SGA senators to attend mandatory diversity training in the midst of student concerns

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Eric Scharf/The Vermont Cynic

Senators in UVM’s Student Government Association must attend a four hour diversity training to help discourage biases against students and make SGA a more welcoming space for students of color. 

SGA Vice President Peter Lally announced the diversity training at an Oct. 20 meeting. The training will be mandatory for all senators, though its date and time have not yet been announced. 

Although SGA typically has a diversity training every year, this year’s comes after increasing student activism calling for racial inclusivity on campus and in the greater Burlington area.

Students have raised concerns about UVM Police Service’s presence on campus and the Burlington Police Department’s use of force, specifically against BIPOC community members.  

Many have been active in organizing and attending the Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Burlington, which have called for police reform and the firing of three police officers involved in use of force incidents. 

SGA has also recently created a new Social Justice and Action ad-hoc committee in response to these student complaints, according to an Oct. 1 email to students.

The committee was created to “establish a more inclusive and supportive community for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at the University and in the greater Burlington community,” according to the email. 

Several senators emphasized the importance of the training during the meeting. 

“The diversity bias training is great and eye-opening,” said Jacque Lewman, chair of the committee on student action and well-being. “One of the reasons people don’t come to SGA is because they think we’re biased, so it’s really important that you come to this training.”

SGA President Lana Al-Namee also encouraged senators to clear their weekend schedules to make time for the training, which will take place on a Saturday and will last around four hours. 

“This is an important event,” she said. “We expect everyone to attend.” 

Senator Maeve Forbes, chair of the committee on diversity, inclusion and equity, also told SGA that a senator in her committee, senator Caroline Shelley, is pushing UVM junior Kendall Ware’s sexual assault investigation forward. 

Ware, a student athlete on the swimming and diving team, accused the UVM Athletics Department of mishandling her sexual assault investigation because her alleged rapist was on the men’s basketball team, according to an Oct. 13 Cynic article.

Ware, alongside other athletes, is suing the NCAA for failing to protect her from sexual assault.

“If anybody has any information or anything that they think will help, please let us know,” Forbes said.