Thursday, February 27, 2020

Letter: MSU needs to better represent different genders, races

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a press conference at the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing on Feb. 21, 2019.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a press conference at the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing on Feb. 21, 2019. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

By Jake Nessel

Nessel is a political theory and constitutional democracy sophomore.

Since coming to Michigan State, I have volunteered for many campaigns, specifically Abdul El-Sayed’s campaign for Governor and Dana Nessel’s campaign for Attorney General. During the past election, I was the Get Out the Vote Director for MSU College Democrats, helping to boost voter turnout on campus. I am passionate about supporting candidates who reflect the diversity of our state, and people who will work to create a society that supports historically marginalized communities.

This year, I had the opportunity to see Dana Nessel sworn into office as Michigan’s Attorney General. Seeing Dana become the first openly LGBTQ person elected to statewide office in Michigan was an incredible experience - and a major step for creating a politics of representation. As an activist, I also derive much inspiration from Abdul El-Sayed, someone who has a unique compassion. His work has become a moral compass, working to create a Michigan that represents every person.

While I have done much of my work to promote diversity in our state representation, I have found that many issues on the statewide level are also common at Michigan State. Much of the work I do at MSU is focused on creating a community of inclusion and equity. Since my freshman year, I have joined people from various activist circles in working to change the campus culture. Michigan State has accomplished so much in creating a more inclusive environment for all students. In the future, however, we still have a lot of work to do.

There is immense institutional change that needs to happen, in order to make MSU more gender-inclusive and reflective of its students. This involves changing the kind of language that is used within the university. An example that comes to mind is the “Chicano/Latino Studies” program. The university should emphasize terms like “Latinx” and “Chicanx” to work towards gender inclusivity. I have seen the terms “Latino/a” and “Chicano/a” used in some cases at MSU, but even these terms are isolating to those who do not identify as either gender. Other schools across the country, such as the University of California San Diego, have already begun using the terms “Latinx” and “Chicanx” to emphasize gender inclusivity.

When considering the significant institutional changes that need to be made, we must acknowledge that it reflects a broader concern in society. This concern is about promoting intersectionality. It is also about recognizing how gender intersects with ethnicity and culture. While I am not a member of the LGBTQ community or the Latinx community, I am writing because I stand in solidarity with people in this community, and I stand in solidarity with historically marginalized communities. I will always stand with movements that strive for a politics of representation, equality, and inclusion. Whether it is at the statewide level or Michigan State University, I am confident that we can create a home that reflects every person within the community.

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