Student Government column
It’s difficult to express all that student government does on campus without mentioning what it has yet to do. It’s even harder for the different components of student government to realize what communities within Carnegie Mellon need assistance if those communities aren’t being represented within student government’s own system.
This past Wednesday, the members of the President’s Cabinet, the Student Body Vice President for Organizations, Graduate Student Assembly President, and the Vice President of the Student Dormitory Council met for the November/December Board of Directors meeting. Board of Directors meetings allow the different components of student government to discuss relevant actionable issues regarding life on campus. Student Body President Vaasavi Unnava opened up the meeting with a question: Who is underserved by student government on our campus?
Roughly ten groups were quickly brought up. Their members range from veterans to art students, as well as students with families. The next conversation was harder. Are these groups underrepresented in student government because of how student government is set up, or are we not doing an adequate job of being inclusive? What specific needs do these groups have that student government could assist in?
There were so many things I had never realized about what unique challenges students face on campus. Being a U.S. Citizen, I’ve never had to think about whether an employer would find my candidacy worth managing the ever-complex U.S. Immigration system, and hadn’t even realized how frustrating it must be for international students to find employment options at on-campus career fairs which are limited for non-citizens.
The percentage of international students involved in undergraduate student government doesn’t match the 16 percent undergraduate international student population. Our task now is to determine how we can make student government more approachable for international students, to help ensure that their needs are met. (On a side note, the Graduate Student Assembly is doing a great job at matching their 60 percent international population!)
This was only the beginning of a long but much -needed discussion on how student government can and should change to provide better service for the students it is representing. This is the reason why a main tenant of Vaasavi Unnava and Aaron Gutierrez’s campaign was focused on Student Government Transparency; student government reaches its highest potential only when students know what student government actually is and recognize their representation in it.
We hope that we can begin to reach out to individual students and organizations more effectively, to promote communication so that our representation goals are met, and also hope that these discussions about providing for the unique needs of all our students are continued for years to come until student government is as diverse as the student body. As always, if you have any concerns or questions on how to achieve diversity, or why it’s important, please feel free to reach out to anyone on the student government cabinet!