Diversity is an issue in society, and it is an issue at Vassar. Vassar has made incredible progress over the years in working toward a more inclusive environment, but we aren’t done.. Diversity is more than varying skin colors; it means having a daily social and institutional celebration of difference.
This celebration is not something that students should have to fight for, but we live in an environment where diversity is not the norm. Vassar is an elite college in the Northeast , built originally for the education of middle and upper-class, cisgender, white females. That is the norm we were given, and that is the norm we are continually working to expand—or ideally, to shatter.
The creation of the Programming Board – though genuine in intent – has only increased the student of color’s struggle for equal footing. It was first made “to create more diverse programming.” A full year later, we must ask ourselves: what does diversity mean? What does it mean to those who created, run and oversee the Programming Board? Currently, the board is comprised solely of white females. This is not to say that there is any inherent intolerance among them—only to say that their perspectives and understanding of diversity cannot and will not be representative of the entire student population.
During its first year of operation, the Programming Board did not use enough of its funds on collaborations—only one quarter of it’s budget. This left roughly $10,000, which was employed in throwing events deemed acceptable by the Board, composed only of three members. Initially, the Board approved a collaboration with the ALANA Center, but rescinded their offer later when they realized collaborations must be approved by the administration first—a process which would take a minimum of three weeks. This level of bureaucracy hindered many groups from gaining the support they needed, especially after many centers were still feeling the effects of budget cuts from the recession.
To be equivalent of the Executive Board for the Programming Board, students had to fill out an application that would then be reviewed by the VSA Activities Committee. This is problematic and reflects the need for some changes on the VSA end of things as well. Although the VSA can and should form ad-hoc committees, it should not be choosing executive members of a group like the Programming Board. If the Board were representative of the student body, its members should be elected by the student body.
Another issue comes from the fact that the Programming Board has the authority to allocate funds to organizations as they see fit. No organization should be allocating funds to VSA organizations other than VSA Finance Committee as this committee exists exclusively for that purpose. Additionally, since $5,000 of the Programming Board’s budget comes from the VSA, it can’t actually be given away for any reason other than a collaboration.
The other $15,000 is sourced from administration as a whole, and as a result, it can take a very long time to allocate. This creates a non-uniform system for fund allocations, as administrators can ascribe whatever standards they want, whereas the VSA Finance Committee has specific, readily available procedural guidelines that must be met. The Programming Board also steps on toes by throwing events that any other organization can already put on. For example, the recent screening of “Monsters University” could have been put on by ViCE Film League, whose sole mission is to hold such events.
The Programming Board is simply a poor attempt at increasing “alternative programming.” By consistently denying funding to organizations based on size/relevance to the campus, students of color will be at a continuous disadvantage, simply based on the fact that he/she/ze is not the majority at Vassar. This is an embarrassment and an injustice. As members of the Student Life Committee and the VSA Council, we beg the administration and student body to re-examine where programming power is being distributed.
—Ramy Abbady ’16 and Ruby Pierce ’16 are members of the VSA Student Life Committee