On Monday, October 2nd, 2017, SGA’s Senate passed a Sense of the Senate that urges the University to change its observance of Columbus Day to that of Indigenous People’s Day. The legislation was drafted and presented by President Suchira Sharma. These are her thoughts on the initiative:
“I believe in a University community that's unified by action. When I see Northeastern in the news being given awards for their commitment to diversity, I’m filled with pride. When I see an email from President Aoun establishing his commitment to make our campus more inclusive, I’m hopeful for our future students feeling a sense of belonging on our campus. I felt like it was time to match Northeastern’s policy and longstanding commitment to be thought-leaders on diversity and inclusion, into the practice of our University observances. By making a simple change in the Undergraduate Calendar for the following academic years, Northeastern has the opportunity to send a strong message that it values history, diversity, and community. Indigenous People ought to be celebrated on our campus. This day ought to be for them. I worked for two years with the Social Justice Resource Center where I learned that Northeastern is filled with passionate change makers who believe that our University’s nature of being a work in progress serves as an incredible potential and catalyst for change. To me, this legislation represents a small change that the university could make to ensure that campus is more inclusive of the students that it serves. I owe a lot of inspiration to previous Program Director Shaya Poku from the SJRC who taught me that empowering others, means empowering ourselves, and I felt empowered as a student of color to raise my voice when I felt as though there was an opportunity for Northeastern to do more.
I think there’s a lot of pressure being the sole author on a piece of legislation. You’re worried that there’s only one set of eyes on something. Your worried whether you’re the best person to be representative of an entire concept or idea. There was a lot of doubt that I had going into the drafting of the legislation. I assuaged these doubts by working closely with campus centers like the SJRC, as well as my Cabinet to ensure that the language and the messaging was consistent with the goals of the legislation. I believe in a bimodal method of leadership — lines of communication ought to be open to foster constructive dialogue. So when I presented this legislation, I had senators come up to me after with thoughts. That dialogue was so valuable — it showed me that not only did students outside of myself care about this, but that the potential and effects of this legislation could go further for students than I had imagined. As a person of color, I had mixed feelings presenting this legislation. I think there are still systems in place in society, that while not intentionally, create structures of power in which it’s hard or intimidating for someone of a different background to feel confident to engage in. I definitely felt that way, but I believe that the only progress comes through change. As your Student Body President, it’s my responsibility to seek change in policies that eliminate those barriers so that there’s equity for all students.
Now that the legislation has passed, I’ll be meeting with the Office of Student Affairs to get a sense of the timeline of the change’s adoption into the University Calendar. From my understanding, next year’s calendar has yet to be printed, so I’d love for the adoption of the change to be as early as next year.
Share your support of the passed legislation! Write to the Office of Student Affairs! Contact myself if you’d like to come to a meeting to discuss its implementation further. My dream would be to not only enact a calendar change of the observance of the day, but work with existing campus offices like the new Center for Intercultural Engagement to create constructive, University sponsored programming on what the actions of Columbus, and colonialism means for a 21st century, diverse, university community. I’d like to end by saying one thing — I believe in skeptical optimism. I believe in the power of Northeastern to be a force for good in the world. But at the same time, I remain skeptical in believing that our Northeastern is a model for society in its present state. To put simply: I believe that Northeastern can do more for its students. That has guided this, and all actions I take in fulfilling my role as your student body president, advocating for you.”