Four of five student governments led by women of color

Irene Yi SC ’19, Shivani Kavuluru PZ ’19, Julia Wang HM ’20, and Maya Love CM ’20 are the presidents of their respective student governments. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

An unprecedented four of five of the student government presidents at the Claremont Colleges are women of color this academic year.

Shivani Kavuluru PZ ’19, Maya Love CM ’20, Julia Wang HM ’20, and Irene Yi SC ’19 are female presidents of Pitzer Senate, ASCMC, ASHMC, and SAS, respectively. ASPC President Alejandro Guerrero PO ’19 is the only male of the five.

Kavuluru was with her fellow presidents when she first realized they were all women of color.

“We were all in the car together, and I don’t remember who said it but someone said, ‘Wow, we are all women of color,’ and it gave me chills,” she said. “Little moments like that give me so much happiness. All these women put so much work in and deserve to be in their position[s]. I can confide in the other presidents and learn from them.”

White students account for over half of the student body at Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, and Pitzer College.

In previous years, students have rallied to protest their colleges’ disregard toward the struggles that minorities face on campus.

In 2015, CMC students led rallies and a hunger strike to demand the resignation of Dean Mary Spellman after she wrote in an email to a Latina student that she would try to serve students who “don’t fit our CMC mold.” In 2017, Harvey Mudd College students called for $18,000 to be allocated to six groups on campus that represent minority interests, $3,000 for each group.

Kavuluru said that having diverse student governments helps students of color talk about issues they face on campus.

“Sometimes white people unfortunately cannot completely understand these issues,” Kavuluru said. “It is especially important that people of color feel comfortable asking for money to meet their needs.”

“Higher education was made for white males, but to see all these women of color is incredible, and it shows how the colleges are trying to create a culture of inclusivity.”

Julia Wang HM ’20
Wang and Yi spoke about their student governments’ history with representation.

“I think student government is relatively diverse; we have people from a variety of constituencies sitting on our board,” Wang said. “I don’t think having a woman of color as president is an abnormality of Mudd. Our college president is a woman, and our previous student government president was a woman of color.”

SAS has had women of color as presidents in the past. It currently has “quite a few people of different backgrounds,” Yi said. “We have international students, students of color. It is great to lead such an electric group of people.”

Kavuluru said she is Pitzer Senate’s second president to identify as a woman of color and that there is still room for improvement in increasing Pitzer Senate’s diversity in race as well as other categories.

“We need to be dynamic and adapt to the needs of the student body,” Kavuluru said. “Student senate has progressed in terms of diversity. I think we should remember that Pitzer is a predominantly white institution and Senate should not become stagnant. We can always do better.”

Love wrote in an email to TSL that one of her main goals is to maintain a strong representation of diverse students on ASCMC.

I am honored and empowered to be the first African American [f]emale [ASCMC president],” Love wrote. “I am learning every day how to better serve my team and the student body.”

The presidents hope that they can act as role models for other students of color.

“I remember as a first-year, the SAS President was another Asian-American woman, and I remember being in awe that someone who looked like me had that position of power,” Yi said. “I think it’s so important to have people who look like you in positions of power.”

Camila Toscano PZ ’21 was pleased with the representation of women of color in 5C student governments.

“Women of color are underrepresented in general and especially in government, despite being super qualified.” Toscano said. “I hope we can keep electing [them] to represent us.”

Wang added: “Having this entire group of [student government association] presidents be people of color is a beautiful moment for the 5Cs. Higher education was made for white males, but to see all these women of color is incredible, and it shows how the colleges are trying to create a culture of inclusivity.”

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