ASUN Meeting 3.2

ASUN Internal Vice President Taylor Jarvis calls on a senator during their meeting in the Platte River Room of the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:23 p.m. on March 7, 2022, to properly attribute Senate Bill 12 to Sen. Bridget Peterkin instead of Lucy Peterkin.

The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska met Wednesday to discuss a bill on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department safety program and hear open forum perspectives on the 2022-2023 ASUN Election and the Student Election Groups involved. 

Senate Bill 12, which will support the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department Husker Safe Walks program where students can request a walking escort to their home at any time, passed unanimously.

The bill was authored by Sen. Bridget Peterkin and submitted by the Campus Life and Safety Committee. Peterkin said the bill is asking for $60 more in order to print posters and put them in academic halls. Peterkin said the posters will provide information about the service and the phone number students can call, 402-472-2222. 

During open forum, students from many organizations spoke about their perspectives on ASUN, the ASUN executive debate, and statements released by internal vice president-elect Christine Trinh in an Advance Instagram post. 

Bousaina Ibrahim, president of the Afrikan People's Union and sister of ASUN President Batool Ibrahim, spoke first during the open forum. Ibrahim said her statement was written by multiple organizations who “all understand how important it is to stand together in solidarity” and the statement released does not represent an isolated incident. Bousaina Ibrahim said systematic and institutional voices led to the erasure of Black students in many parts of campus, especially within ASUN. 

Bousaina Ibrahim referred to the statement made by Trinh on the Advance Instagram page on Feb. 26. The Daily Nebraskan is unable to link to the post in question, as Advance has placed its Instagram on private.

“We are not addressing the validity of anyone’s lived experiences, but rather the intent to push accusations that hold a lot of weight as anti-diverse,” Bousaina Ibrahim said. “Our organization stands in solidarity with our Asian students who have sadly been villainized and targeted, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are extremely disappointed that these sentiments were used to silence the attempts of Black students bringing attention to their experiences within ASUN and the university at large.”

Bousaina Ibrahim said the hope of this statement is to give the opportunity to discuss the larger issue at hand because “this letter was a direct response to Black students voicing their experiences and it raises attention to the problem that is anti-blackness within white spaces, but also in other spaces of color.”

“We should never be using our experiences to fight one another, but rather to lift up one another and these concerns,” she said. 

Any work that ASUN does in regard to diversity, equity and inclusion, she said, “should include us at the table” because the work is not genuinely equitable until “we are acknowledged, respected and invited to the room.”

“We want you as an organization to do better by us, for us, our experiences, platforms and organizations should not be a tool used for political gain, especially with acknowledging how a person has excluded these groups,” Bousaina Ibrahim said. 

Members of ASUN have a duty to reach out to representative organizations, she said, such as APU, Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, Define American, Mexican American Student Association, African Student Association, the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association, and the University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange. 

“As our student government, you have failed us by allowing opportunities to politicize our experiences for public theatrics,” Bousaina Ibrahim said. “There are no claims that some groups are more diverse than others, but that the structural violence for some are greater than others. What Black people experience is not comparable to what any other people in this world experience and you all need to understand that this should not be a sentiment used against each other.” 

Bousaina Ibrahim said to not forget the importance of intersectionality and to make sure that conversations, statements and action plans embody intersectionality. 

She ended with a list of demands including: The recharter of executive council of multicultural organizations will be housed underneath ASUN; all senators and members of ASUN receive equity training that finish out all sessions for the equity project the current President is working on; any legislation pertaining to identities that ASUN are unable to or should not represent should go through ECMO in the partnership with the diversity, equity and inclusion committee; and that ASUN engage in communication monthly with their registered student organizations throughout the year.

Mariah May, member of APU, addressed a few of statements made in Trinh’s post that she felt went against the experiences of Black students on campus, but also expressed that she was not there to invalidate her experience or anything Trinh has gone through as an Asian-American woman.

“This is not a competition of who is more racially oppressed,” May said. “I 100% agree with that. This is not a competition of who is more racially oppressed as minorities themselves. They go through so much and we shouldn’t have to compete with one another.”

When Trinh said in the Instagram statement, “Am I and the five other Asian women on this campaign not diverse enough? Are the Middle Eastern, Black, Hispanic and Latinx students not enough?”, May said she felt like that was tokenizing people and that it was “extremely inappropriate.” May said it also seemed like it was targeting Black people and that Black students on campus are making the conversation only about themselves.

“We all know that all minorities go through things and all minorities have to face oppression,” May said. “We are 100% aware of that, but this causes divide amongst minorities and that is something that we are working to work past and push past and create change for. As minorities or as people in general, we have to validate the experiences we go through, so that we can acknowledge them and then move forward so that we can create solutions for those problems.”

Holly Kerr, who spoke on behalf of the Asian Student Union, said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Asian students on campus face racial microaggressions and experience fear and anxiety. 

“A trauma is not an argument and it never should be, and frankly, it’s disgusting when accused of such,” Kerr said. “Everyone’s traumas is relative to them and acknowledging the differences is not only important, but vital. However, using those differences as a means to further your public image places the damaging narrative that one person’s racial experience, whether it be positive or negative, is somehow more validating or even superior to another.”

Kerr said the Asian Student Union commends President Batool Ibrahim in her efforts to implement steps to “acknowledge and prevent future anti-blackness or any prejudice towards marginalized groups.” Kerr said the Asian Student Union stands with the Black Student Union, APU and with Black, Brown and Indigenous students.

Xinyi Li, Freshman Campus Leadership Associate member, referenced Trinh’s post and said she related to a lot of what Trinh experienced, and it was painful for her to know that many Asian Americans share similar experiences with growing up in the United States and facing racism. 

Li said she was unaware of Trinh’s Chinese heritage due to her personal posts, because she said Trinh has talked about her parents being from Vietnam and claims her Vietnamese heritage. Li said she, as a Chinese woman, believes that only Chinese people should be able to use a slur Trinh wrote in her post which historically refers to those of Chinese heritage. Since she was unaware of Trinh’s Chinese heritage, she left a comment on Trinh’s post to express concerns about Trinh using it.

“Instead of directly informing me that she was Chinese, my comment was met by ‘Why are you attempting to perceive my heritage?,’” Li said. “I felt antagonized by this response. I never attacked Christine's character or even claimed she was in the wrong, so I was very confused.