SGA’s new Diversity and Inclusion representative teams up with Multicultural Student Union to launch Multicultural Council

Meaghan Bedigian Sports Co-Editor

Student Government Association’s newest Diversity and Inclusion Vice President position sparked its first appointee, senior Zach Hogan, to assist the Multicultural Student Union (MSU) in its launch of a new multicultural council. The MSU held its first council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3 that was attended by diversity club leaders on campus.

As a member of the Multicultural Business Association, Black Cultural Society and the Edward Collymore Honor Society, Hogan is spearheading the SGA’s diversity and inclusion initiative with the help of Eloise Barry, Ph.D., Director of Intercultural Affairs and Martin Garcia and Brooke Goodman, Coordinators of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“SGA has been referred to as a ‘white boys club’ in the past, and now seeing that perception is not going to be the reality anymore is definitely a reassuring thing for underrepresented people here,” Hogan said.

He hopes this new initiative will better serve the University’s multicultural and underrepresented groups on campus, especially with the help of the MSU’s council.

“What grounds my passion in diversity work is seeing things like the Black History Month showcase, which I think is a really quintessential representation of the strength, resilience and constant hustle of Villanova students of color,” Hogan said.

The MSU’s purpose is to unite, educate and celebrate the cultures and backgrounds of all members of the University community, and the council has brought diversity club leaders together with the intent of including the voices of underrepresented clubs in student government.

“We hope to be an organization focused on increasing communication by collaborating cross-cultural learning opportunities that break down barriers, build the Villanova community and embrace diversity,” MSU Secretary Lailany Viera said. 

Hogan even went around to every multicultural club at the student involvement fair explaining SGA’s diversity and inclusion goals as well as inviting club leaders to join the MSU’s council.

“I definitely got a lot of shock and awe, especially from the students who are upperclassmen who have been here and have seen student government not represent their ideas or their voices,” Hogan said.

While still functioning independently on campus, multicultural groups are expected to have an official MSU representative to serve as the voice of their group members.

“There is something to be said about having a tight cultural bond and making sure you share those narratives with people like you when you come to campus to make sure you feel at home, especially when you look around and there isn’t as many people that look like you and understand your story,” Hogan said.

Requirements of MSU representatives include attendance at monthly council meetings and ongoing communication with the MSU in order to foster collaboration and inclusion among all groups, avoid scheduling conflicts with other underrepresented groups and ultimately build a bigger presence of intersectionality at the University.

“We hope with this transition all groups will be able to easily connect with and celebrate each other,” Viera said.

Representatives are also expected to have extensive knowledge of their club’s programming for the year and voice any concerns group members have about the greater University community. A challenge Hogan anticipates is making marginalized students feel comfortable expressing their opinions in MSU council meetings.

“You face a lot of microaggressions as a person of color here on campus,” Hogan said. “I’ve been asked how many years I’ve been on the football team or like what my position is. I’m not in horrible shape, but I don’t really breathe ‘student athlete.’ When you face things like that a lot, sometimes you get a little jaded.”

Benefits of membership include additional funding for events that reflect MSU’s mission, increase in support and awareness of multicultural groups and the culture it represents, increase in communication and unity with other multicultural groups and inclusion in MSU’s spring formal hosted for all cultural groups on campus.

Hogan hopes the presence of his new position and the SGA’s efforts to engage underrepresented students will be an example going forward to students who don’t think student government is for them. Advisory positions are available in the Diversity and Inclusion subdivision of SGA, and he encourages all students to get involved.

“We would ultimately like to have actual students of color and actual underrepresented students actually be in the senate or on the e-board making decisions,” Hogan said. “That way it’s not really seen as an us-versus-them mentality, and it really is speaking to represent all students. We really want to make sure we touch our tendrils into all the places where we’re reaching the underrepresented students because we know, as a predominantly white institution, that those circles aren’t necessarily very large so we need to take a more full-fledged approach.”

In the future, the SGA hopes to host workshops that address core concerns that lead into the issues the University faces as a predominantly white institution. Hogan hopes to convince white students to attend these workshops with topics like, “This is my first time having a black person in my classroom and I’m not a racist but I don’t want to say anything wrong,” and “I don’t understand what my white privilege is and I’m tired of being constantly ashamed for it.”

“Hopefully if we’re allowed to talk about those issues in the open space while having underrepresented leaders come to speak and the white majority there to listen, self-reflect and learn, I think we can create a better Villanova,” Hogan said.

CORRECTION NOTICE: This piece and its title have been updated to reflect that the Multicultural Council was created by the Multicultural Student Union.