Over the past few weeks, a number of emails have been sent to the Pitzer College student body regarding the composition of the Student Senate’s Diversity Committee, which has opened up a discussion of issues of diversity on Pitzer’s campus.
“The concern was raised that the current composition [of the Diversity Committee] was not representative of the community,” said Jon Rice PI ’13, Communications Secretary of Student Government at Pitzer.
According to Evelyn Cheung PI ’13, who became a member of the Diversity Committee about a month ago after another member took a leave of absence, there were questions about “how senate was run, and about how the Diversity Committee was not representing who it should be representing.”
Last spring, two students—one Caucasian and one half-Caucasian, half-Latino—applied for positions on the Diversity Committee, which normally has three spots open to the Pitzer student body, and both were appointed to the committee.
In October, a Pitzer student sent an email to the student listserv questioning whether the Diversity Committee should be run, in part, by Caucasian students. Since the email was sent, Cheung and Jose Barriga PI ’12 have joined the three-person committee and one of the original appointees has taken a leave of absence.
The initial email questioning the makeup of the committee yielded a heated debate among Pitzer students about what the ideal diversity committee ought to consist of. In the days following the online debate, a student proposed that this issue should be addressed in Student Senate. The concern soon appeared on the Senate agenda.
“Pitzer sells itself on being an ethnically diverse school and that’s the way I think Senate should also be, in part, including people of color within the diversity committee,” Barriga said.
According to Barriga, the email stirred up debate among Pitzer students and acted as a catalyst to widen the scope of the issues pertaining to the Diversity Committee and examine how they come into play on Pitzer’s campus in general.
“It changed from the Diversity Committee to a bigger conversation about diversity on Pitzer’s campus and what constitutes as diversity,” Barriga said. “I think that some students of color don’t feel to be part of Pitzer’s culture, and don’t feel comfortable or welcome into that type of environment.”
Cheung raised a similar concern.
“The biggest issue is that a lot of students of color don’t feel comfortable on campus,” Cheung said.
The goal now is to discuss issues of diversity in the broader picture of the Pitzer campus in general, and not just how issues of diversity may affect narrower mechanisms, such as the Diversity Committee, Barriga said.
Working in tandem with the Diversity Committee is another committee called BOOM—By Our Own Means—which continues the discussion of diversity by bringing issues to the Student Senate.
“One thing is that we don’t want [the discussion] to die out because it is an important issue—it should be a continuous dialogue,” Barriga said. “We want to deal with issues of diversity that are happening currently with the student body, so that’s where [the current Diversity Committee] is trying to facilitate that conversation here at Pitzer.”
Barriga said that efforts are being made to continue to address issues of diversity at Pitzer.
“It’s going to be an ongoing process, but the Diversity Committee as well as BOOM are trying to bring guest speakers to discuss [issues of diversity] and create town-hall meetings to facilitate more discussion,” Barriga said.