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Inter-branch training will continue on an annual basis.

Credit: Ari Stonberg

The Nominations and Elections Committee held a diversity training for all six branches of Penn Student Government on Oct. 19, following internal calls for the governing bodies to be more sensitive to diversity earlier this semester.

Malik Muhammad, an associate director of the LGBT Center, led the hour and a half long training in Irvine Auditorium. NEC Vice Chair for Nominations and College junior Urooba Abid, who was a primary organizer of the training, said that Muhammad's presentation included topics like privilege, microaggressions, biases, and interactive games for the participants.

Muhammad defined these terms, talked about how to realize how some words can impact people of certain backgrounds, and encouraged those in attendance to share their own experiences with their peers.

Abid said 48 people in total attended the presentation, including three-fourths of the NEC body. Abid said NEC members were required to attend and those who did not attend had to submit a valid excuse.

Members from the other five branches of student government — the Undergraduate Assembly, Student Activities Council, Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, Social Planning and Events Committee, and the four Class Boards — were not required to attend.

College and Wharton senior Maria Curry, who chairs the UA’s Dining, Housing, and Transit Committee, said all members of the UA Cabinet, which includes the executive board and committee directors, were present at the training. She also said members from every branch of student government were in attendance.

Curry said the leaders of the six branches of student government should make attendance at the diversity training mandatory in future years.

Abid, who is also an opinion columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said the NEC hosts a mandatory diversity training every semester, but this was the first session that was open to all branches.

Inter-branch training will continue on an annual basis, Abid said. She said although she feels the training was a success, she hopes to require all incoming freshmen in student government to attend diversity training, as well as extending the length of the sessions.

“It should be required for all leaders in any forum to have some sort of interaction with a diversity style retreat or lecture,” Abid said. “I think a lot of leaders go into these roles without understanding the complexities of the identities they’re representing.”

Curry said the training was a good first step because she feels PSG must continue to have a conversation about diversity. She said that UA leaders have been discussing holding more training sessions specifically for the UA, in addition to the inter-branch training. This training would focus on the UA's work on representing the student body in dealing with administration.

UA President and College senior Natasha Menon said diversity training for the UA will likely occur at the end of this semester or early next semester. The session will focus on microaggressions and will encourage UA members to be mindful of the identities of the communities that they work with on campus, Menon said. She added that attendance at future diversity training will be mandatory and that not attending will count as a general body meeting absence. 

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