SGA meeting on multiculturalism
The Student Government Association (SGA) hosted an informal, campus-wide meeting to discuss the current state of multicultural affairs at the College on Sunday, November 7. Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students James Terhune and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Jed Wartman attended the event to help facilitate discussion among students.
SGA President Leslie Hutchings ’11 sent an e-mail to students before the meeting, inviting them to the forum to voice their opinions. She reminded students that “[d]iversity includes, but is not limited to, differences in religion, sexuality, gender, mental health, learning disabilities, ethnicity, nationality, political views and socioeconomic class.”
Hutchings, Vice President Athul Ravunniarath ’11 and Parliamentarian Amy Dunlap ’11 led the meeting. Students at the meeting were given a minimum of two post-it notes on which they could write a “problem” and a “solution” as to addressing the issue of diversity on the Hill.
Although most students at the meeting were either dorm presidents or other SGA representatives, student leaders from other organizations such as The Bridge and the Pugh Community Board (PCB) also attended.
Junior Class President Laura Maloney ’12 was the first student to share what she had written in the “problem” category, commenting on the “lack of student support” regarding issues of diversity on the Hill. Several other audience members cited similar concerns and placed their post-it notes next to Maloney’s on the whiteboard at the front of the room. Other problems the students identified included a lack of education and awareness, as well as a lack of institutionalized support and emotional support on the Hill, a leadership vacuum on campus and more.
Terhune and Wartman joined the conversation to offer their own viewpoints on several of the categories. “We can start to take some more steps forward [and] think about how we can move forward together,” Terhune said at the beginning of the meeting. “That can give us the best chance to make the most progress.”
As students shared their solutions to the problems they had pointed out, Terhune emphasized that he, like many others in the audience, would like to see “more people on the student affairs staff.” However, “the problem is there [are] all these other things going on that the College wants to do,” he said, and such efforts are further limited by budget constraints. Several other departments on campus would also like to see more faculty in their respective areas. “We all want more people. All of those things get played off against each other,” Terhune said.
The solution that garnered the most support from members was the idea to implement an administrative position designed to address issues of diversity. Jess Acosta ’11, who is on The Bridge’s steering committee, expanded on the idea, suggesting that the College hire resource officers designed specifically to advise people from underrepresented groups, such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students, first-generation college students, students of color and international students.
However, leadership potential also lies in students’ hands. “If we are asking for a position, we should also prove what we’re capable of. Students should feel more empowered,” PCB Chair Nicole Sintetos ’12 said.
Additional ideas for solutions included working to improve student-administration relations and students’ perceptions of the administration, establishing Career Center workshops focusing on diversity in the workplace and re-evaluating academic requirements to further educate students about diversity.
Terhune said holding this meeting was “really a very positive step. We’re really driving to the core of things.”
Wartman echoed this statement and said seeing students’ energy motivates him. “I really believe the students can make the community and can make that community as rich and as meaningful as possible.”
Both Terhune and Wartman emphasized that follow-up discussions are necessary to further address multicultural affairs on the Hill. Wartman made a point to write down several of the issues that community members felt were particularly important to follow up on.