When we decided to run for President and Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA), we had the goal of being able to represent the student body as a whole. Our first three years at Colgate provided us with a home away from home, and we wanted to strengthen the Colgate experience so that as many students as possible could share in feeling part of this community.
It was not until this past September that we realized we had a lot of learning to do. The demonstration at the Admissions building was proof that Colgate was not doing a good enough job of providing a safe and inclusive home for its students, and although we were new to our positions, we felt that we were complicit in this.
As your student body leaders, it was our job and responsibility to educate ourselves about diversity, inclusion, privilege, and institutional power. Starting this past September, a process began in which many members of the student body, including ourselves, began an internal reflection.
We had to ask ourselves what we were doing to make sure students of all backgrounds – no matter their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, etc. – felt like they had a place at Colgate.
Throughout the year, we have tried to use SGA as a uniting force among students, doing what we could when it was appropriate. We hosted Brown Bags on campus climate, met with administrators to proactively improve life for students, and engaged with leaders from all areas of campus. Through these processes, we tried to continue to perpetuate dialogue in a safe and productive manner.
We also worked on the rollout of the Residential Learning Communities to make sure all entities on campus had access to Broad Street housing space, which is an important factor when examining social capital on our campus.
We knew we had to make internal changes as well. We went on a listening tour to find out from the campus community how we could make BAC processes more equitable and fair.
We also increased our outreach to all areas of campus to make sure student representation on Senate, Executive Board, Class Council and the BAC was more reflective of our campus values.
But most of all, we listened. The reason we listened is because we knew we weren’t experts. We were not under the delusion that we fully understood what needed to be done to help our campus move towards being a more accepting place for all students. We know that we haven’t always succeeded, and that there is still plenty more that all of our leaders on campus should expose themselves to in order to move our community forward.
Ultimately, this has been a difficult, inspiring, and transformative year for our community. It has taught us that the most important part of the student experience is how we treat each other as human beings.
We believe that this year has challenged many students to think critically about our daily actions, and that this is the first step to realizing a place that accepts others for our differences.
Although we leave Colgate shortly, we know that we are leaving the campus in good hands and the students here will continue to work to improve the lives of each and every person in the Colgate community.
This year has only inspired in us a deeper commitment to Colgate’s future, and we are excited and hopeful for what is to come.