Columbus, OH

Undergraduate Black Caucus looks to make room for student voices

The Lantern

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Students discussed religious accommodations at the Undergraduate Black Caucus’s final town-hall meeting of the semester on Thursday. Credit: Kyrie Thomas | Lantern Reporter

The Undergraduate Black Caucus, which is meant to create a union between Black students and the surrounding community, is now offering a new way for students to make their voices heard.

A part of the Undergraduate Student Government, the caucus’ town hall meetings, which started in October, provide a space for students to discuss important issues and topics that embody their day-to-day lives at Ohio State, Kaira Mack, a fourth-year in psychology and caucus chair said.

“I feel like these town halls are a perfect chance for people to tell it to us straight and let us know how we can best be an advocate for them with the platform that we have,” Mack said.

Mack said the idea for the meetings came to her this past summer as she considered how she and the caucus could make a lasting impact not only on campus but also in the surrounding areas.

“It’s an opportunity for communities to engage with Black Caucus just so they can see more about the work that we do,” Mack said. “[Students] vocalize their thoughts and concerns, and make sure our initiative and things that we’re doing are really aligning with what they need.”

The last town hall of the semester was held Thursday in Thompson Library with a focus on religious accommodations offered to students. The caucus currently plans to hold them monthly each semester.

Evelyn Tawiah, a fourth-year in health sciences and a member of the community relations team for the caucus, said the discussion prompted personal insight from several attendees.

“I didn’t realize how unaccommodating some of the professors were at OSU,” Tawiah said. “Especially with how they love to explain to go to their syllabus yet they aren’t fully aware of the policies they have while also choosing to ignore how one’s religion and practices may affect how they do in the class.”

Following the meetings, Mack said members of the caucus gathered notes, ideas and common themes that came up to not only share on the group’s Instagram but to use when speaking to university administration.

“I think it’s really important because USG is, if not one of, the biggest student organizations on campus,” Tawiah said. “So, it’s a lot easier to come forth with experiences when you hear how others have been treated as well.”

Mack and Tawiah said the town hall meetings have been successful in their goal of amplifying student voices and creating new pathways for change, but moving forward the group strives to expand the initiative.

“I just wish the town halls were a bit more promoted. I wish others that were in these other organizations could see it, especially freshmen,” Tawiah said. “So they would come out more, and find others that could help lead them through the way and just know that people are fighting for them.”

Despite the last town hall being the final of the semester, Mack said the caucus hopes to continue the project moving through the academic years. In the meantime, the group plans to continue offering events and resources to raise awareness within Ohio State’s diverse student population.

“I definitely do see a growth in our campus community and I think it’s awesome, and it’s definitely going to be a lot of work to show up for each community, but it’s work that we’re dedicated to doing,” Mack said. “We’re prepared for it and we’re excited.”

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