Home Campus Student Senate and the city planner are teaming up to increase diversity and inclusion in Athens comprehensive city plan

Student Senate and the city planner are teaming up to increase diversity and inclusion in Athens comprehensive city plan

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The plan is seeking student input and calls for diversity and inclusion, infrastructure improvements, and planning for housing.

Student Senate and the office of the city planner are joining forces to develop a plan to incorporate and expand the role of diversity and inclusion in the upcoming city comprehensive plan.

The planning office — which is creating a comprehensive plan, spanning parking, housing concerns, and the environment — is looking for student input to help complete its diversity and inclusion portion.

City Planner Paul Logue said the primary driver of diversity and inclusion comes from Ohio University students, who overwhelmingly make up minority populations in Athens. According to U.S. Census data, 90.9 percent of Athens County residents are white.

Logue said he wants the plan to reflect more than just acceptance or toleration and wants to see increasing changes in the role that diversity and inclusion plays in the city.

“That goes beyond people just being nice to people that look different than them,” Logue said. “What do we need so that people feel like Athens is their home for the long-term?”

Alicia Lundy-Morse, city planner intern and the senate’s chief of staff, said that the city can help expand diversity and inclusion through zoning and the commercial development of ethnic businesses. These could include businesses like barber shops and international markets, or other establishments that may cater to minority populations.

“The largest population of minorities are students that live in Athens, so we really wanted to be gauging what students, who are those voices, want,” Lundy-Morse said.

Lundy-Morse also said that she and Logue spoke to Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Gigi Secuban, about how the school and the city can both work together to further the goal of a more inclusive environment.

Brian Jones, the black affairs commissioner of Student Senate, said he would like to see the Athens take real steps towards increasing diversity and inclusion.

“It’s easy to say that we want more diversity and inclusion and we want more colored people to be here, but it’s hard to get tangible, physical things that attract that and not feel like a gimmick, or not feel like they’re token black people,” Jones said.

Although he is not involved in drafting the plan, Jones said he and his commission are partnering with the Athens Middle School guidance counselor to talk to black middle schoolers to see how they feel about being black in Athens. They also want to build a stronger relationship with the school district so students can be exposed to people of color who are successful in higher education.

But Jones thinks the residents of Athens he has met have been very hospitable and welcoming.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to has always seemed open to discussion and been open-minded so I would urge more of that,” Jones said.

Jones said he would like to see the city have a “center” where people of color could congregate and converse.

Diversity and inclusion does not just extend to ethnic minority populations, but also residents and students with disabilities. This covers issues such as infrastructure, quality of sidewalks, and the ability for people to access businesses. Athens has undertaken a significant overhaul to sidewalks in the past ten years, Logue said.

“There is legitimate frustration with some of that infrastructure, especially as it relates to someone who experiences a disability,” Logue said.

Logue said the estimated completion date of the plan is first quarter 2019. The office of the city planner and Student Senate will be conducting a pop-up survey outside the Athens County Municipal Court on Sept. 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m..

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