The Student Government Association (SGA) referendum to create the position of vice president of equity and diversity was approved by the student body this week, having passed the two-thirds requirement with 134 supporting votes and 53 opposed votes.
There were 187 votes cast overall, which accounts for just 3 percent of the student population at the College. The low percentage of student opinions represented in the referendum has stirred mixed reactions among the student body.
On Wednesday, SGA’s Web site said, “In accordance with these results, this spring election, the position of vice president of equity and diversity will appear on the ballot.”
On the first day of the voting process – after about 50 students had voted – Joanna Holguin, senator at-large and sponsor of the bill, said, “There is a pretty good number of people coming out to vote. It’s going better than I expected.”
Holguin held an information session last week to inform students of the goals and duties of the position, but no students attended the event.
Nicole Moinhos, junior psychology and women’s and gender studies major, supports the position. “I just think it would be good to have someone in charge of diversity on campus,” she said. “It would be very rewarding for people to learn about and it’s beneficial for everyone, not just the minority groups on campus.”
Regine Saintilien, freshman sociology and communications major, said in support of the position, “I think (having a vice president of equity and diversity) is important because there is a lot of division between all the different groups. I think it is needed to bring the community together.”
However, a student at the polls who spoke on anonymity said, “The goals and tasks of the position are so undefined. I feel like it would be totally ineffective in ensuring equity. In fact, I think a bill like this would only further the segmentation of various groups on campus by favoring some groups and alienating others.”
Some students feel that not enough information on the referendum was provided and are cynical of the SGA passing it based on 3percent of the student body.
Others feel that the lack of student involvement reveals the student body’s general apathy toward the bill.
Annelise Catanzaro, student trustee, asserted that SGA did all it could to advertise the referendum to the student body by sending out campuswide e-mails, handing out flyers, hanging up posters and putting letters in students’ mailboxes. “We did our best. It’s a busy time of the year,” Catanzaro said.
Critical of the low turnout, Kristen Schreier, senior psychology major, said, “I think it was bad timing and advertising. It was obviously not a good sample.”
Kristina Cain, freshman elementary history education major, said, “(Passing the referendum based on 3 percent of the student population) was sneaky of the SGA. They’re not being truthful to the student body which they are supposed to be representing.”
Cain added, “The College already emphasizes diversity so heavily with the liberal learning requirements. It becomes overbearing and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. As soon as I saw equity and diversity in the subject (of the e-mail) I deleted it.”
“Clearly the SGA is not effective if only three percent of the students voted on the referendum. The fact that so many people ignored the e-mail shows that people don’t care about the actions of the SGA, which is supposed to be the voice of the student body,” Laurie Costello, freshman elementary mathematics major, said.
“There should be a certain quota of how many students need to vote in order for a referendum to be passed,” Andrea Cooney, freshman elementary mathematics major, said.
Laura Radice, senior special education major, disagreed.”The people who voted are the ones who care,” she said. “The others don’t care. Why wait for them to vote?”
Candidates for the position already exist and will be announced at a later date.
SGA’s candidate forum will be held April 12 in Brower Student Center Room 202 West from 7-8 p.m.
SGA elections will be held April 18-19 in Brower Student Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.