With 5C students back on campus after nearly 18 months away, this year’s student government presidents have big goals and a new set of challenges to face for the 2021-22 school year.
The presidents — all of whom identify as women, for the first time in memory — are poised not only to drive change at their schools but to collaborate across the consortium as a team.
“I’m especially loving getting to work with the other amazing kickass 5C presidents,” Scripps Associated Students President Maya Lynch SC ’22 said. “It’s been so exciting to get to think through issues and brainstorm ideas and tackle different concerns together with them … I am really excited for all the things that we’ll get to work on this year.”
Katherine Almendarez CM ’22
Katherine Almendarez CM ’22 felt driven to run for ASCMC’s presidency after her involvement with Nobody Fails at CMC in March 2020. Recognizing the inequities among her fellow students, she ran on a platform of anti-racist policies, mental and physical health, on-campus safety and distribution of resources.
As part of these tenets, Almendarez is looking to ensure that affinity groups are well-funded.
“Previously we used to fund those groups based on membership but [that] doesn’t make sense because the membership is inherently low,” she said. “So we are now doing something different, which would completely change our budget processes … to make sure that students are included in those conversations with affinity groups.”
Over the long term, Almendarez is pushing for the elimination of loans for low-income students and decreasing loans for any student who relies on receiving financial aid.
Almendarez is also working to implement a more equitable hiring process at CMC. By getting rid of resumes and cover letters, Almendarez hopes to use “a questionnaire type of forum to make the interview process more accessible.”
When it comes to the pandemic, Almendarez said it’s still crucial to acknowledge the realities of how it affects campus life.
“It’s really important right now to heavily emphasize a sense of community, especially because we’re still in a pandemic,” Almendarez said. “How we’re managing and preventing the spread of cases is still a huge risk. As students, we really have to make sure that we are caring for one another.”
During her term as president, Almendarez wants to serve as the “bridge between the students and the administration … to ensure that people from underrepresented backgrounds [are] included in all the decision making.”
Mariesa Teo HM ’22
Mariesa Teo HM ’22 is taking on a second consecutive term as president of ASHMC. She hopes to reclaim the essential on-campus experience the pandemic took away from her last term.
During the remote school year, she said, “a lot of my job surrounded COVID response and trying to form some sense of the Mudd community virtually.”
As Teo tries to make up for lost time on campus, she’s outlining two main goals of her second year in office.
“My ultimate goal this semester is to balance COVID safety while also trying to reinvigorate that sense of community we used to have on campus,” she said.
Teo also hopes to preserve the culture that defines the Mudd student experience. Since only juniors and seniors have been on campus before, she hopes to introduce students who are on campus for the first time to Mudd’s plentiful traditions.
When it comes to the relationship between Mudd’s administration and students, Teo thinks there’s room for improvement.
“It can be a bit rough at times in terms of miscommunication between admin and the students,” she said. “The relationship between the students and the admin [has] been improving over the past few years and I really hope to continue that trajectory.”
Looking towards the future, Teo still maintains the optimism and resilience she held during her previous term.
“We are in this together as the community, the whole of the 7Cs,” Teo said. “I’m looking forward to working with the presidents from the other schools. They’re all really amazing, lovely people. I think we can get through this as a community together.”
Nirali Devgan PO ’22
As Nirali Devgan PO ’22 takes on her first semester as president of ASPC, she hopes to amplify student input while balancing the school’s pandemic response.
At the forefront of Devgan’s goals is promoting “administrative decisions that ultimately benefit the health and well-being of students,” she said. “That includes speaking up when something feels [like] we are endangering students.”
Devgan intends to speak up on accessibility issues regarding Student Health Services and clarifying the room-draw selection process.
In addition, Devgan said, she wants to assist Pomona College’s Sustainability Office in furthering its objective of attaining carbon neutrality by 2030.
She also said she’ll tackle sustainability issues at Pomona by providing biweekly feedback to the campus food committee, including suggestions for improving dining hall safety and the incorporation of students’ food suggestions.
Historically, lack of adequate communication has created tension between the student body and the Board of Trustees, Devgan said. She hopes to expand dialogue between both parties to better address issues on campus.
