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Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board: Restructuring Proposal

The Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board and Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) welcome and encourage feedback on the proposed restructuring of the student advisory board component of the OMA. We aim for this new structure to better identify and address the diverse needs of the undergraduate community, more effectively connect students with relevant University entities to collaboratively create positive institutional change, and create a stronger means for the OMA to enact its advocacy function. Below outlines the current structure, purpose of the restructuring, and proposed structure.

Please provide feedback by Friday, April 8, at 5pm.

Current Structure

The Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board (MAAB, or the "M Double-A B") is a group comprised of six to eight Columbia College, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and School of General Studies students to form a broad-representation of the Columbia undergraduate community who work collectively toward continually enhancing the programs and services of the OMA, evaluating the needs of our diverse undergraduate student population, identifying relevant campus issues, and promoting a campus environment of inclusion, self-awareness, intercultural engagement, and social responsibility.

MAAB members are selected by OMA with input from current board members. Applicants submit applications, which include short essay questions, and have individual interviews that are conducted jointly by an OMA staff member and a current MAAB member.

Each year, the Board focuses on a particular issue that relates to diversity and inclusion on campus. After gathering information and feedback from students, the Board then works with relevant offices, faculty, and student leaders to develop recommendations and changes to positively impact the community. The board also coordinates other initiatives, such as campus campaigns and op-eds. Examples of past activities include our op-ed focusing on hateful anonymous online comments (“For a better discourse”) and last year's work to advocate for more supportive student experiences in Core classrooms

In Fall 2014, the OMA launched the separate International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) and an administrative complement, the International Resource Team (IRT) as part of its new International at Columbia programming. That year, ISAB and IRT jointly developed a climate survey that included focuses that the ISAB students thought were important for the University to know as well as focusess that IRT felt were important for them to be better atuned to international students' experiences. Launched in Spring 2015, the climate survey yielded critical information to identify issues that could be immediately addressed. It also has informed on-going focus groups run by ISAB and tailored to the administrative offices in the IRT for longer term strategic planning and change. 

Purpose of Restructuring

The OMA and MAAB have identified a number of shortcomings with the current MAAB structure as well as opportunities for improvement that warrant the development of a new model:

  • As a small board which seeks to generate a focused agenda on a specific issue each year, the current MAAB is not independently able to attend to the diversity of needs that fall under the broad charge of "Multicultural Affairs."
  • The ever-changing campus climate demands a structure within the Office of Multicultural Affairs that has multiple boards for various constituencies to hear and address their needs throughout the year.
  • Expansion of the MAAB would allow for increased student representation within the Office of Multicultural Affairs and lead to more policy recommendations and/or greater advocacy within the same amount of time (i.e., a school year).
  • The application process of MAAB currently precludes the possibility of serving on the board as a first-year student. This leaves out a significant portion of the undergraduate population.
  • The International Student Advisory Board has found success having an administrative resource team that supports and furthers its mission. The International Resource Team is comprised of administrators from key Columbia University offices where there are unique needs to international students. These point persons can facilitate substantive dialogue, collaboration, and action among student board members and their respective offices. The replication of administrative resource teams for other advocacy boards would be highly useful and efficient.

Newly Proposed Structure

Visual depiction of structure

The Multicultural Advisory Board (MAAB) will be comprised of four committees:

  • Students of Color Advisory Board (SOCAB)
  • LGBTQ Advisory Board (QTAB)
  • International Student Advisory Board (ISAB)
  • First Gen Advisory Board (FAB)

Each committee will be assigned an adviser from Multicultural Affairs who works with programming and groups relevant to each respective constiuency. Additionally, each committee will have an administrative resource team, who are designated administrators of contact from relevant offices on Columbia’s campus who agree to be collaborators with and responsive to the needs of the committee. Members of administrative resource teams will be identified by OMA, and their meetings are convened by the OMA. Obtaining feedback from constituencies throughout the year will be codified in the expectations of the board.

Each committee will be comprised of six to eight members, with at least one slot reserved for a first year student representative. Committee members will each serve up to two years, not necessarily consecutively.

These individual committees will meet weekly. The entire board, with members of all four committees present, will meet twice a semester. At the MAAB meetings, University leadership -- including the Dean of Undergraduate Student Life -- and other critical campus stakeholders may be invited depending on the agenda.

MAAB meetings will be led by a single "community organizer," a position that will rotate each semester, switching from each of the boards. These organizers will be nominated and voted by their respective committees at the start of the year and will be tasked with ensuring communication as necessary between committees through organization of the agenda and leadership of discussion of monthly MAAB meetings.

With exception to the position of the community organizer, the four committees will be non-hierarchical.

Because of the unique intersectional identities, needs, sizes, and considerations of various communities on campus, each committee may have varying internal structures or expectations about composition to ensure they are representative of the campus community. For any existing advisory boards that may serve a consituency already (ex. an international student advisory board in GS); it will be up to that committee to work with the existing board so as to not duplicate efforts.

Application Process

Members will apply and be selected by the OMA with input from current members of the committee. Terms begin at the start of the fall semester. Applications for first-year students will be released early in the fall semester for service during the same school year, while applications for all other students will be released in late spring for service in the following school year.  In addition to committing to weekly meetings, the members of the MAAB must attend two retreats per academic year, one at the beginning of the fall semester and another at the beginning of the spring semester. At both, board members will have an opportunity to connect and train with all MAAB members as well as with their fellow committee members.

The application process will aim to have a diverse pool of applicants representative of the important intersectional identities represented on campus.

Timeline

The feedback process and finalization of the newly structured advisory board will take place in April 2016 with the intention to fully launch in fall 2016.

Multicultural Affairs

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510 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: 212-854-0720

Fax: 212-854-6972

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