On Sunday, April 18, Scot Council held a Call-in for students to speak with their incoming executive board members about concerns for the upcoming school year. The Call-in was proposed and organized by council member Maresa Taté ’21 as a way to address the lack of diversity in Scot Council’s executive board for the upcoming school year. Taté explained, “I came up with an idea for a Scot Council Call-in because there was a lot of disappointment at the executive candidate panel this past semester during election season.” She continued, “All positions, but one, were uncontested and all incoming executive members, except one, are white. During that panel, there were questions asked about if and how candidates have supported BIPOC populations on campus, and what they plan to do for this population and other marginalized groups moving forward.”
“Only two candidates answered these questions,” stated Taté, “and the presidential candidates did not touch these questions at all. This was very alarming for BIPOC individuals that were present, many of whom reached out to me after the panel stating their frustrations and loss of hope for the near future. From this feedback, I thought it was important to have a space for all incoming Scot Council representatives to have candid conversations and feedback from marginalized peers, in particular, inside and outside of Scot Council.”
According to current President Olivia Proe ’21, who moderated the event, the goal was “to have an open forum for students to raise concerns around issues of racial inequity” in order to assist the upcoming executive board in finding ways to hold themselves accountable and better address racial inequity within Scot Council in the future. While there were a number of concerns raised at the Call-in, issues of transparency were brought up, and Scot Council members brainstormed ideas for increased transparency, which included making notes for committee and chair meetings public and providing more regular executive updates.
In response to questions of accountability, the upcoming executive board also pledged to utilize committee feedback forms and to make these publicly available . In order to ensure that BIPOC members and contributors receive credit for the work, Scot Council also stated that they would be working on more effective onboarding for new members. Plans for effective onboarding include making anti-racist and anti-bias training mandatory, and continuing that training past the initial onboarding period.
Other concerns raised included exploring how to fix the lack of BIPOC representation on Scot Council, how to ensure white representatives would do the necessary work on behalf of BIPOC students and how the body would meet the goals originally set forth when the organization was established a year ago. The most important issues discussed at the Call-in focused on accountability, making students’ voices heard and doing better outreach to involve more members of marginalized communities in Scot Council. Incoming Chief of Staff Carly McWilliams ’22 stated that “the Call-in made it clear that our executive board bears the responsibility of addressing external shortcomings of Scot Council, like thorough outreach to the student body and internal issues in our structure and general meetings.” She also noted that it is “critical” for the executive board to create a supportive environment for BIPOC students in order to better accommodate the diversity of Scot Council.
Some members of Scot Council felt that it was a productive meeting that helped council members better understand student concerns and guide their priorities for the upcoming school year. Lilia Eisenstein ’22, incoming treasurer, thanked students for discussing the “key issues related to equity and inclusion to be addressed next year,” and mentioned that she was “eager to work towards a better student government body through increased accountability measures and diligent outreach to intercultural student organizations.” President-elect Emmy Todd ’22 expressed her gratitude and is looking forward to fostering “a more inclusive environment” and intends to make “actively reaching out to multi-ethnic organizations and individuals” a priority. She recognizes that Scot Council “still has a long way to go,” but hopes to earn the community’s trust. Council members also expressed gratitude towards Taté for organizing the event and commended her strong commitment to amplifying and uplifting the voices of students of color.
Taté, on the other hand, noted some reservations about the success of the event. “Unfortunately,” she said, “this Call-in did not show me that our incoming representatives are prepared to truly care for and work for all students; keyword: all. Instead, it showed me that the microaggression and microassaults I experience as a Black person on Scot Council will continue if these people are not held accountable for their actions — and lack thereof — for the BIPOC population on campus.”
Taté, as well as Scot Council’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity Representative Angela Danso Gyane ’21, both expressed during the next night’s general assembly meeting their frustration over the low attendance amongst newly elected representatives at the Call-in. Taté emphasized, “Though this was a Call-in for exec, it is imperative that all Scot Council members show up for conversations like this especially because, many times, the concerns of BIPOC and marginalized students are pushed to the side and/or left to the BIPOC and marginalized members of Scot Council, knowingly and unknowingly.”
Finally, Taté lamented the tone of the event and a perceived insincerity on behalf of the exec members, saying “many of the incoming members’ ‘politicians’ came out, and much of the call-in was turned into an opportunity for these newly elected individuals to spew out what people ‘want to hear’ instead of action plans.”
She concluded, “This could have been a step in the right direction, but in this case, there are different people walking the same road to different destinations. Until white members across campus, and particularly on Scot Council, are comfortable being uncomfortable, comfortable getting constructive criticism, uncomfortable with asking BIPOC members to do the work for our BIPOC peers and uncomfortable with falsely crediting themselves for the work of marginalized individuals on Scot Council, we will not see positive changes that allow for all students to be truly heard, seen, and cared for as we all deserve.”