The 5B — the five different umbrella coalitions which represent minority groups on campus — recently held elections for their new executive boards. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with the chair of each group to ask them what's on their agenda for minority students next year. The interviews have been edited for clarity and space.
Name: Jin Kim
Position: Chair of Asian Pacific Student Coalition
School and Year: College junior
Three things you want to work on: One, I think we need to improve our GBM structure. I don’t think we put in as much work as we could’ve, last year as a board, and that’s how most of our constituents interact with the executive board. Two, we want to work more with the Asian American Studies department. I think if we develop a relationship with them early on and we decided to work with them to come up with more initiatives to work on, it would be great. And the third one is reaching out more to the community. Because Asian Pacific Islanders make up 20 percent of the Penn population but it’s definitely not 20 percent that regularly comes to our events. So there’s always work we could be doing in terms of reaching out more to community here.
One thing this year’s board could have done better: We could have done more programming events for the constituency as a whole. We had one President’s Dinner at the end of last semester, but other than that, we didn’t have that many constituent wide events.
One thing you want Penn students to know about APSC: It’s actually really easy to get involved in APSC. I personally got started my first semester freshman year, but I know people who got started second semester junior year. It’s definitely not too late to get involved. You can go on our website or PAACH’s website to learn more about that.
Name: Tanya Jain
Position: Chair of United Minorities Council
School and Year: Wharton junior
Three things you want to work on: One thing I want to do with UMC is to make it more provocative. I want UMC to be the source that people come to when an issue erupts on campus and ask for our statement. Another thing is, for our constituents in particular, I want to make what UMC does more transparent. A lot of times we have initiatives that we work on but our constituency isn’t really aware of it. I want to increase the flow of information. The last thing I really want to do is not let UMC get bogged down by past structures. A lot of the times, we do similar programming that has been done in the past, but I want UMC to break all bounds and do what it feels best achieves its mission.
One thing this year’s board could have done better: I think we could have been more involved in political issues. UMC has a hard task because it has such a wide range of people it represents, so it’s sometimes difficult to take a specific stance and run with it because it tends to polarize our student body. But I think UMC can serve better to educate both sides of the argument.
One thing you want Penn students to know about UMC: You don’t have to be a constituent to join UMC, there’s a lot of different ways to get involved. Even coming to our GBMs and participating in the discussions helps really increase the flow of information, and I think it’s worthwhile.
Name: Erich Kessel
Position: Chair of Lambda Alliance
School and year: College junior
Three things you want to work on: One, I’d like to improve accountability over faculty diversity across the University and make sure that when students come to campus, there is faculty that’s diverse and robust and can fortify students academically but also in terms of their identity. Secondly, I’d like to work to make sure the needs of queer students are addressed on the newly formed Student Financial Services Advisory board. Finally, I’d like to make sure the inclusion of queer-related issues come to the table when discussing sexual assault prevention and making sure those issues are heard. There’s a student group formed by Jessica Mertz and that group is really pointed towards making students boards across campus are being involved in the discussion on sexual assaults. The role I’d like Lambda to have in that is to voice the concerns of queer students in relation to sexual assault.
One thing this year’s board could have done better: This is something I’d like to do in the coming term, [which] is to make Lambda more of a open and accessible space. Sometimes, I’ve heard critiques that it’s too closed off to the greater queer community at Penn and even to the greater Philadelphia community. So I’d like to work with the currently elected board to change that.
One thing you want Penn students to know about Lambda: We’re here for you, and we’re very open to hearing what students need in relation to their connection to administration but also campus life. We’re here for students as an agent of advocacy and we’re willing to work on their behalf for the greater good.
Name: Nicolas Garcia
Position: Chair of Latin@ Coalition
School and year: College junior
Three things you want to work on: One of the big things we want to work on is unity among the Latino groups. We want to make sure that we’re having connections built between our groups [and] that our groups are willing to work together and holding events. Second issue that I want to touch on is faculty diversity. This year we learned that to do faculty diversity, we have to go through the deans of different departments. We want to work on having specific campaigns to work on each department that we feel should have more latino faculty and minority faculty in general and working with the 5B on that initiative. Another thing I want to work on is pushing out into the Latino community in Philadelphia and engagement is something we haven’t really worked on in the past but something we really should. With near 50 percent of Latinos in Philadelphia in poverty, we want to make sure that we’re able to help our community here in Philadelphia.
One thing this year’s board could have done better: I think just being a little more transparent with the Latino students in our organization. We want them to receive the information on what we’re doing and make sure they understand the work that we’re doing so that we get the proper feedback and the proper direction from what they want us to do.
One thing you want Penn students to know about LC: The Latino/Latina community at Penn is a very diverse community. We represent many different individuals from all across the Americas both domestic and international students. There is a pan-Latino culture, but there are specifics to each one. Each culture is a little different and we represent all given types of people.
Names: Rachel Palmer and Ray Clark
Position: Co-chairs of UMOJA
School and year: Wharton junior and College sophomore
Three things you want to work on:
Ray Clark: The first thing that I ran my campaign on, and really want to see, is improving the amount and scope of black leadership on campus, whether that be in the six different student government branches or groups in general that are making changes on campus. I feel like there should be more representation as a whole.
Rachel Palmer: Something we also think is really important is dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment that happens on all college campuses, not just here, but figuring out ways we can really work with that and combat that especially within minority communities at Penn. Also, as it pertains to queer identified bodies just as well as it pertains to non-queer identified bodies. We want to make sure we’re having inclusive and productive spaces around that to move ahead on that issue.
Overall, we really want to make sure that we’re doing the best work we can do with our constituents. That’s one of our strongest focuses, is to make sure those constituents — that we are supporting them, with funding, with any questions that they have … that we are there for them.
One thing this year’s board could have done better:
RP: It’s not so much that they could’ve done anything better, it’s just that we’re here to keep on progressing the things they’ve laid the groundwork for and add our own two cents to that to keep moving forward.
One thing you want Penn students to know about UMOJA:
RC: We want them to know that no matter what, if [Penn students] have a concern or if they want to address an issue concerning the African diaspora as a whole, we would like them to know that, feel free to reach out to us, feel free to come talk to us, whether it’s at Makuu, on campus or on Locust, anywhere. They can come talk to us about any concerns they have.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.