SGA on diversity and dorm damage
Student Government Association (SGA) executive board members and dorm presidents met Sunday, October 17 to discuss the issue of diversity on campus as well as methods of addressing dorm damage. Representatives also approved the sailing club, the College chapter of MEDLIFE (Medicine Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere) and the Chemistry Club in three unanimous votes.
Assistant Director of Campus Life Paul Spangle, who began work at the College last week, also attended the meeting. Spangle, who advises the Student Programming Board (SPB) and works with other student-run organizations on campus, encouraged representatives to ask him questions about his role at the College.
Junior Class President Laura Maloney ’12 asked Spangle if his position would overlap at all with the role Former Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Director of the Pugh Center Shontae Praileau played at the College. Praileau resigned from her position Monday, September 27. While Spangle said he was unsure of how he would specifically work with the Pugh Center groups, he said “[I am] really there to help anybody and any student, so if one of those organizations needs assistance for any reason, I’m certainly there to help them out.”
Maloney brought up to the representatives the “student and faculty anger” that was present on campus after Praileau resigned. Her departure raised the issue of diversity and multiculturalism on the Hill, and the College held a forum to address the retention rate of minority students. While the College works hard to attract minority students, Maloney pointed out “there’s a difference between recruitment and retention.”
Maloney said, “faculty representatives met with [President William Adams] on the issue of retention of minority students. They brought up the possibility of hiring a Dean of Multicultural Affairs and a separate programming position, rather than the not vacant position of Associate Dean and head of Pugh Center in order to increase both student resources and support for the administrator.” Maloney said that such positions exist at all other NESCAC schools except Tufts University. However, “[Adams] said that he has found these positions inefficient and was unsure about having Colby create these positions,” Maloney said.
SGA President Leslie Hutchings ’11 and Vice President Athul Ravunniarath ’11 raised this issue with the trustees who were on campus over the weekend. “Most of them were supportive and receptive of the ideas,” Ravunniarath said, yet they were not ready to take action in the immediate future. “I think there’s probably going to be a lot more discussion on it,” he added.
Although Publicity Chair Justin Rouse ’12 said “the conversation on Friday seemed very focused on race and sexuality,” addressing the issue of diversity on the Hill also requires defining what factors constitute diversity.
“The end goal is student support on campus [for diverse students] and feeling like they’re happy for four years [and] they came here for a reason,” Maloney stated.
The discussion shifted to the issue of implementing a punishment system for dorm damage on the Hill, as Perkins-Wilson Dorm President Becca Litwack ’11 presented a new approach. Litwack shared an idea that she developed with others on campus, that would require students living in dorms with high damage rates to complete community service as a penalty.
Given the privileged nature of the College community, “putting fines and penalties on people aren’t discouraging the acts,” but people are more concerned with having to give up their time, Litwack said. “The idea is they’re taking away from [the] community by committing dorm damage, so we’re making them pay back to the community. The threat of having your time taken away and doing community service on a Saturday morning might make people more vigilant.”
Several dorm presidents brought up the point that students who do not live in the building are often the ones committing the damage. Additionally, many questioned the logistical components of the system: what would constitute community service, who would be in charge of coordinating community service activities and what monetary amount of dorm damage would result in residents having to community service?
Rouse supported the underlying ideas behind the proposed policy. “In talking about the actual philosophy of this, I think it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “One thing that I see lacking is that…we never have a policy of educating people about dorm damage. The only way you can find out what the dorm damage is for your dorm is by going on some link on the website that is poorly publicized.”
Representatives also suggested educating students about dorm damage during freshman orientation, holding preventative meetings with residents and posting damage amounts in the dorm newsletters to keep residents informed throughout each semester.
Junior Class President Tracey Tomlinson ’12 also stated that the College is working on a policy that would allow dorms with low damage rates to have their lounges decorated, although the cutoff rate is still undetermined.
Representatives will continue to discuss this topic at their next meeting. Meanwhile, Hutchings urges students to participate in the Helping Hands Food Drive which will run from October 18 to November 11. Students can bring canned food in the designated locations in the dining halls or the Spa, and the donations will benefit food banks in Waterville.