Misaki Collins sparks change for female and POC representation

Misaki Collins sparks change for female and POC representation

Misaki Collins sparks change for female and POC representation
March 08
00:26 2018

Misaki Collins was giving a campus tour when, to her surprise, a young girl asked her, “Are there any residence halls named after a person of color?”

Collins was dumbfounded simply because there was no good answer.

Now, she is paving the way to answer that question with confidence.

“I’ve been thinking about that [question] for a while now, so when I heard they were looking for names [for the new residence hall], I knew it was perfect,” Collins said.

Collins, a political science junior and SGA senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, initiated a petition early last month calling for the new residence hall on Eagle Drive to be named after a woman or a person of color.

The petition notes only two of the 87 main buildings on campus are named after women and none after a person of color.

“I knew that I wanted to make it a petition because I wanted it to not just be from SGA, I wanted other people, like students, to give their input,” Collins said. “It’s so easy for us to forget and do it for students, but I really wanted everyone’s input on a name.”

After posting the petition to Twitter, Collins received a slew of responses from students, most of them supportive of the cause accompanied by the hashtag #SeeYourself.

“I thought it was a great idea because I’m a woman of color, so representation and diversity are really important to me,” physics senior Claudia Campos said. “I have never taken the time to think about how the names of the buildings have implications and never realized the names of the buildings weren’t so diverse.”

News of the petition continued to spread fast, even more so after former UNT spokesperson Nancy Kolsti responded to the petition as “a form of reverse racism” in a controversial email response.

Kolsti later resigned.

But Collins is pushing on. She says the petition is a way to shed light on an issue students feel strongly about and shouldn’t be written off as a blind demand.

“I’ve learned about these [alumni], but it was kind of a slap in the face for her to insinuate that student responses don’t matter,” Collins said. “This is not us demanding anything. I’ve been in SGA Senate long enough to know that we don’t have jurisdiction over things like that. The whole point of an SGA resolution is to help influence and show student support.”

Despite the controversy, Collins was surprised by the amount of support and thought that was dedicated by UNT students.

“I thought people were just going to put alumni that we all hear about, like ‘Mean’ Joe Greene,” Collins said. “But there’s a little more than 1,100 signatures right now, and most of them have really well-thought out people that they have in mind, so I’m so surprised.”

And it did not stop there.

On March 1, SGA voted to approve the building naming resolution which “strongly considers a significant person of the UNT community that identifies as a person of color and/or a woman.” 

This resolution still needs to be signed by the SGA president and vice president of Student Affairs as well. It will then be sent to the Board of Regents and certain UNT administrators with a list of names and bios of the chosen people of color for name consideration.

“We’re going to look at all the names, and we’re going to come up with a creative way to give them to the stakeholders that were mentioned,” Collins said. “I’m really excited to publicize all the names that we got. I want everyone to know about these people.”

Collins’ influence in her time as senator has impressed fellow colleagues, who say she goes beyond her job title to enact real change.

“She set things in motion more than most people in SGA have already,” SGA senator Luis Avila said. “It’s kind of crazy because she is a senator but she doesn’t just limit herself — she goes above and beyond with everything she does, no matter how small or how big.”

Those in support of the petition say Collins’ push for diverse representation has been a step forward for minorities across campus.

“People who are not in a minority community are not going to go out of their way to change something that doesn’t affect them, or usually that’s how it is,” early childhood education sophomore Sydney Valentine said. “It takes somebody within the community to say something and to want to change it for that community. [Collins] is in the right place for her talents and her skills as a leader.”

Even if the new residence hall is not named accordingly to the resolution, opening up a dialogue about representation is still a good place to start for Collins.

“It would be amazing just to start that conversation so they know diversity does matter,” Collins said. “It was really empowering for me to see at the town hall how the presidents came together [saying] how this is something that they’ve been feeling for a long time. We tell [students] that we’re about to be a ‘minority serving institution,’ but you don’t always see it.”

But there is still the steadfast hope that the proposal comes to fruition. Collins said she will definitely be celebrating in every way possible.

“If they do name it after one of those individuals, I’m going to be so excited,” Collins said. “I swear, I’m going to take my graduation pictures there and it’s going to be a huge deal.”

As for future plans in office, Collins is keeping quiet on her ambitions, including the possibility of running for SGA president. 

“I’m going to be a senior next year and I just enrolled for GRE stuff — I’m trying to adult right now,” Collins said. “So, we’ll see.”

Featured Image: Misaki Collins speaks at an SGA meeting in support of her recent petition. Will Baldwin

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Amy Roh

Amy Roh

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