Pugh Community Board brings diversity to forefront
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The Pugh Community Board (PCB) is the College’s student-run programming board whose mission is to “help the community…become more aware of multiculturalism and all the different issues that fall under that category,” Nicole Murakami ’11, treasurer of PCB said. Its programs “seek to affirm cultural differences and educate the community on multicultural issues,” according to the group’s webpage on the College’s website.
“This year we’ve talked a lot about how we perceive diversity. It’s not just about race,” Nicole Sintetos ’12, PCB chair, said.
In an October survey by the Student Government Association, 54.1 percent of more than 900 student respondents replied “No” to the question, “Do you think that understanding of diversity issues and support for multicultural affairs are lacking Colby?”
Cliff Katz ’11, PCB secretary said, “When I first saw those results, I was in shock.”
The numbers seem discordant with the communal outcry that came with former Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Director of the Pugh Center Shontae Praileau’s resignation at the end of September. Students and faculty alike demanded an explanation for her leaving—although none was given—as well as campus conversations on diversity.
Murakami expressed similar shock at the survey results. “I think that many students are unaware of what is happening outside of their friend group or what is happening on this campus,” she said. “I think [the lack of multicultural awareness] is a much bigger problem than a good 50 percent of our community realizes. I think that the biggest issue…is solely being aware.”
“It’s about becoming aware of how your behavior affects those around you,” she said.
One of the biggest goals that PCB, which is made up of 10 board members, is to help the College realize just what multiculturalism means and what it encompasses. It is the dynamic interaction of different cultures and social issues that we face as a community; thus multiculturalism encompasses conversations ranging from race to gender and sexuality to religion to social class and other factors that inform our identities.
Some of the most intimate and regular PCB events are the monthly to bi-monthly PC Coffees, holding conversations on topics ranging from social class to what makes an average Colby student.
“We’re also trying to get people to have conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Katz said. The PC Coffees are Katz’s favorite PCB events because he feels like they “provide an outlet” for the important conversations people on the Hill need to be having to grow and to learn about themselves and the people in their community. “Judging by how well our coffees have been attended, there are issues that, either because of peer pressure or not enough time at dinner…” students may not get around to talking about, he said.
PCB is not to be confused with the Pugh Center, which is the physical space within Cotter Union designated to promote multicultural understanding and growth. The Pugh Center houses the Pugh clubs, such as Students Organized for Black and Hispanic Unity (SOBHU), Gentlemen of Quality and Colby Hillel. PCB is one of the top programmers of the Pugh Center, and it often works in tandem with many Pugh clubs. “We like to see ourselves in a relationship with the Pugh Clubs, but in no way are we in charge of them. We want to support them but that’s technically not our official role,” Sintetos said.
Another central goal of PCB has been getting people into the Pugh Center. Many students do not know much about the Pugh Center, or if they do, they may not feel like it is a place for them, the executive board said. However, the Pugh Center is a beautiful space with comfortable couches that is open to everyone.
That is one of the reasons that both Murakami and Sintetos love the Pugh Club Palooza. The second annual event took place Thursday, October 28 and brought together many Pugh clubs as well as the College’s a cappella groups for a night of fun performances and events. It brought a huge amount of traffic in and out of the Pugh Center, and members on the Board said that they saw people in Pugh that had never been in there before.
The event was a huge success.
“At one point it was completely packed and people couldn’t even get through the door,” Sintetos said.
PCB has worked to bring a wide range of programming to the Hill. In its first event of the year, Kyle Abraham and his dance group Abraham.In.Motion performed “The Radio Show.” His performance sold out within 10 minutes of doors being opened and he received a standing ovation. “There’s more than one way to have dialogue about identity and I’m glad that we brought a choreographer as our first event to make that point,” Sintetos said.
Despite Praileau’s surprise resignation, PCB has been functioning very well this semester. “Because we have such a cohesive Board, we’re doing well. If anything, it fueled us to work harder. Not that we had to prove ourselves, but to prove that we could still keep it together,” Sintetos said.
She said that PCB has received enormous support from Jed Wartman, associate dean of students and director of campus life. “Campus life has been just wonderful to us,” she said. However, “It’s hard to lose such a valuable, important position and try to have it be absorbed by an already incredibly busy staff.” Joe Atkins, coordinator of multicultural student programs and support, has also provided guidance to PCB this semester.
“We’re trying to get more people into the Pugh Center and feel[ing] like they belong [there] while still doing dynamic programming,” Sintetos said. “You’re missing out if you don’t go in there,” she said. “It’s for everyone.”