The five-person executive council of the Colorado College Student Government Association has only one woman.
Charis Whitnah, Executive Vice President of Student Concerns, looks around a predominantly female campus and finds herself alone with the leaders of CCSGA.
“Nobody is creating an environment where I feel uncomfortable,” said Whitnah. “I think it’s just more a feeling of underrepresentation. Last year there were two women on CCSGA that were female, but it has just been brought to my attention by other students that I am the [only woman].”
The Executive Council is made up of four white men and one white female, raising questions about the gender and racial diversity of the elected officials running the student government association. Yes, the majority of the members are Caucasian males, but that is not all that defines them.
The executive council includes religious, ethnic, national and moral diversity.
“I think this year’s CCSGA is representative of the students that participated in the election process,” said Pat Knecht, Executive Vice President of CCSGA. “There are so many different ways to construe diversity. We are mostly white, just like the school. As such our diversity is better thought of in sociological and ideological terms. We all think differently and come from different places and walks of life.”
Nathan Lee, Student Body President, agrees.
“We are a group of almost all Caucasians,” Lee said. “That being said, we have several religions represented among us, at least one dual citizen, numerous members on financial aid, at least three current or former Varsity athletes, at least one Republican and two people from Michigan.”
In years past there has been more gender diversity in CCSGA.
Last year two women were in the executive council and during the 2010-2011 academic year, the student body president, Angela Cobain, was a female.
Whitnah sees the lack of women on the Executive Council as problematic in discussions about certain campus problems, such as mental health and wellness. According to Whitnah, women make up the majority of those who attend GROW meetings for mental health awareness, outreach and support.
However, t is the campus community that decides, through elections, the representative for each position in CCSGA.
“CCSGA is a group of elected representatives,” Lee said. “To change the makeup of CCSGA it is important for students to be informed about the election process. Also, if we want to change our student government we have to become more engaged as a community. The Office of Minority and International Students [OMIS] does appoint one representative, not to say that this is the so-called solution.”
OMIS promotes an atmosphere of constructive pluralism on the Colorado College campus by fostering inclusiveness, according to their mission statement. They advocate for the well-being of students by encouraging their academic, cultural, and social success, especially for students from underrepresented campus constituencies (students of color/American ethnic minorities, students from abroad, first generation students, LGBTQIA students, and religious minorities).
“The cross disciplinary perspective of a liberal arts education offers unparalleled opportunities for intercultural engagement,” said Roger Smith, director of OMIS. “We enhance the intellectual and cultural vitality of our community when persons of many different backgrounds and viewpoints draw upon distinct personal histories and engage in honest dialogue.”
The importance of diversity doesn’t stop there.
“Diversity, likewise, links directly with creativity: interactions between different perspectives frequently strike the intellectual sparks that herald the emergence of a new idea,” said Smith. “Attention to difference in background, cultural perspective, life experience, and worldview is thus an essential element within the larger framework of Colorado College’s most fundamental and longstanding institutional commitments.”
So while diversity may not be perfect in all areas here, it is something that the school values and works to improve.
“I think CC is attempting to improve this situation,” Knecht said.
Through the diversity task force, and this year’s incoming freshman class that is considered the most diverse yet, he said changes are happening, but CC is still very white and economically affluent. Knecht said this has to do with the demographic the college attracts and the price of school, but, he said, there is still so much diversity within the white population.
Diversity creates more perspectives and points of view at CC, which is very important on a college campus.
“It provides several alternative perspectives on issues,” Knecht said. “It allows people to experience things that they might not otherwise experience. Life is no fun if everyone agrees all the time.”
And this remains true to student government.
“It is important that there are people with different perspectives that make up an effective student government,” Lee said. “That way, there is more likelihood that the voices of different interest groups on campus get heard.”
Knecht encouraged any students who have issues regarding student government to do something to change it.
Said Knecht, “Students should know that the students elect the CCSGA, so if there is a problem with ‘diversity,’ however construed, it is up to the students to do something about it.”