In a joint meeting on November 8, the Minority Coalition (MinCo) and College Council (CC) discussed possible causes and solutions to the issue of racial fragmentation.
There is a strong sentiment from both MinCo and CC members that the underrepresentation of minorities and the lack of expression of minority opinion on campus are serious problems that need to be addressed through increased interaction and cooperation.
The issue of social and racial fragmentation has been brought up at several recent meetings of the Gargoyle Society. Carrie Ryan ’00, a member of both Gargoyle and CC, introduced the issue on the CC listserver.
After it was brought to the attention of MinCo that CC would be discussing the issue many students jumped to conclusions about the various roles that MinCo and CC play on campus.
“We felt like there needed to be a forum where both groups could address all of these misconceptions and get some dialogue going,” MinCo Co-chair Farrah Musani ’00 said.
MinCo Co-chair Mike Woltz ’00 and Musani opened the meeting by trying to identify the problem of and reasons for racial fragmentation on campus.
The CC and MinCo members brought up the underrepresentation of minority students in the CC body as one campus problem. Only one student, not including the officers, outside of MinCo’s two CC representatives is a minority, and no African-American students sit on the Council.
“College Council is bereft of minorities,” Ryan said. “College Council is supposed to be representative of the student body, and right now it’s not.”
“It would be great if more minority students ran for College Council. That way minority issues might be brought to Council more often,” said CC Co-president Bert Leatherman ’00.
CC member Todd Rogers ’01 added that “if minority students get involved, they tend to head toward MinCo.”
CC Co-president Medha Kirtane ’00 argued that this was an unfair statement, because three out of four of the CC officers are minority students. She also indicated that MinCo has a separate and necessary function from CC. “MinCo can fund things that CC’s budget and bylaws can’t support,” Kirtane said.
CC Secretary Ami Parekh ’01 stated that minority opinions are still not being voiced in many instances. For example, with the issue of the security crackdown, CC strongly opposed the increased security sweeps, but when MinCo discussed the issue, the response was much more accepting.
Leatherman commented CC is often unsure how involved it should be in minority issues. “We usually wait for MinCo to come to us,” he said. Leatherman suggested that regular dialogue between the two groups would solve this problem.
MinCo representative to CC June Yi ’02 stated that it is hard for two people to represent all minority opinion. “When we [the MinCo CC representatives] are at MinCo, we feel like MinCo representatives. When we’re at College Council, we feel like College Council representatives.”
Parekh pointed out that minorities are underrepresented on Housing Committee as well as CC, creating social as well as racial fragmentation.
The representatives speculated that perhaps the cause of underrepresentation of minorities is campus-wide apathy in student body politics. About 48 percent of the campus voted in the fall 1999 elections.
Kirtane urged MinCo representatives to go back to their groups and tell their members to “represent minority voice at College Council Meetings” so that MinCo and CC do not degenerate into “funding machines.”
Both MinCo and CC members brainstormed many solutions to improve the voicing of minority opinions on CC and the general improvement of relations between MinCo and CC.
Representatives see improved communication and relations between CC and MinCo as essential to getting to the heart of the problem of racial fragmentation.
It was suggested that MinCo representatives to CC should bring the matters discussed to MinCo, so that the agendas of the two groups do not diverge too much.
MinCo secretary Aida Ashby ’02 suggested that CC and MinCo should give each other their agendas from their meetings to further improve communication. Yi recommended that CC should allot time for the MinCo representatives to CC to speak at every meeting, not just once a month.
Representatives discussed the idea of CC and MinCo holding joint meetings from time to time either of the entire bodies or of a sub-committee of members of both groups.
In addition, Ryan and Parekh suggested that MinCo could put its minutes out on dining hall tables like CC and Housing Committee. MinCo could create a web forum for encouraging communication between CC and MinCo.
“We need to have similar, not mutually exclusive, foci so that both groups can facilitate accurate discussion across campus when issues arise,” Leatherman said.
MinCo and CC could hold monthly dinners at the faculty club, for, according to Ryan, “When you know people on a personal basis, you will care more about them.”
To address the issue of racial fragmentation more directly, Kirtane encouraged members of CC and MinCo to talk with Housing Committee on how minority representation is affecting their committee and campus social life. In addition, she urged for increased efforts to have MinCo members attend CC meetings and to have individuals talk with house representatives.
Royce Smith ’01, chairperson of the Black Student Union (BSU), stated that the suggestions are “bureaucratic solutions to a social problem. We need to see why minority students don’t care about CC.” Smith suggested a campus-wide forum to discuss the issue.
Overall, both CC and MinCo members felt positively about the joint MinCo/CC forum. “The meeting felt like a great success,” Leatherman said of Monday’s meeting. “It was good-natured and constructive.
“We came to realize that both College Council and MinCo have the same objectives in mind: increasing minority participation, elevating minority issues in student government, and creating common, not splintered or isolated dialogue on campus about issues affecting minority students.”