The Howard University Student Association (HUSA) Senate voted to reject the creation of a committee that would aim to speak on behalf of LGBTQ+ students at Howard.
On Sept. 21 at 8:40 p.m. HUSA Senate gathered in Douglass Hall in part to hear from CASCADE Vice President of External Affairs and current HUSA Senator Jayda Peets. Peets proposed a referendum to institute what would be called a Lavender Committee that would focus on matters related to the LGBTQIA+ community such as increased representation in the Senate.
CASCADE, which stands for Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality, is an organization at Howard University focused on promoting inclusiveness and equity.
The proposal to create the committee was defeated in a 13 to 6 vote.
After the vote, Peets told the Hilltop, “I think this decision will have a detrimental effect on the relationship between HUSA Senate and the LGBTQIA+ community. After the meeting, tears were shared amongst the queer community and it seems as though the senators that voted ‘no’ simply did not care. I believe the LGBTQIA+ community did not feel seen or heard by Senate.”
Senators who voted against the creation of the committee stated that having a non-voting representative from each organization and marginalized group would allow for a greater scope of representation of students from all backgrounds in the senate.
Charis Haynes, a junior biology major and HUSA Parliamentary Chair, explained why she voted against the adoption of the proposal.
She expressed, “I believe that more work can be done in the current Student Advocacy committee to advocate for this community and the issues they face before making the move to establish a standing Lavender Committee.”
Hassana Baldé, HUSA Senate student advocacy committee chairwoman, explained why she sided against the proposal to the Hilltop. “I voted no because as student advocacy chair, it is important to me that we ensure all marginalized communities receive ample avenues of advocacy and there is no hierarchy of representation.”
Baldé plans to pass legislation that would allow for a representative from CASCADE to serve as a non-voting member of the senate student advocacy committee. She said that doing so would “ensure that the needs, concerns, visions of the LGBTQIA+ community are not only addressed but prioritized.”
Lastly, Baldé also stated, “I hope the community understands that this decision is in no way an intentional blow to what they are attempting to accomplish and are willing to work alongside all of the current student leaders to improve representation on Howard University’s Campus.”
Other students and leaders have expressed their disagreement with the decision made on Wednesday, including Mia Rivers.
Rivers, a junior biology major from Maryland, serves as the current President of the Out in STEM (oSTEM) chapter at Howard University. oSTEM is a nonprofit organization that focuses on expanding LGBTQIA+ representation in STEM fields.
She said, “I find this decision by HUSA extremely disappointing. The senators didn’t give a clear reason as to why they wouldn’t support the Lavender Committee. I think Howard’s queer community deserves an answer as to why a support initiative was cut off before it could even get off the ground.”
Rivers expressed fears that this rejection may create a pattern across campus. “I am concerned that HUSA and other Howard boards will cut off other resources for other underrepresented groups on campus. There were hundreds of students showing support for the Lavender Committee, working to persuade their senators. I’m just shocked that the senators didn’t consider the experiences and needs of their peers.”
A student who wished to remain anonymous due to them not officially coming out as queer explained their outlook on HUSA Senate’s decision to the establishment of a Lavender committee.
“Before the decision, I was kind of hopeful things would change but as soon as the decision was made, it was just so disappointing. I think the Senate needs to work on ways to significantly improve the representation of LGBTQIA+ students and organizations on campus. As for how it would affect the queer students at Howard, they would definitely feel a sense of invisibility since their voices are being heard but ignored,” they said.
Peets hopes to present the Lavender Committee proposal again at the next HUSA Senate Constitutional Convention in the spring.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett
***The Hilltop has updated the number of votes from 14 yays to 13 yays per updated HUSA records.***