Vice President Alexandra Berna, center right, addresses the ASUM senate during the first meeting of the semester Aug. 31.

The Associated Students of the University of Montana opened up its diversity, equity and inclusion committee for more student input while increasing promotion of DEI-centered student groups on social media during its Sept. 28 meeting.

The resolution looked to reform the duties and responsibilities of the current committee. Senator O’Shay Birdinground, chair of the committee, authored the bill revising the committee’s purpose in the ASUM bylaws. The committee will look to develop a media plan to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, and will help member organizations share their missions. 

The DEI committee will now prioritize reposting Branch Center group information on social media and seek out other student groups that have DEI as “a key role in their mission.”

The committee will collaborate with the Office of Student Success to host listening sessions open to all students to find “how the committee can create everlasting change.” The resolution also prescribed meetings with contributors on the UM committee on how to execute the University’s DEI plan and increase student, staff, faculty and administration awareness of what groups working on DEI across campus do. 

Erin Heaton, a former ASUM senator and current student-at-large, made an appearance at the meeting during public comment to critique the resolution clarifying the role of ASUM’s DEI committee.

“I support the intentional broad language used to outline the duties of the DEI committee, and I think it’s nonsensical to limit what the committee can do,” Heaton said.

However, Heaton, the director of the Gender Equity Resource Center, outlined their concern that the DEI committee should do more than just reposting student groups on social media.

“It needs to be tangible proof that the senate is going to take action for these groups, and stand with these groups,” Heaton said. “Sharing student group posts is not enough.”

There were also questions raised regarding the senate’s relationship with the Branch Center, which labels itself as “the space for student diversity and inclusion at the University of Montana.”

“I want to caution the senate not to just use the Branch Center for their DEI expertise without giving back,” Heaton said, “I want to make it clear that it’s the responsibility of the whole senate to repair this relationship with the Branch Center.”

The resolution, authored by Birdinground, passed overwhelmingly.

The renewed purpose of the ASUM DEI committee will be sent to the provost, vice provost of student success, President Seth Bodnar’s chief of staff, the director of inclusive excellence, the director of S.E.A Change, the co-chair of the Diversity Advisory Council and the director of the Student Advocacy Resource Center.

The senate also discussed a potential rule violation in its interview hiring committee. ASUM is currently processing applications to fill senate seat vacancies. 

Senators questioned fellow Senator Zyanne Cervantes about sharing confidential documents about an interviewee outside of the interview committee. 

The ASUM interview committee video records all interviews that take place between a person applying to the senate and the members of the committee. 

The interviews got out through a link contained within a folder that normally would not be available for others to access attached to an email. 

The file was seen by a handful of people, but was quickly closed to outside access. It raised the senate’s concerns of a possible breach of Cervantes’ duties on the committee. The senate did not disclose who the interviewee was or who Cervantes sent the files to at its meeting.

The senate has not made a decision on what action should be taken regarding the alleged breach, but debated whether or not Cervantes should lose her seat on the committee. The senate is expected to discuss it further at its next meeting.