Leja '21 expresses his goals if elected vice president in a speech given to the senate. Photo by Aidan D'Anna

New vice president election and racist incident preoccupy ASLC

During the Oct. 3 senate meeting, The Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) held an election for the position of vice president. Three candidates ran for the position: Kenneth Leja ’21, Jacob Muscarella ’21 and Tom Stratton ’20. Muscarella ultimately won the election.

Muscarella is currently an Opinion editor for The Pioneer Log. 

Leja previously served as the ASLC chief of staff and as a senator. He is the current Disabled Student Union (DSU) and Queer Student Union (QSU) treasurer. Leja ran for vice president with a desire to help the LC community accomplish goals of all sizes and bring light to smaller communities on campus. 

Stratton formerly served as the student organizations committee chair and as a senator. Additionally, he served as the interim vice president this year prior to the election. Stratton ran for vice president with a desire to mentor people both inside and outside of ASLC and specifically help senators accomplish their goals.

The past two years, Muscarella served as the chief justice of ASLC and as a senator. He discussed his platform in running for vice president.

 “A lot of dynamics can exist in that space that make it difficult for some students to make their voices heard, or feel comfortable in that space, so my main goal as vice president is to make everyone feel welcome there,” Muscarella said.

After candidates gave brief speeches and answered questions, and senators discussed each candidate, the senate elected Muscarella as vice president. The vote was nearly unanimous.

During their conversation, some senators expressed concern that Muscarella will be studying abroad during spring 2020, and another vice president election will have to be held. He addressed how he plans to help facilitate a smooth transition with his successor.

“Whoever my successor will be next semester, I will be sure to give them adequate training at the end of this semester and make sure I make myself available to any questions that they have, so that they feel confident entering that position next semester,” Muscarella said.

Additionally, the senate voted in favor of changing the name of the Diversity Committee to the Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee. 

Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee Chair Elizabeth Gillingham ’20 spoke further on the intent behind the name change.

“Our primary motive for changing the name is the way the word ‘diversity’ is understood, especially on college campuses,” Gillingham said via email. “At LC and in the ASLC, diversity sometimes gets tossed around or marketed as something we have rather than something we do. What I mean by that is, students from historically underrepresented groups, and especially students of color or other highly visible identities become a stand-in for diversity.” 

Gillingham elaborated on the language change more accurately reflecting the future goals of the senate.

“For the past few years as the Diversity Committee, the committee has, in my opinion, focused primarily on racial diversity,” Gillingham said. “While that work was and continues to be highly valuable and important, our name change more authentically reflects that our goals and mission are much further reaching to all identities.” 

Gillingham explained that the name change is in line with wider changes of LC’s institutional language.

“This is the terminology LC as an institution has adopted,” Gillingham said. “Both the institution-wide Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion have changed their names to ‘equity and inclusion.’ With ‘justice,’ we are pushing LC’s language a bit further. The word justice does also appear in the college’s strategic plan.”

On Oct. 14, ASLC sent out an email to the student body apologizing for a racist conversation that took place in the ASLC office on Sept. 23. The conversation topic surrounded the Black Student Union (BSU) and took place between an ASLC member and an outside student.

“We have contributed to physical, mental and emotional harm to our peers of color in ways that we don’t fully understand and can’t adequately convey in this letter,” the email said. “We are complicit through our participation and our inaction; we take full, unwavering responsibility for our participation and failure to shut the incident down and strongly condemn the racism that occurred within a space meant to be open, inviting, and representative of the student body as a whole.”

Gillingham spoke on how the conversation further exemplified the need for action to make ASLC an inclusive, safe environment.

“Even before the discriminatory incident took place in the office, Cabinet had committed itself to working toward those goals and with this misstep has realized it is even more important that that work get done promptly and

correctly,” Gillingham said.

In response to the incident, a Special Committee on Systematic Barriers is being created in order to “evaluate the ways in which Senate meetings and the ASLC space are both formally and informally unwelcoming to students of color and members of other affinity groups,” according to the

email sent by the ASLC cabinet. The committee will consist of members of both the ASLC cabinet and senate, members of affinity groups and the outside student body.

Also in response to the incident, bystander intervention and anti- oppression resource trainings will be implemented for ASLC members.

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