Black, Latinx, and Native American student groups are asking the Activities Board at Columbia to restructure its system of representatives and provide each of the three demographics with its own representative.
This is not the first time ABC—which is tasked with annually allocating student life fee money to over 100 student groups—has been challenged on its lack of representation for racially diverse student groups. In November 2015, members of Black, Latinx, and Native American student groups also expressed frustration with their lack of representation on ABC.
Currently, the fourteen identity-based groups for Black, Latinx, and Native American students under ABC’s purview share one representative, despite the fact that there are separate representatives for students involved in dance, media, music, theater, and campus publications. Representatives are responsible for advising the groups that they represent regarding official programming, financing, and ABC rules and procedures.
To address these concerns, students involved in Black, Latinx, and Native groups on campus have created a proposal that would create three different representative chairs on ABC, one for each community.
ABC has approved the constitutionality of this proposal and it will be to be taken to a town hall next week, at which point all groups will vote on it.
Columbia College Student Council, Columbia Engineering Student Council, and General Studies Student Council passed resolutions to support sending the resolution to ABC at their general body meetings this week.
Reasoning behind the proposal was not strictly financial. Because there’s only one representative, this person must be responsible for advocating the interests of three very distinct cultural groups.
“Not only are there over fourteen groups represented by one representative, but the communities’ financial needs, histories, and cultural legacies are incredibly different,” Black Students’ Organization Vice President Braxton Gunter, CC ’18, said at GSSC’s general body meeting on Tuesday. “We are incredibly different groups representing incredibly different constituencies. The only ways in which we are linked in is by our marginalization.”
ABC president Alex Li, CC ’18, said that the current structure of the board was created five years ago and was based on the arrangement of groups at the time, which has since changed. However, he stressed that the authority to do this rests not with ABC but with the student groups themselves.
“It’s not ABC that decides, it’s the student leaders,” he said. “Having one representative represent three distinct cultures is heavy. Whether or not this specific solution, or this iteration of the proposal is the way to solve it, will be decided by the groups.”
European and Middle Eastern student groups share a representative, as do South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander student groups. Another representative exists solely for East Asian student groups. Gunter expressed a hope that this proposal could be used as a template for other groups to advocate to have a single representative on ABC as well.
“We hope that this proposal will not only better Black, Latinx, and Native communities, but also provide a platform to better the cultural composition on ABC overall,” he said.