SGA Senate Adopts New Inclusivity Resolution

By Emma Dunlap

On Feb. 4, the Student Government Association (SGA) sent a statement addressing the College’s MLK Today event, Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s comments on Dec. 9 regarding black students on college campuses and the SGA’s commitment to being “supportive and proactive” in fighting racism on campus.

The Senate voted in favor of sending out the all-student email after a group of senators, including SGA President Ilana Gratch ’16 drafted the statement. In addition to the email, the SGA voted in favor of a resolution condemning the MLK event for its “highly offensive and post-racial actions” and acknowledging the problematic nature of Scalia’s comments. This prompted the SGA to officially recommend that President Patton “send an all-school email addressing the MLK Day event and Justice Scalia’s comments as soon as possible.”

Freshman Senator and sponsor of the bill, Charles Rainey ’19, expressed deep dissatisfaction with the administration’s response to the MLK Today event, which was perceived as a “macroagression” towards the black community. Rainey said that a statement from President Patton would be a start in addressing the “distress deeply felt within Middlebury’s black community” and to begin to address the “poor relationship” that exists between the SGA and students of color on campus.

Rainey commended Patton for her promotion of inclusivity and diversity on campus, but found her silence immediately after the MLK Today event “problematic and disappointing.”

“[Patton’s] silence and that of the SGA on these specific issues has spoken volumes to black Middlebury students … The SGA has failed to recognize and communicate the wide range of discontent that exists within the African-American community stemming from not only the aforementioned missteps but also years and years of institution neglect,” Rainey said.

Rainey hoped that the email would serve as an apology to black students on campus on behalf of the SGA and as its recognition of the issues that black students continue to face on campus.

According to the President of Distinguished Men of Color (DMC) Mario Alberto Picon Jr. ’17, the organization was approached by Senator Rainey and voted to support the statement released to the student body.

“Distinguished Men of Color continues to support the statement sent by SGA to all students as it aligns with the mission of DMC to continually support underrepresented and marginalized communities,” Alberto Picon Jr. said. The resolution was discussed with other cultural organizations on campus, including Alianza, which expressed solidarity with the statements.

The Senate discussed the email statement and resolution in detail during the last two SGA meetings of J-term.

Not all members of the SGA Senate agreed that this resolution was the best course of action.

“I don’t necessarily think it is [the SGA’s] place to speak for, as opposed to highlight the opinions of, various groups on campus,” Senator Reshma Gogineni ’16 said. “I think that the SGA should work harder to represent traditionally underrepresented groups on campus, but this should come through a conversation and legislative change co-sponsored with those groups as opposed to releasing statements on their behalf. Cultural organizations exist for a reason and we should not try to take over their roles.”

According to Gratch, the Senate has been discussing how the SGA can “better serve students of color and other marginalized students on campus” since the fall. This has included SGA members participating in town hall meetings to discuss what “real allyship looks like,” and discussing various relevant initiatives. As well, the SGA is considering continuing the town hall meetings that Chief Diversity Officer and Professor of Spanish Miguel Fernández led in the fall.

“I think one overriding consensus we reached is that the Senate can and should do more to be actively reaching out to students whose voices aren’t necessarily the loudest, particularly students of color and students of other marginalized identities, to ensure that we are doing our job as representatives and members of the Middlebury community,” Gratch said.