It’s atypical to see students dressed in indigenous clothing from various countries at an ASUCD Senate meeting, especially two in black ski masks.
During Thursday’s senate meeting, held publicly in the Coffee House, members of the public discussed a controversial topic that arose during the previous week’s senate meeting. Nick Sidney, a first-year political science major and member of the elections committee, made a comment connecting third world countries and the elections – sending some students in an uproar.
“This is about making sacrifices and you have [yet] to come to a decision that is possible. In real government elections, you don’t suspend elections. That happens in third world countries but not here, with principles of democracy,” Sidney said, according to the senate recorder’s minutes from the Feb. 26 meeting.
In reaction to the comment, students came to this week’s meeting dressed in garments typical of their families‘ native countries to demonstrate that they were not happy with the reference.
“The reason why elections run the way they do in third world countries is because they’ve been installed by the U.S. government, they’ve been dictatorships,“ said Michelle Villegas, wearing a traditional blouse from El Salvador. “The context in which the phrase was said was incredibly offensive. And the fact that nobody would at least take the time to consider this, is ridiculous to me.“
At the end of last week’s meeting, some in the senate discussed removing Sidney from the Elections Committee as punishment for the comment.
Peter Markevich, senior political science major, also called the issue “ridiculous.“
“Nick did absolutely nothing wrong, and the fact that we are discussing firing this guy, is ridiculous,” Markevich said. “But this is a term that is used in political science classes, [and in] international relations classes.“
Hyatt Cummings, chair of the External Affairs Commission, suggested the use of the terms “underdeveloped countries” and “developed countries” to avoid further offense.
“I’ve used [the term third world], and I still find it offensive. And I also think that underdeveloped is better but I still find it offensive,” Villegas said.
Another member of the public, José Márquez, said that for him, using the term third world gives him a sense of empowerment.
“I was using the term as a term of empowerment. I didn’t feel like I used the word in any offensive way, like [Sidney] did,” said Márquez, a sophomore psychology major.
Senator Mo Torres agreed that there is a difference between the self-identification of a term versus labeling by others.
After almost two hours of discussion, Senator Danny Garrett said that he would personally contact Sidney and ask him for a formal apology. He said that if Sidney refused, that the Senate would deal with appropriate action, “so that everyone can learn from this experience.“
Other members of the public were concerned that senators did not make enough of an effort to reach out to other communities on campus. Lee J Vue said he was part of the Asian Pacific Islander community and commented that there was not enough outreach to his community, which he said makes up 41 percent of the student population.
“ASUCD hasn’t done anything for the API community, we need help and we don’t get help. Half the time it’s our fault, but the other half it’s your fault,” Vue said. “Of course I will be offended because you don’t have the time to get to know my community.”
Senator Justin Patrizio said that it is difficult to outreach to all students.
“I did not at all say that I don’t want to go out and meet people. It’s as much as my responsibility as anyone else’s. I am one person and I can’t possibly reach out to all students,” he said.
Goodbye speeches from Andrew Bianchi, Erica Oropeza, Chris Dietrich, Rebecca Schwartz and Ramneek Saini also occurred in the beginning part of the meeting. Sergio Blanco was not present.
ASUCD president-elect Joe Chatham and vice-president Dietrich will be sworn in at the last Senate meeting of the quarter on Mar. 12.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.