The main minority coalition groups on campus, commonly known as the 5B, have elected new boards and are focusing on maintaining advocacy efforts and promoting inter-group collaboration this year. The Daily Pennsylvanian interviewed the newly-elected leaders of each group to discuss their proposed goals and priorities.
Asian Pacific Student Coalition
The 24th board of APSC, which functions as a representative body for the Asian Pacific Islander community at Penn, will be headed up by College and Wharton junior Soomin Shin.
Shin said she wants to focus on improving interactions within the coalition and maintain the group's advocacy work. She added that one of the group's main advocacy goals is to restore resources to the Asian American Studies Program. Following the resignation of one of the program's founding faculty members in January last year, students embarked on a year-long effort for the University to direct more resources to the program.
Despite multiple petitions from students as well as faculty, Penn's top administrators have not hired any faculty members to replace the former Director of ASAM Grace Kao, who left for Yale.
Shin said APSC, along with ASAM's Undergraduate Advisory Board, are still waiting for a response from Penn before moving forward.
“We want to continue the fight for developing a concrete plan for preserving the Asian American Studies Program,” Shin said. “It has been a very long and ongoing fight. We also want to support other marginalized departments that are facing historic, institutional erasure.”
This year, College junior Julia Pan will lead the 13th board of the Lamba Alliance, which functions as a representative body for gender and sexual minorities and their allies at Penn.
Pan joined Lambda in her freshman year and also served as vice-chair of outreach and vice-chair of political affairs on previous boards of the Alliance.
Pan said the main change she plans to enact this year is turning Lambda more toward education and programming. Pan has plans to create a programming committee that will focus on organizing a speaker series and social events for the group's constituents.
By the end of her tenure, she hopes to have a programming chair on Lambda’s board, which would be similar to the other 5B groups.
Pan also said she wants to focus on supporting student endeavors such as the University Council Committee on Facilities' research on gender-neutral bathrooms.
College sophomore Maritza Hernandez was elected as the internal chair of the LC’s 24th board after working on various Latinx initiatives such as Festival Latinx, a weeklong celebration for the Latinx community, and the Latinx Magazine La Vida, Penn's only Latinx-interest publication. College sophomore Camill Fernandez was elected external chair and previously served as president of the Grupo Quisqueyano, the Dominican student group at Penn. Fernandez said she was a research and communications assistant in the Latin American and Latino Studies program.
Hernandez heads an all-female board, marking the first time that the LC is being led entirely by women. Members of APSC congratulated the new board with a Facebook post that included the hashtag "AllWomxnBoard."
Hernandez said the group’s main focus this year will be on improving “personal bonds” within their constituent groups and also among the 5B.
“Something we talk a lot about is the programming we do and how it affects everyone,” Hernandez said. “So keeping our events, and making sure we have a lot of events, focused on impactful things – wellness, mental health, sexuality politics – that are going to make us get to know one another on a different level.”
“We’re away from our families, we’re away from our homes, so we want to make sure our constituents, and us as the LC, are having events where we can be vulnerable to talk about those things," she added.
College juniors Calvary Rogers and Tonna Obaze have been elected as co-chairs for UMOJA, the representative coalition group for students and student groups of the African Diaspora.
Rogers, a columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian, was a co-chair and correspondent on previous boards. In an interview, he said he wants to prioritize transparency within UMOJA's constituencies and work to preserve the work of the African Studies department.
Rogers also said the group wants to encourage collaboration within the coalition by expanding funding for events through the Vice Provost for University Life and Makuu, Penn's black cultural center.
On a shorter timeline, Rogers said the new UMOJA board is working to create an online database that documents the black history of Penn, going back to the arrival of the first black students on campus. According to Rogers, this database will be released this month.
"The point of the database is for future students, and us here, when we try to start an initiative we actually have a cohesive site to go to see what students worked on, why did they work on it, how did they work on it, so we're not repeating steps and losing our traction," he explained.
United Minorities Council
College junior and newly-elected chair of UMC Evanie Anglade served as the co-programming chair on a previous board of the Council. Anglade said she hopes to make practical, tangible change by working with administrators to increase faculty diversity across all departments.
In March last year, Penn released a report showing that six years after an ambitious attempt to diversify the University's faculty through an "Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence," the percentage of underrepresented minority faculty members has seen a steady increase. However, the report also found that this increase was not consistent across departments. In the School of Social Policy & Practice, faculty diversity actually worsened over the six-year time period.
"I started thinking there are some people who are minorities who will never have a professor that is of their same race or ethnicity," Anglade said. "I feel like that is something of concern. There's this element of support and comfortability that comes with being taught by someone who might have a similar experience as you."
Anglade added that she also wants to encourage fellowship and interculturalism by hosting events for UMC constituents to interact organically. Anglade said the Council also aims to allocate resources towards preserving the ethnic studies departments within the College.
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