The lack of diversity at Colgate has, in recent years, been a prominent issue for the school and for the multicultural students on campus. On Tuesday, for the first time in history, the Student Government Association (SGA) held their Senate meeting in the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center as part of a new push to take action on the diversity issue.
The first step the student government decided to take on improving diversity on the Colgate campus was to convene its weekly Senate meeting in ALANA instead of the usual location of Lawrence Hall.
Speaker of the Senate junior David Kusnetz pushed for the move, feeling that the change in the environment would be an effective way to open up the diversity issue to the Senate.
“[I wanted to create a] symbol and show the multicultural students and rest of the campus that SGA is not sitting around waiting to be told what to do, but that we are willing to take the initiative and really care about this issue,” Kusnetz said.
The multicultural aspect of the Senate meeting consisted of a presentation by Cultural Center Director Thomas Cruz-Soto and an open “informal debate,” in Kusnetz’s words, about diversity on campus.
Cruz-Soto opened his presentation to the Senate with the three goals he had as director of ALANA affairs: to bring more faculty to ALANA, to acquire more student traffic and use of ALANA and to turn alumni focus to the building. He explained that a large monetary donation to a cultural center would be an important sign of Colgate’s focus on its multiculturalism.
Cruz-Soto is avidly working to get ALANA involved with other student groups on planning events throughout campus. He has most recently been speaking with the Greek associations in order to pursue cooperation.
“My main goal is to meet with every student group on campus and plan and host diverse, non-alcoholic events with them as an alternative activity for students who want something else to do on weekends besides going downtown,” Cruz-Soto said. “The word multiculturalism encompasses all races, and ALANA cannot be considered a ‘multicultural center’ until it is represented by and utilized by the entire campus.”
Along with social events, Cruz-Soto suggested panels with professors that focused on issues of diversity and racism as a way to increase the utilization of ALANA by the whole campus.
Cruz-Soto also sincerely thanked the Senate for taking the initiative to come talk to him as well as emphasizing the importance of diversity on the Colgate campus.
“Diversity has to be a component of learning in order to prepare young minds — your minds — for the real world,” Cruz-Soto said to senators. “In order to succeed and be leaders, you have to be able to know how to coexist with people of all different types.”
The discussion between members of the Senate focused mainly on what the Colgate student body, administration, and SGA could do to promote diversity on campus.
A main idea of the senators was to have a series of open forums where students of all types could talk and exchange opinions on subjects such as race and prejudice without worrying about the consequences of offending others.
“Students need to learn how to be conscious consumers of what Colgate offers,” Senator senior Lindsay Levine said. “We all get e-mails about the weekly schedule of events on campus, so we can’t say that the school doesn’t promote diversity. And the SGA can’t put forth resolutions on diversity if we as members aren’t going to support and attend events that encourage it.”
Junior Jennifer Geffner expressed that the responsibility of promoting diversity lies not on the administration, but more on the students themselves.
“We as students have to learn how to exit our comfort zones and participate in multicultural events that are going on around campus,” Geffner said.
This comment brought up the opinion of other senators, who said that students do not enjoy being forced to go to events and talks on campus. In order to solve this problem, the SGA discussed providing incentives to encourage people to participate in diversity events such as reinstating the offer of a gym credit for group dialogues that meet weekly.