Minority reps hope proposals will be heard

by Deborah Bernstein | 11/12/99 6:00am

While representatives of College cultural groups express hope that the Student Life Initiative will improve life for minorities on campus, many are unsure if the steering committee's recommendations will include the specific proposals their groups have advocated.

Several campus cultural groups -- including the Afro-American society, the Korean American Students Association and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan -- submitted formal proposals to the Dean's Task Force, which collected input for the steering committee last spring.

AAm President Olivia Carpenter '00 said she hopes the steering committee's impending recommendations and the ultimate changes the Initiative brings will improve the environment on campus.

The AAm's proposal includes ideas about improving residence halls, expanding cable plans for student rooms, as well as diversifying businesses in Hanover.

The AAm proposal also recommended that actions which violate the Dartmouth Principle of Community should become subject to judicial review. The Principle of Community, which is posted near the entrance of every dorm, states in general terms that students should be respectful and appreciative of their fellow students.

The proposal states that "prejudicial incidents that have traumatized students of color mentally and emotionally continue to be treated as jest," and there is no way to seek penalization against offenders.

The proposal also states that "students that differ from the majority in any way... are seen as 'other,' under-appreciated, stereotyped, disenfranchised, and isolated."

Carpenter said the AAm had discussed the range of possibilities for the proposal and that the idea of a judicial board that reviews these incidents is not intended as a substitute for "anyone's parent."

A proposal submitted by Professors Dennis Washburn and David Kang and Mitsunobu Aoyama '01 and Nellie Jeon '02 called for a Japanese/Korean affinity house.

The house would not supplant the current Asian Studies Center "but instead address serious academic and social needs by expanding options for a large group of students and faculty," the proposal states.

The possible house could hold classes, films and lectures as well as having residential facilities and space for meetings of Dartmouth Asian cultural groups.

Korean American Students Association President Yong Choi '00 said the house could be a resource for all Asian Americans at Dartmouth.

Choi said KASA is also pushing for Korean language classes, since Dartmouth is the only Ivy League school without them.

KASA already offers language classes taught by students, and there are always students interested, she said.

Choi said she feels the steering committee will definitely try to integrate recommendations from KASA into their report.

She said she has "no idea" what the Trustees will do, but she hopes they will consider the dearth of resources the College traditionally has offered Asian American students.

Asian American students' voices are not always heard, Choi said.

She said she feels implementation of the Asian American communities' proposals by the steering committee would help Asian American students feel they are supported.

Pan-Asian Council co-chair Joyce Lee '01 said the Pan-Asian Council is in the process of writing a treatise to the steering committee right now.

The proposal's point is to make sure "the committee keeps in mind multi-culturalism," Lee said.

Additionally, it mentions specific needs of the Asian American community, including additional course offerings.

Both Lee and La Alianza Latina President Omar Rashid '00 stressed that they feel the Initiative will be good for the College community as a whole.

"I think just reading the Five Principles, it seems like the trustees are trying to be really inclusive," Lee said. "The words they use are inclusive, and if so, [the Initiative] would benefit everybody."

Rashid said he hopes the Trustees' decisions will help the minority life on campus but that no one in the community really knows what the steering committee plans to recommend to the Board.

While the Greek system has garnered the majority debate about the Initiative, Rashid said issues of diversity and multi-culturalism the Initiative could address affect the entire campus.

"When we leave Dartmouth, we go into a really diverse country," Rashid said, emphasizing the point that Dartmouth students need to prepare for the greater world while in college.

Cultural groups held meetings last month with student representatives to the steering committee that were closed to reporters. They also met with the steering committee at their last meeting in Hanover, October 29.

Drew Vera '01, of campus group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, said following the February announcement of the Five Principles, the steering committee "didn't address communities of color," Vera said.

However, now the steering committee has been "noting the significant absence" of some campus groups, he said, and it has recently reached out to student groups for their input.

Vera said he feels the Initiative will be beneficial not only to students of color, but also women and ultimately all Dartmouth students.

Carpenter said she thought every group on campus, as well as individual students, had a "different understanding" as to what needed to be done to get their voices heard by the steering committee.

She said members of the AAm found deciding on what to recommend the critical part of the steering committee process.

Rashid said leading up to the steering committee's Jan. 10, 2000 announcement of their recommendations, campus groups like LAL are trying to create forums for discussion of Initiative goals.

"Everyone's trying to figure out ways to create forums so our membership can talk together and talk honestly," Rashid said, adding he thinks discussion should be "open, civil and conducive to creating new ideas."

The steering committee is formally known as the Committee on the Student Life Initiative.