“The pandemic has put a lot of things in flux and a lot of inequities and biases and prejudice have come out,” Devgan said. “At the end of the day, the Board of Trustees have a lot of power in shaping a strategic agenda for the next three to five years.”
Ultimately, Devgan said that her highest priority is supporting students and making them feel heard.
“Something that the student body president provides versus other leadership roles on campus is a foot in the door to a lot of administrators and faculty members on this campus who have the power,” she said.
Additionally, Devgan sees a unique opportunity to work with the 5Cs’ other student government presidents to support affinity groups.
“I’m definitely super excited to see what things that we can tackle as people of color and women that would specifically uplift or support those respective communities at the 5Cs,” she said.
Kaila Teague PZ ’22
Kaila Teague PZ ’22 said she felt compelled to run for president after her experiences serving in a wide range of leadership roles throughout her time at Pitzer College.
Teague has served on the executive board of the Black Student Union, Resident Hall Council, and as the junior class representative in the Pitzer Senate. Her experiences have motivated her to continue “providing and participating … in opportunities to increase student representation.”
While Teague endorses the social activism that already characterizes Pitzer’s engaged student body, she acknowledges the Senate’s role in bringing about change on Pitzer’s campus – the students’ “opportunity to make changes” is one of the school’s strengths, she said.
“With Pitzer being a younger campus, I find that the community frequently tries to listen and adapt based on the concerns raised,” Teague said. “Students here are incredibly involved in decision-making processes.”
Teague and her administration will focus on “accessibility, ongoing anti-racist work, developing inclusive leadership training opportunities, innovation and how that intersects with Student Senate’s historical purpose,” she said.
Furthermore, she’s looking to tackle the loss of institutional knowledge due to the remote year.
“Our first and second years are both on-campus for the first time and the majority of our third years have not had a full year on campus,” Teague said. “So student leaders, especially our fourth and third years, including myself, are navigating the best ways to balance leadership responsibilities, classes, returning during a pandemic, mentorship, preparing for after Pitzer — which definitely feels like a lot sometimes.”
Ultimately, Teague said, her work will be buoyed by Pitzer students’ “shared values that bring us closer together.”
“I am excited to see what new things we can implement and adjust as we move forward,” she said.
Maya Lynch SC ’22
Rather than returning to how things were before the pandemic, Lynch is seeking to use her term as president of SAS to create a community that better represents all students.
“The rhetoric has been around returning back to normal,” Lynch said. “We have a chance to do much better than that and to create a new normal that’s more accessible and more equitable and more fair for students and all of our community members at Scripps.”
Lynch intends to collaborate more frequently with student activists and leaders to support their inclusivity objectives.
In general, Lynch is excited to engage with Scripps’ community in person for the first time since the pandemic closed down campus over a year and a half ago. However, the evolving issue of how to adapt to the pandemic persists in SAS meetings.
“For me personally, but also for SAS as a whole, I think [the pandemic has] come up every single meeting as we’re trying to figure out how we can best nab this issue that we’re the first student government ever to have to deal with in person,” she said. “So it’s something I think we’re all learning.”
Lynch also wants to establish greater transparency, particularly with Scripps’ Board of Trustees.
“I think a lot of students don’t really know who they are and what they do and so [we want to be] making sure that we’re better at communicating what’s going on in the Board of Trustees meetings so that students can be aware and more involved in that,” she said.
Lynch said her worry is not having the knowledge and support from recently graduated Scripps students who had the experience of combating problems which arise on campus and in person.
“So many of those students were leaders and … had so much experience and knowledge about how the college works and how they can best fight and move forward on different issues,” Lynch states. “I want to make sure … that the institutional knowledge they had doesn’t leave with them.”
At the end of the day, Lynch feels “honored” to be in a position that allows her to support her community at Scripps and the 5Cs at-large, she said.
“[I am] really excited to be in a position where I [can] learn and work with all the different student leaders, and support them in their own organizing efforts,” Lynch said.
Correction: A previous version of this article quoted Nirali Devgan as saying “A lot of inequities and viruses and prejudice have come out,” where she was actually referring to biases rather than viruses. TSL regrets this error.
This article was updated Sept. 24 at 8:15 a.m.