for both initiatives,” Romero said.

Young said the vice president of sustainability position is designed to increase communication between Senate and the Sustainability Fund, a branch of ASOC designated to supporting environmentally-focused student initiatives. In addition to the fund, the vice president will also have regular meetings with Occidental’s sustainability coordinator and student leaders of other sustainability clubs on campus.

A student will be elected by the student body to the position during the Senate elections later this month, Young said.

“There’s a growing climate change movement happening globally, and I think students are starting to realize that we need to do more around making our lives and campus more sustainable,” Young said via email. “This amendment is a huge win and step in the right direction for getting sustainability efforts on campus to be more institutionalized, but this is just the beginning.”

DEB will consist of a 10-member student board, including student liaisons from Senate and the Intercultural Center (ICC), and a faculty advisor. Romero said that the branch will not only support student diversity efforts, but will also issue a report at the end of every semester outlining goals and measurable outcomes on diversity and equity at Occidental.

To do so, the board members will meet regularly with clubs, the Office of Student Life, Residential Education and Housing Services, the Office of Admissions and the Dean of Students Office, among other groups on campus. They will also hold open meetings for students to voice their opinions and recommendations on diversity, which will be included in their regular reports.

Although the board will not officially be formed until next semester, the DEBI (Diversity and Equity Board Initiative) committee will create a separate committee to appoint DEB members for the next academic year in the near future, Romero said. The Senate and ICC liaisons will be elected by their respective organizations.

Moving forward, the DEB sponsors plan to secure funding for the initiative by the end of the semester, DEB supporter Danielle Raskin (sophomore) said. The board remains without financial backing after Honor Board twice struck down funding requests from Senate to raise student body fees. A third Honor Board vote on the matter is planned for April 15.

“There’s still more work to be done to make DEBI holistic, the board that we imagined it would be, the board that students have created,” Romero said.