The Minority Coalition (MinCo) held the first of a series of open forums on Wednesday as part of its ongoing self-reassessment. The forum, led by MinCo co-chairs Rory Kramer ’03 and Renee Robinson ’02, sought to address general issues such as improving MinCo’s efficiency, evaluating its role in the community and setting goals for the future.
The forum began with Kramer delineating the brief history of MinCo, which was formed over 10 years ago in response to a call for a more unified voice against prejudice and discrimination. Kramer said that MinCo strives to accomplish this goal by funding cultural events, such as heritage months and Shabbat dinners, and by bringing guests to MinCo dinners to address issues of concern to the minority community.
Robinson then elaborated on the different aspects of MinCo under examination: funding, programming, advocacy, inter-group relations (both within MinCo and in the broader Williams community) and MinCo’s relationship with the Multicultural Center (MCC).
The issue of interaction between MinCo and other campus groups received the most attention at the forum.
The discussion began by looking at how MinCo and College Council (CC) coexist. Dodd CC Rep Shehryar Qureshi ’04 suggested that CC could be a valuable resource for MinCo groups.
“MinCo should fill the void for heritage events,” said Qureshi. “Then there is the question of where can groups go for social events?”
Other people present at the forum, however, found there to be fundamental reasons why MinCo groups cannot go to CC.
One student asked “how [a MinCo representative can] go to CC and ask for money for a Latino speaker while, at the same meeting, people are asking for money for water polo nets?”
Federico Sosa ’04 argued that MinCo also needs to work on helping minorities to integrate into the broader community. Sosa called for more events that unite the entire community.
Rebecca Fritz ’02, however, thought that MinCo was being asked to do things that the College’s administration should be doing. “I’m here to learn,” said Fritz. “I shouldn’t have to spend 20 hours a week fixing problems that minority students face when other students don’t have to [address these problems] because they’re not minorities. The MCC and [school administrators in] Hopkins Hall need to deal with these issues.”
Garry Sanders ’02 argued that MinCo needs to focus more on its role as an advocacy group. “What does MinCo see its advocacy role as?” asked Sanders. “Does it really represent all minorities or just a few vocal minority students?”
Following Sanders’ comment, the discussion began to focus on how MinCo could act as an advocacy group when it represented so many different types of students whose opinions on subjects were often so different.
Gail Newman, director of the MCC, suggested that MinCo could address this problem by only issuing statements on issues where a consensus was easy to reach.
“When there is something like Asian or Muslim harassment that is unequivocally wrong, MinCo should issue a strong condemnation. Other issues are more complicated, but even then I see a role for MinCo in stating that an issue is unequivocally important for the community to discuss.”
Chin Ho ’03 concluded the forum by stating that the MinCo mission statement should be amended to address the new concerns facing the minority community. “We should add to the mission statement,” said Ho. “We need to start building bridges and making more of a community.”