Introducing MESA

A new student affinity group hopes to get approved by the Student Government Association.

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The Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) is in the process of being developed at Muhlenberg. The executive board consists of only first-year students. Pamela Najm ‘27, imminent president, said, “It’s supposed to be a club where Middle Eastern students feel safe, have fun and can make connections with each other.” 

On Nov. 8, the MESA executive board went to the Student Government Association’s (SGA) General Assembly meeting in hopes of getting the club officially approved. Jake Forstein ‘24, student body president, stated that in order for a club to be approved by SGA they must “deliver a brief presentation at an SGA General Assembly meeting, which will include a Q&A.” Then, “SGA will vote on the final determination of organization status.”

Najm stated, “We went into the SGA Assembly meeting with pure intentions of creating a club for underrepresented Middle Eastern students.” Zayna Shadid ‘27, imminent vice president, said, “We felt as if we were bombarded with redundant questions during the presentation. It was the constituents and the SGA who were asking us these questions, but it was mostly the constituents.” Najm noted, “We provided clear and concise answers repeatedly, but it felt like the SGA and the constituents didn’t understand the purpose of MESA.” 

Forstein said, “There was some confusion because the Instagram profile picture and first post both expressed support for Palestine and did not include Israel as part of the flags represented in the Middle East, which caused overall confusion about the club’s mission of inclusion. While we intended to prevent the conversation from getting repetitive, I think a lot of members of SGA and other constituents were still confused or felt that their questions were not being addressed, which meant that some questions were asked multiple times.” 

Forstein stated, “[A]t that time, I asked our vice president, Andrew [Buckwalter ‘24], to poll the representatives present to see if SGA members felt comfortable voting with the information they had at that time, and a majority of members did not seem comfortable, so we decided to table the vote [to recognize the group].”

Najm and Shadid voiced that “We wanted this club to focus on the culture of the Middle East including dance, food, language, customs, music, etc. as well as bringing in speakers regarding the Middle East and hosting events regarding Middle Eastern culture.” When discussing the creation of the club to SGA, the Palestine-Israel conflict was brought up. In regards to what was said at the SGA assembly, Treasurer Sultan Almosbeh ‘27 stated, “Our views as a club don’t reflect the intention of creating the club, it just reflects the need as a club to discuss the ongoing issues in the Middle East.” 

On Nov. 9, the executive board of MESA met with the Community Engagement committee. In a joint statement, Najm, Shadid and Almosbeh reflected that “it sounded like SGA was confused with the intentions of the club. By going to this meeting there was clarification about our ideology and we better understood each other. It was more organized, respectful and peaceful compared to the general assembly. We have hope for Wednesday’s [Nov. 15] [general assembly] meeting, and we look forward to the meeting in hopes of getting approved.” 

Forstein commented that “we [MESA and the Campus Engagement committee] had a really productive conversation that helped SGA members better understand the club’s goal of representing Arab and underrepresented students.”

Shadid commented how the last General Assembly meeting was, “Disappointing… it could have been more civil, productive and constructive.” Forstein explained that moving the vote “was not at all intended to prevent MESA from being approved, or to shut down their process. This was an intentional decision to ensure SGA had all the information it needed, and to alleviate any further confusion so that representatives would not be voting against a group just because they had lingering questions that could easily be answered in a smaller group setting.”

On Nov. 15, the SGA general assembly decided whether or not this student affinity group will be approved on campus, SGA approved MESA during this meeting.

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