Advocacy from the ground up

The Minority Rights Coalition

The Minority Rights Coalition announced its new executive committee Monday and is set to transition this Thursday. Five new members were appointed, an expansion from the three members on last year's executive committee. Third-year College student Heba Tellawi, former president of the Middle Eastern Leadership Council, was elected chair. Second-year College student Revat Anandsongkit will serve as vice chair for internal affairs, and first-year Engineering student Eric Morris was elected vice chair for external affairs. First-year College students Katie Mayfield and Karmen Story were appointed as MRC support officers.

Outgoing MRC Chair Neal Fox expressed confidence in the organization's new leadership and hopes the MRC "under ... Tellawi will be a better resource for minority organizations when they need an advocate."

Led by this executive committee and the presidents of all its constituent organizations, the MRC is an umbrella organization composed of the Black Student Alliance, the Asian Student Union, the Latino Student Alliance, the Middle Eastern Leadership Council, the Queer Student Union and Feminism is for Everyone. According to its Web site, the MRC "seeks to draw strength from the connections and common struggles of its members."

The MRC has the opportunity to build on this past term's successes. An impressive partnership was formed between the MRC and the University Judiciary Committee to ensure minority students are adequately represented among UJC's support staff. Fox described the collaboration as "successful" and "exemplary in terms of how MRC partnerships should work." Most notably, the MRC co-sponsored review sessions for the UJC support officer tests, allowing the organization to reach out to a number of minority groups through both e-mail listservs and personal contacts, encouraging them to attend. The higher minority turnout that resulted allowed UJC to diversify its ranks further and more closely represent the demographics of the University community. The MRC also launched a Safe Space education initiative that trained UJC staff members to better appreciate and accept gay culture at the University.

This year, the MRC significantly altered its transition timeline to align its schedule more closely with those of Student Council, the Honor Committee and UJC. In previous years, the newly elected administration would take the reins sometime in May; the date this year was moved up to April 1. Adjusting the executive committee's transition period should make coordination and collaboration among MRC, Council, Committee and UJC easier from a logistical standpoint.

Fox expounded upon MRC's goals for working with Council and Committee during the upcoming term. Council, for instance, has established a vice chair position to oversee contracted independent organization consultants. This student can act as a liaison between Council and the MRC, and to educate CIO consultants about encouraging minority involvement. The MRC also hopes to engage the Inter-Fraternity Council on issues such as spotlighting and increasing the diversity of the IFC's support pool.

As the MRC continues to build its presence in the University community, these partnerships offer promising opportunities to make clear, positive changes across Grounds. The outcomes are measurable and have a direct benefit to students, furthering the MRC's underlying goal of fostering a more welcoming and integrated community. Tellawhi has served in advocacy roles in the past with MELC, which is experience she can use to her advantage as MRC chair. Nevertheless, the organization must remain committed to the idea that the best plan to increase its visibility is to tackle more specific projects first. Like Speak Up UVA has done for Council, the MRC must find a cornerstone upon which it can build more grassroots support and become more recognizable across Grounds.

related stories