The Howard University Senate Association (HUSA) voted to reject the creation of a committee that would seek to speak on behalf of queer and LGBTQ+ students at Howard.
On Sept. 21 at 8:40 p.m., HUSA convened at Douglass Hall in part to hear from CASCADE Vice President of External Affairs and current HUSA Senator Jayda Peets. Peets proposed legislation to institute what would be called a Lavender Committee that would focus on issues 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 a Howard University organization focused on promoting inclusion and equity.
The proposal to create the committee was rejected by 14 votes to 6.
After the vote, Peets told the Hilltop, “I believe this decision will have a detrimental effect on the relationship between the HUSA Senate and the LGBTQIA+ community. After the meeting, tears were shared within the queer community and it seems the senators who voted “no” just didn’t care. I believe that the LGBTQIA+ community did not feel seen or heard by the Senate.
Senators who voted against the creation of the committee said having a non-voting representative from each organization and marginalized group would allow for greater representation of students from all walks of life in the Senate.
Charis Haynes, a biology student and HUSA parliamentary president, explained why she voted against passing the proposal.
She said: “I think more work can be done within the current Student Advocacy Committee to advocate for this community and the issues it faces before we make the decision to create a permanent Lavender Committee. ”
Hassana Baldé, president of HUSA Student Advocacy, explained why she opposed Hilltop’s proposal. “I voted no because as Chair of Student Advocacy, it is important to me that we ensure that all marginalized communities receive ample advocacy opportunities and that it is not there is no hierarchy of representation.”
Baldé plans to pass legislation that would allow a CASCADE representative to sit as a nonvoting member of the student advocacy committee. She said this would “ensure that the needs, concerns and visions of the LGBTQIA+ community are not only considered, but prioritized.”
Finally, Baldé also said, “I hope the community understands that this decision is in no way an intentional blow to what it is trying to accomplish and is willing to work alongside all current student leaders to improve representation on the Howard University campus.
Other students and leaders voiced their disagreement with Wednesday’s decision, including Mia Rivers.
Rivers, a young biology student from Maryland, is the current president of Howard University’s Out in STEM (oSTEM) chapter. oSTEM is a non-profit organization focused on expanding LGBTQIA+ representation in STEM fields.
She said: “I find this decision by HUSA extremely disappointing. The senators did not give a clear reason why they would not support the Lavender Committee. I think Howard’s queer community deserves an answer as to why a support initiative was shut down before it could even get started.
Rivers expressed concern that the rejection could create a trend on campus. “I’m concerned that HUSA and other Howard boards will cut other resources for other underrepresented groups on campus. There were hundreds of students showing their support for the Lavender Committee, trying to persuade their senators. I’m just shocked that senators didn’t consider the experiences and needs of their peers.
A student who wished to remain anonymous because he did not officially identify as queer explained his views on HUSA’s decision to create a Lavender Committee.
“Before the decision, I was hoping things would change, but as soon as the decision was made, it was so disappointing. I think the Senate needs to work on ways to significantly improve the representation of students and LGBTQIA+ organizations. on campus. As for how this would affect gay Howard students, they would certainly feel a sense of invisibility as their voices are heard but ignored,” they said.
Peets hopes to present the Lavender Committee proposal again at the next HUSA constitutional convention in the spring.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett