VP Diversity, increased LGBT support highlighted in ASOC GA Meeting

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At the ASOC General Assembly Meeting on Diversity and Equity on Thursday, students and professors engaged in a dialogue with a panel of administrators on Occidental’s efforts to promote equality and diversity on campus in a full-seated Choi Auditorium.

Six administrators were present for the assembly including Dean of Students Barbara Avery and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Jorge Gonzalez.

Multiple students of color commented on how they felt they had been deceived when visiting campus as prospective students. They discussed experiences of tokenization, saying that they felt as though they were being used by the school.

One solution repeatedly presented to Gonzalez was the introduction of a new Vice President position which would be dedicated to diversity. However, he said that he was concerned about taking the responsibility of ensuring diversity and equity for students away from the other Vice Presidents.

“I want to be responsible for diversity in this college,” Gonzalez said. “I worry about diversity every day and I want to worry about it.”

Other issues discussed include the support provided to first generation students, the college’s attempts to maintain a diverse faculty and how to provide the LGBT community greater levels of support.

An underlying theme among the students present was that these conversations on issues of diversity and equity rarely amount to anything. Gonzalez responded by reaffirming the administration’s commitment to such issues.

“There is no lack of urgency for action,” Gonzalez said. “This is discussed every week.”

Several students articulated their desire to see tangible action as a result of the feedback, and faculty members also expressed similar concerns. Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies Leila Neti commented on the dangers of concentrating on numbers that might result in masking more innate structural problems.

“There’s a tendency to cobble together solutions that view diversity as a problem rather than a resource,” Neti said. “There must be a way to find structural solutions without seeing diversity as a series of problems.”

The meeting concluded with Gonzalez urging the student body to complete a survey on student experience in relation to diversity, which will be distributed via email. The aim of the survey is to see where Occidental is making progress and where improvements can be made.