Polls open for contested VP of Diversity Affairs position following Speech Night: Candidates share their views on diversity and the College community

Posted by Layla Lakos

Every seat in the Spa was filled for the SGA Speech Night for the special election for vice president of Diversity Affairs on Dec. 7.

Prior to the candidates' speeches, Raiza Nazareth '12, vice president for communications and outreach, spoke about a proposal to add a Sustainability Committee and a sustainability senator to the SGA.

"This is going to help integrate all the different Sustainability groups on campus into this one community. This includes the s-reps, EAC [Environmental Action Club] and Student Initiatives," Nazareth said. The proposal will be included in the Special Election voting.

After divulging this information, Nazareth introduced candidates Rohini Alamgir '12 and Benjamin Bechand '14, who each gave three-minute speeches before the question-and-answer forum with the audience.

"I learned that every good speech has a story. So I guess tonight, I'll tell you my story. My story starts with diversity," said Alamgir, who was the first to speak. Alamgir is an international student from Bangladesh who defines herself as a Muslim woman of straight sexual orientation and a student of color.

Alamgir argued that the ongoing fight for diversity has gotten nowhere today, citing the importance of faculty involvement in these issues.

"We tend to go for tolerance rather than acceptance or understanding, and that's not OK," Alamgir said. "If our faculty doesn't support diversity, then we can't fight for it."

Bechand said he feels very strongly that the College's Urban Experience trips do not fulfill their mission statements. He said there should be more guidelines to collaborate these trips with diversity events.

Bechand also spoke about the on-campus dialogues that are facilitated by different groups, such as the Pride Alliance, of which he is a member.

"Despite humanity dialogues that we've had, students don't feel comfortable [on] their campus," Bechand said. "My mission is to make every student feel welcome at our school."

Following the candidates' speeches, the forum opened up to the audience, who asked questions concerning diversity and the potential actions candidates planned to take.

During the questions, Bechand reflected on the open door policy he had instigated as president of Kimball Hall, which he felt would be crucial in connecting to new students. He said he also wanted to increase diversity clubs in relation to diversity, religion and culture.

"We don't have to be a part of a cultural group to appreciate it," Bechand said. "You don't have to be affiliated with it to look out for its best interests."

For her part, Alamgir elaborated on building a better community by identifying and naming issues, especially concerning diversity, through any means possible, such as discussions with professors, which corroborated her earlier comments on the faculty involvement.

"Diversity cannot be defined by just race, sexual identity or religion. There's diversity in everything. Diversity has no color boundary," Alamgir said.

After the open forum closed, Jovany Andujar '13,who currently holds the contested position, commented on the topics raised, illustrating the importance of the role both the Committee of Diversity Affairs and the College campus play as resources to the student body.

"Time commitment is necessary to remain contentious to issues around campus," Andujar said. "As a Christian, I inevitably see everything through a lens, but the ability to recognize bias and overlook issues is imperative to the role of vice president of Diversity Affairs."

All students may participate in the online vote, which will open at noon on Dec. 8, and will remain open until midnight. Students may also vote at SGA booths in Case Center and in the Atrium.

Editor's Note: Following Thursday's elections, Rohini Alamgir was elected Vice President for Diversity Affairs and the constitutional amendment passed.

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