New student organizations join the University this fall

These four groups are aiming to bring more inclusive spaces to student life on the University of Minnesota campus.

Srilekha Garishakurti, Campus Activities Reporter

The University of Minnesota has over 1,000 student groups, with more being formed annually. To comply with Student Unions & Activities guidelines, new student organizations are joining the ranks during the COVID-19 pandemic in a largely virtual space.

The Minnesota Daily spoke to four new student organizations created this fall.

VERA

After noticing the lack of Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) female representation in the Multicultural Greek Council, Aileen Pham, president of VERA, decided to form a sorority interest group to create an inclusive space for women.

“We wanted to cultivate an inclusive space for womxn within Greek life, and we didn’t really find ourselves fitting in within other Multicultural Greek sororities,” said Yayoua Yang, internal vice president of VERA.

The six main pillars of the group include empowerment, unity, resilience, honesty, growth and identity, and VERA aims to empower women and women’s health, increase its network and generate important conversation within the APIDA community.

“One thing all the board members of VERA had in common was the idea of expanding the Multicultural Greek Council network and having other options available to womxn of color,” said Trinity Vang, public relations director of VERA.

The letter “x” in “womxn” is often used to be inclusive of transgender, nonbinary and other marginalized women.

VERA-fied, the group’s upcoming podcast that will be released at the end of October, will feature discussions with other student leaders about sexual health, mental health and engaging with other organizations.

Student Basic Needs Coalition

After observing the systemic issues within the education system, Alexandra Zykova recently founded the University chapter of the Student Basic Needs Coalition (SBNC).

“Our main goals are to ensure that students on campus have access to basic needs and they don’t have to stress about those issues outside of an academic environment of just succeeding in their courses as well as combating the continuing rising costs of college,” Zykova said.

SBNC’s vision for the current school year includes targeting food insecurity, housing insecurity and healthcare initiatives for students on campus.

“Especially with Swipe Out Hunger not being a service that students can use this fall semester, we realized that students do not have access to ready-made meals at the dining halls due to COVID-19 precautions. … our coalition is planning on hosting a contactless delivery service or a socially distant pop-up cafe on campus around mid-November and December,” Zykova said.

SBNC’s long-term goals include fighting for lease flexibility for on-campus housing and opening a closer farmers market to the campus community, she said.

Spectrum

Due to the lack of intersectional resources for Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American queer communities, Brandon Chen and Qabzib Hang, president and vice president of Spectrum, decided to form an advocacy organization to fill that gap.

“The goals of Spectrum include creating community [and] finding resources, allyship, and awareness through dialogue to empower the intersectionalities of APIDA and LGBTQIA+ identifying folx,” Hang said.

The group hopes to create a safe space for these specific identities and strives to increase awareness about the organization as well as host educational and social events.

“We are starting a biweekly initiative called Snacktime with Spectrum where we can gather allies and people who identify as queer APIDA and have educational discussions and social bonding events,” Chen said.

United Student Education

As a first-year student, navigating resources on campus can be difficult. Swati Rampalli, president of United Student Education, noticed the issue and formed the group to fix that gap.

“United Student Education is about hosting different computer science-based projects that are designed specifically for the purpose of reducing academic disparities and providing a supportive community for students at the U,” Rampalli said.

United Student Education is working on three main projects, including a Black Lives Matter database with resources, including podcasts, influencers, donation sites, petitions and other resources for allies and the community. The group is also working on a pen pal initiative linking University international students together and building an app to help students decide which courses to take.

“We also make sure that different types of struggles are represented through our projects, whether that is diversity, academics or mental health,” Rampalli said.