USG Election Guide 2018: Divya Manoharan


Name: Divya Manoharan
Year: Second-year
Major: Computer science and sociology
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Relevant Experience: First-Year Representative, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
Running for: Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion


Given the position is new, what are your specific plans to develop this role further?

Undergraduate Student Government’s (USG) Diversity and Inclusion committee was founded with a mission to advocate alongside marginalized students and amplify the voices of those who have been silenced by systems of discrimination. For USG, this is two-fold: Working on independent initiatives and collaborating with other groups on campus to leverage USG’s voice to push for and help close gaps that students on campus are already working to close should they want USG’s help. This involves a deep-rooted system of collaboration, founded on going where diversity exists (Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC) organizations, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, the LGBT Center, the Black Student Union (BSU), the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), among many more) and understanding the gaps that students actually face on this campus rather than those USG perceives they face. From here, USG’s role will be to provide help where needed and take up initiatives that have not yet been worked on to ensure that not too many hands are stirring the pot of diversity work and that all work being done is seen to completion.


What is one initiative that you want to complete in your first semester?

Currently, myself and UDC’s Vice President of Campus Initiatives, Jake Bumgarner, are working to create a physical resource center to consolidate food, clothing and textbook repositories to be conveniently accessible for financially insecure students at CWRU. Our resource center, which we want to be named after a CWRU alumnus of color, is something I personally would like to see realized in this coming academic year. Further, myself and the president of Women In Science and Engineering Roundtable, Maggie McClarren, recently created an All-Gender Bathroom Task Force to create a plan of implementation of All-Gender Bathrooms with free menstrual products in all buildings on campus. I plan on pushing strongly to see that plans are developed for said implementation (including signage changes and menstrual product supply) in at least five buildings on campus within the first semester of next year. Furthermore, I want to push for a focus on racial profiling in CWRU’s police department and ensure that USG is doing all it can to support the efforts of the African American Society and the Black Student Union (as well as all those others fighting against racial profiling) in pushing for policy-based change in this realm.


How will you use this role specifically to increase inclusivity on campus?

USG’s role in increasing inclusivity is two-fold: ensuring that CWRU itself is inclusive and ensuring that USG is inclusive to those who are and have been pushing for policy-based change in the diversity and inclusion realm at CWRU. In the first category, I plan to work to ensure that the administration is holding itself accountable to the stipulations of its non-discrimination policy and making sure its support for marginalized students is proactive rather than reactive. I think it’s common to believe that the reason we value diversity at CWRU is so that all students can benefit from a diversity of perspectives and learn from peers who are not similar to them. While this may be true, I want to push back on this idea and encourage people to realize that diversity exists at CWRU because all students deserve the right to equal educational opportunities. In terms of USG being inclusive to people already doing diversity work, I think it’s important that we make ourselves open and collaborative and go to where diversity exists rather than waiting for people to come to us with initiatives.


How will you work with the President of USG and the VP of Student Life to respond to student concerns?

I firmly believe that Diversity and Inclusion work cannot be siloed to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Given the success of the committee this past year, I am confident that constant collaboration between not just the President and the Vice President of Student Life, but all representatives on all committees, will allow considerations of diversity and inclusion to inform all the work that USG does. Currently, this collaboration is realized by high levels of cross-committee attendance by reps; most, if not all, of the representatives on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee regularly attend other committee meetings. Pushing this collaboration to the representative level instead of leaving it at the exec level is incredibly important. Hierarchical leadership—i.e., communication just between executive members—can prevent representatives from feeling empowered to do their work and can further prevent diversity and inclusion from being everyone’s job, not just the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s job. The committee exists to ensure that USG is making a concerted effort to represent and advocate alongside marginalized students and there are specific people doing diversity work, but it by no means that only the Diversity and Inclusion committee does Diversity and Inclusion work.


How do you plan to collaborate with UDC?

Collaborating with UDC and going where diversity already exists on campus is integral to the representative functioning of the USG Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Currently, I meet regularly with the UDC Vice President of Campus Initiatives and am working closely with him on two specific initiatives: creating a physical resource center and creating an open repository of unused meal swipes. Working together on these initiatives and constantly touching base on the work our specific organizations are doing allows us to seamlessly close the gaps in advocacy work at CWRU. However, just meeting with the UDC executive board is not enough. Next year, I want to make a concerted effort to regularly attend UDC general body meetings with all of their student organizations, create and implement a system in which one representative from each USG organization must come to a round-table style meeting with all of the USG executive committee (providing three possible dates for this a semester), and get all the student leaders doing diversity work on campus (i.e., students from the Center for Women, the LGBT Center, OMA, La Alianza, BSU, the Muslim Student Association, among many more who are not always directly represented on USG or UDC exec) together once every month to discuss the work everyone is doing and the gaps that need to be addressed. Collaborating with UDC is absolutely integral to the success of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and extending that collaboration to not only UDC-based but also other student organizations on campus is an important step towards ensuring that USG Diversity and Inclusion work is truly representative.


Do you think your position should be responsive to national political issues?

Absolutely. I think it’s incredibly important to recognize that students on this campus have been and always will be affected by political issues. We, as a USG, must commit ourselves to focusing on student concerns and amplifying marginalized student voices, and it is impossible to do this without recognizing and working to correct structural inequities that exist largely because of political agendas. I firmly believe that the work the Diversity and Inclusion Committee does should be two-fold: there should be a strong focus on actionable, immediate change that can be enacted to directly impact and improve the lives of students right now (e.g., reforming the cost of attendance and financial aid, creating a physical resource center, and implementing all-gender bathrooms) but there also needs to be a sustainable focus on long-term, systemic change (e.g., pushing to end racial profiling and divesting from the National Rifle Association and gun rights lobby).