Cecelia Hopkins stepped down from her position as Student Association James M. Letherer Diversity Chair on Feb. 11.
Hopkins cited ill-defined expectations and a lack of internal support as factors in her decision.
She was the second SA member to hold the position since its inception last year.
SVSU students were made aware of the decision through a University Community email Feb. 20, which said SA was seeking applications until Feb. 21.
SA President Hunter Koch said SA member Olivia Nelson will serve as interim diversity chairwoman until SA elects someone for the rest of the semester, which Koch said it hopes to accomplish during its Feb. 24 meeting. In the meantime, Hopkins said she sent the diversity committee and Nelson her notes and has been answering questions that popped up for Nelson.
The political science and history double-major made the decision to leave after feeling the role was relatively undefined and undervalued by the rest of SA, she said.
“In the bylaws of SA, Diversity Chair has two bullet points, and they’re relatively the same,” Hopkins said. “They’re about spreading awareness about diversity on SVSU’s campus.”
Article 3.10.1 of the 2019 SA bylaws states, “The James M. Letherer Diversity Chair shall be herein referenced as the ‘Diversity Chair.’” Article 3.10.2 states, “The Diversity Chair is responsible for the promotion of diversity and inclusion both within and outside of the association.”
No further articles or sections address the role of Diversity Chair. Hopkins said she should have focused on making sure SA as a whole valued diversity, even if she believed the individual members do value it.
“I tried to do a lot of outside promotion in my first semester as chair, but this semester I felt like I should have been concentrating more on
SA valuing diversity,” Hopkins said. “We have a diversity chair, but that doesn’t mean we value diversity.”
Hopkins said another goal this semester was to show SA and her fellow students that she cared about diversity, but a lack of support from SA made this hard for her.
“I value diversity, but I don’t think I was showing it in my position as much,” she said. “I wanted to really show it this semester, but it wasn’t working out. I would ask for help, but I’d be asked, ‘Have you done this? Have you tried this?’ I looked for help as a last resort, so I felt people personally cared about diversity, but I didn’t feel that SA cared.”
Hopkins said SA should “flesh out those bullet points” so her replacement will have a better understanding of what their job is.
“I would also say they need to give guidance and hope to the chair and just attend multicultural events,” she said. “One of the bullet points needs to be about making sure SA values diversity.”
One bullet point Hopkins suggested adding was finding ways to get more SA members at multicultural events.
“Going into my position, I looked to see if there was a way to require at least one or two people to go to multicultural events,” she said, “but there was no way to do that. Finding a way to make that happen or at least pushing it instead of just putting SA’s name on multicultural events [is important].”
Hopkins said attending such events would help show the SVSU community that SA is committed to diversity and inclusion. She suggested her replacement continues working toward this goal and not “taking to heart” every piece of criticism the new chairperson may receive.
“For me, toward the end of last semester and the beginning of this semester, criticism came my way and shot my confidence about what I was doing,” Hopkins said.
She also encouraged her replacement to keep fighting the taboo associated with discussing diversity. She said Garcia provided her much support as diversity chairwoman and suggested the next chairperson continue working with him.
“(Multicultural Student Affairs Director Roberto) Garcia is always there to help you if you need him,” she said. “Keep him in the ropes of what you’re doing and know what he’s doing, too.”
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