After coming under fire last year amid claims that it did not accurately represent minority groups within the student body, Undergraduate Student Government released its second annual internal demographic report on Wednesday, which showed numbers closely aligned with Ohio State’s demographics.
According to the report, while white students make up the majority of USG, at 66.36 percent, this number is down from last year’s 78.84 percent. Comparative data from the Office of Enrollment Services showed this is on par with the university’s white student population of 68.30 percent.
Last year, nearly all minority groups were shown to be underrepresented, except Asian-American students, who were represented at 12.17 percent compared with the university’s 6.17 percent. In contrast, this year all minority groups surveyed were shown to be overrepresented, except for Hispanic students, who only had 2.30 percent representation in USG while making up 3.85 percent of OSU’s population.
In terms of LGBT representation, 82.49 percent of USG identifies as heterosexual, down slightly from 84.66 in last year’s report. There as an increase in those who identify as homosexual, rising to 9.22 percent from 7.41 percent last year. Additionally, 5.07 percent identify as bisexual, up from 3.70 percent representation last year. The category of pansexual was added to the survey this year with 0.92 percent representation.
Comparative data regarding sexual orientations of OSU students was unavailable from the university and was not included in the report.
Gerard Basalla, USG president and fourth-year in political science and strategic communication, said the organization has worked hard to become more diverse.
“I can say we have put tangible steps in place to get better,” Basalla said. “We’re definitely nowhere near perfect by any means and we have a long way to go.”
Basalla said that he and USG vice president Danielle Di Scala, a fourth-year in political science, created an outreach portion of USG to talk to students and to get a better gauge of what steps the organization should take to increase diversity.
Additionally, Basalla said USG created liaisons to reach out to student organizations on campus and garner feedback, as well as inform them about what resolutions are currently underway within USG. These liaisons are not partnered with specific organizations and switch each week.
“The idea is to send them to as many places as possible,” Basalla said. “This is really the first time USG has tried to do this, and I hope that next year’s administration picks this up as well.”
One of the biggest steps, Basalla said, was adding an inclusion adviser to the senior staff.
“(The adviser’s) job is to oversee the liaisons, that’s his main job. His job is also to be in the room with me and make sure that all the decisions that we make have that diverse perspective,” he said. “Obviously, he’s not meant to represent everyone or anything like that, but he does help me kind of compartmentalize my thoughts.”
Tony Buss, a fourth-year in English, has served as USG’s director of diversity and inclusion for the past two years and has overseen the demographic report since its inception. Buss said he was not surprised by the shift in the demographics report this year.
“I wasn’t surprised because I was really confident in the steps (Basalla and Di Scala) put in place for this year’s administration, and I think it was a really conscious effort to be more welcoming,” Buss said. “I’ve been in USG for three years and we were always welcoming to all kinds of people, but the problem was those people didn’t know that.”
Buss said that, while the continued release of the demographic report is contingent on the new administration each year, he thinks it will continue. He also said that the higher response rate, up 4 percent this year, speaks to the commitment USG has to diversity.
“I think it’s a culture shift within the organization,” Buss said. “The people that we have this year, a lot were there last year. They understood the importance of the issue and they agreed that we need to be transparent and show who we are to the student body.”