I am writing this piece as a way to advocate for Berry and Pudalov for SGA President and Vice President. To understand why, though, you need some backstory. I am a white, cis-gendered, straight, upper middle-class female who was raised in Virginia, but was born in New Jersey. I have learned that the facts of my upbringing affect, without any conscious effort of my own, my experience of Colgate. And because of these facts, Colgate is an easy place for me to thrive. Beginning my freshman fall, I felt that I had found a place where I belonged. I met amazing people and had fun, interesting experiences with them. I started learning from my professors and getting to know them both as professionals and people. I was becoming more confident, better at thinking critically about the world around me, better at understanding people. I was loving it. One of the main reasons I loved it was because I felt like I was a part of a community that loved Colgate as much as I did.
My feelings changed at the fall 2014 protest. It was there that my ignorance about everyone’s experience of Colgate was challenged. Before hearing my peers’ stories, I thought that everyone felt comfortable in the classrooms, that everyone had the opportunity to socialize in areas in which they feel comfortable, and that everyone had the same opportunities to grow that I did. People’s experience of Colgate is being limited by their race, their ethnicity, their socioeconomic status, their gender, their level of ability and their sexuality.
What the sit-in gave me was understanding, and I am supportive of Daniel and Natalie for SGA President and Vice President, because I believe that they have come to the same understandings that I have. I believe that Daniel and Natalie’s platform reflects an understanding of privilege and lack of privilege and how that affects people on campus. They have the willingness to listen and a desire to understand.
Berry and Pudalov’s platform focuses on survivor-centric conversations that will continue to make this campus safer for people who have survived painful things, and will help those of us who have not be better resources and support for them. A push for mental health initiatives will encourage better support and more understanding for those people who suffer in ways that are not immediately visible. More non-Western texts in the Core curriculum will make broader perspectives the norm and not the exception. Outside of the specifics of their platform, I have found that Daniel and Natalie have been making a concerted effort to reach out personally to individuals and groups to learn about what is important to them and how, if elected, they can help them achieve their personal goals.
There has been conversation that they are anti-Greek. More information about my positionality on this subject: I was in Gamma Phi Beta until I disaffiliated in the spring of 2015, because I didn’t feel it was a place on campus in which I could personally grow. However, I know many people are able to thrive in organizations like that. Daniel and Natalie recognize this. They don’t want to undermine established social groups (Greek Life included). They believe that if Greek Life is where people find connections, they should be able to have that. It is the right of every Colgate student to find their own community, and to experience the same feeling of connectedness that I did when I arrived on campus. It is also important to remember that someone of high socioeconomic class can have debilitating and misunderstood mental illness. A member of a fraternity could have as much trouble paying for expensive textbooks as someone who is unaffiliated. Sexual assault survivors participate in all areas of campus. This campaign is not just for people of color, for unaffiliated people, or survivors of sexual assault. Daniel and Natalie’s campaign is for anyone who wants their struggles, passions, and talents to be recognized on campus.
I know that both tickets believe in making Colgate better. I think that the specific ways that Daniel and Natalie have worked out represent a more committed effort and more comprehensive understanding of how change will actually happen. They have the desire to understand combined with the experience in SGA to actually do the things that they say they will. Every member of their campaign, myself included, truly believe that Daniel and Natalie can institute real change on campus that benefits all students. I urge you to support the best step forward into Colgate’s future and vote for Daniel Berry and Natalie Pudalov.