Student Voices Pause OMA/ISC Merger


Volunteer Photographer Kyle Kotani

In an email sent to Seattle University students and faculty on May 29, Vice President of Student Development Michele Murray announced that the proposed merger of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the International Student Center will be paused for further consideration.

Volunteer Photographer Kyle Kotani
Volunteer Photographer Kyle Kotani

More than 50 students marched to protest the university merger of OMA and ISC.

Students have expressed concern about the merger in various town hall meetings and open forums over the past couple of months. Their efforts culminated in a protest last week.

A sea of Seattle U students gathered to protest the proposed merger of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the International Student Center on Tuesday, May 26. The protesters gathered at the flagpole and marched through the upper mall, lower mall and past the administration building where a signed statement was delivered. They ended their protest at the Student Center outside the Office of Student Development with a series of
student speakers.

Senior Satya Surekha rallied the protesters in her speech with a call
to action.

“I want to remind you that every single one of us has a stake in this fight if we want to see a truly just and humane campus,” she said. “We not only need your support and the administration’s, but we want you to actively fight this injustice
alongside us.”

According to Seattle U students and administration, the Office and Multicultural Affairs and International Student Center merger comes in response to university budget cuts. The proposed merger would integrate the OMA and ISC into a single student development office. While the OMA lounge would remain a student space, the office portion would be re-assigned as the Center of Transitions. The proposed changes would also result in the dissolution of Sabina Neem’s position as associate director of OMA. Beyond that, current OMA Director Tiffany Gray would become the executive director of the merger and current ISC Director Ryan Green would sign on as the associate director.

Students protested the merger on grounds of injustice, arguing that the merger will dissolve essential student resources that provide services to underrepresented students. Junior Class Representative Manuel Sigüenza said that the proposed merger will negatively impact all Seattle U students, not just those who utilize OMA and ISC resources.

“This merger affects everyone because it permeates ignorance on campus and makes things hard for people of color, undocumented students, international students, LGBTQ+ students and many other groups that are already underrepresented on campus,” Sigüenza said.

These two offices have long played a part in the cultural development of the student body. Since its founding, the OMA has provided a wide variety of resources to support holistic student development and has long provided dialogue programs, summer immersions, and social justice trainings to assist undocumented students, students of color, and LGBTQ+ students. OMA also works closely with other campus agencies such as the Student Center and the Writing Center in order to connect students with programs and services to foster the increasing diversity of the student body.

The ISC has also become a force of cultural understanding through its opportunities for dialogue between domestic and international members of the student body. Additionally, the ISC has become instrumental in providing assistance to international students in matters pertaining to immigration, student visas, document certification, and employment authorization.

According to SGSU Multicultural Representative Monica Chan, the university’s intention to merge the two offices was not clearly communicated to the student body.

“I went to the two initial town halls and it was simply a conversation and not a presentation,” she said. “It was not communicated clearly or directly that these two offices would be merged.”

In an official resolution, SGSU officials echoed this sentiment in a call for the postponement of the OMA and ISC merger, saying: “The timing of the announcement left little opportunity for students to share their valuable input about their vision for this institution. Because of this, we call for a postponement of the merger of OMA and ISC in order to adequately address the outpouring of student concern.”

In a vote held by SGSU’s representative assembly, the resolution was unanimously passed and forwarded on to Seattle U administration, including President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J., Dean of Students Darrell Goodwin and Vice President for Student Development Michele Murray.
It seems that the student body and SGSU’s call to action have been heard. In a statement issued by Murray, the student body was notified of the administration’s decision to postpone the OMA and ISC merger. For the time being, the two offices will continue to function separately.

OMA Director Tiffany Gray will develop an exploratory committee for recommendations on how international students, students of color, undocumented students, queer students and transgender students can be better served in the future.

There is more work to be done, but one thing is clear: they rallied to be heard—and they were.

The editor may be reached at [email protected]