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New ASM Diversity Chair to Revitalize Committee

February 23, 2011

ASM elected Tangela Roberts as the new Diversity Chair February 9 to revitalize the committee and make as much progress as possible in the remaining months of the school year.

Roberts, a UW-Madison graduate student studying counseling psychology, has extensive experience in facilitating programs and discussions about social justice.

Another perk—she’s never been involved with ASM.

“I think this body is prone to to being insular,” said Representative Jason Smathers. I don’t want someone from ASM to be doing this job. I want someone who is not going to be prone to the same kind of political in-fighting. I really hope that you vote her in because of the fact that she is an outsider.”

As candidates debated February 9, they sent many different definitions of diversity echoing around the table.

One popular definition framed diversity as a “diversity of ideas.” Others, including Roberts, rejected this idea, arguing that factors like race should be considered in defining diversity.

“I think people are scared to talk about diversity, and talking about a ‘diversity of ideas’ is the safe way to talk about it,” she said. “If I think the room should be painted blue and she thinks the room should be painted white, we have different opinions. Differences of opinion don’t address ethnic disparities. I really don’t care whether the room is white or blue.”

However, Roberts did say it’s important to think about diversity beyond just race and ethnicity.

“When most people think of diversity they think of race and ethnicity, but it’s beyond that—it’s gender, sexuality, ability status. It’s all of these things individually, and how they intersect,” she said.

Roberts has had personal experience with the intersection.

“Being a person of color who’s also bisexual has definitely made me interested in these issues,” she said. “People are uncomfortable with the fact that there’s both in one person. People don’t think you can be both.”

Roberts also has experience challenging people’s ideas about what is normal.

Roberts works with the Dane County Rape Crisis Center to facilitate classroom discussions about sexual assault at local middle and high schools. She is also a personal care worker with Options for Community Support, a local non-profit that supports adults with special needs.

Roberts said she wants to begin her work with diversity committee by listening to as many voices as possible.

“I really want to hear everyone’s ideas,” she said. “It’s going to be a place where you can get your ideas out and we can have fun. And it will be informal—structured, but no gavels and hats. Well, maybe cute hats.”

Roberts said she wants to include students from all walks of life — even those who do not consider themselves minorities.

“No matter what you look like, you can still be culturally competent and learn,” she said. “I think a lot of people at this university aren’t used to seeing people that are different from them, and then they’re afraid of people that are different from them.”

Anyone interested in getting involved should contact Roberts at troberts3@wisc.edu.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2011 11:35 am

    When does diversity committee meet? What events do they typically hold?

  2. aafolayan permalink
    February 24, 2011 11:45 am

    The Diversity Commitee meets every Monday in the ASM office from 6-7. They are currently working on a number of projects, such as a shadow day for local Madison students and a kick off movie night. If you are interested in joining or have some suggestions you should contact the chair,Tangela or just come to a meeting. They are more than open to suggestions!

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