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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, June 16, 2024

Incoming TCU President Joel Omolade champions inclusivity

Omolade told the Daily about his involvement on campus and his vision for his upcoming year as TCU president.

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Joel Omolade, the next TCU president, is pictured.

“If you’re not on the table, you’re on the menu,” Joel Omolade says. “And I really want to make sure that more students are able to be a part of that table, to be a part of the conversations that are happening.”

Omolade will serve as president of the Tufts Community Union Senate for the 2024–25 academic year. In an interview with the Daily, he looked ahead to his term as president, pledging to embody the ethos of his “Better Starts Now!” campaign and prove his commitment to bringing meaningful change to the community.

Omolade, a junior, is pursuing a double major in community health and political science. He became interested in both fields during the COVID-19 pandemic when he witnessed medical mistrust and political disillusionment prevalent in the Bronx, where he grew up.

“I thought that working in public health and working in politics would be a great intersection to help my community,” Omolade said.

Omolade is passionate about fostering dialogue between diverse student communities, and as president, he wants to involve more students from outside the Senate in important campus discussions. He pointed to the Senate’s “What You Missed” series on Instagram, an effort he led to make the body more transparent to the broader Tufts community.

Omolade is the Senate’s outgoing diversity officer, meaning he chaired a committee of senators who represent students from underrepresented or marginalized identities at Tufts. The role has made him conscious of disparities in privilege and representation on campus.

As diversity officer, that’s one thing I’ve been pushing a lot for all the senators,” Omolade reflected. “[I was able to] think about who doesn’t have the same abilities that [others] do. [I thought] about who doesn’t have the same access and the same support systems that [others] have. And I think those people who don’t have [as many] opportunities should be the people that [we] are making these projects for.”

Omolade stressed that he doesn’t just want the senators to broaden their inclusivity efforts, although that’s a great start. He is committed to directly involving more students in the decision-making processes.

This year, Omolade helped create the SWANA community senator seat to represent Tufts’ Southwest Asian and North African students. He also spearheaded the formation of the Senate’s Intercultural Council, a forum that brought the senators together with leaders of Tufts’ cultural clubs to talk about how student government can better meet their needs.

“We’ve been putting a lot of pressure on senators to do a lot of this work [with Tufts’ cultural clubs because] there [are] a lot of students on our campus who really want to be engaged and want to make [changes], but [who] don’t necessarily have the best venue to do that,” Omolade said.

To that end, he plans to create more subcommittees accessible to the entire Tufts student population, as well as new liaison roles to bridge gaps between different campus groups.

Omolade believes the Senate has “a bit of a PR issue,” he said. “[Tufts students] don’t necessarily trust the system and only see it from afar. I think the best way to navigate that is to create more opportunities for students to sit on these committees, to be a part of these rooms and to really be a part of this dialogue.”

In addition to expanding on his current work on diversity, equity and inclusion, Omolade also campaigned on the promise of many other big changes for the upcoming year. His vision includes updating gym equipment and Safe Ride options; revamping the Student Information System website to be mobile app-friendly; establishing grants to fund independent and student-led engineering initiatives; making laundry free for all students; collaborating with the Office of Equal Opportunity and pre-orientation groups to provide antisemitism and anti-Islamophobia training for incoming first-years; and developing a Survivors’ Bill of Rights that outlines the rights and resources available to survivors of sexual assault, among other initiatives.

Reflecting on his campaign, Omolade attributed his success to his team: “If I don’t have a good team, then there’s no point in me even running in the first place. And I’m so proud that I have the best team in the world.”

Outside of student government, Omolade is the president of Tufts’ undergraduate resident assistants’ union and a member of Tufts’ nationally ranked mock trial team, the Pre-Law Society and the competitive African dance team C.O.C.O.A. And in his (limited) free time, he’s teaching himself to play the saxophone.

“I’ve been able to find home and joy in each of those different activities. I’m blessed with so many different families on this campus,” Omolade said. 

Omolade is eager to step into his new role and has already begun preparing to take over from outgoing TCU President Arielle Galinsky.

“You don’t have to wait for that future to happen,” Omolade said, echoing his campaign slogan. “It can start now.”