Written By: Olivia McCaa
A group of students and faculty at Brooklyn College participated in an online event on Mar. 18 to promote women’s leadership and participation in the school’s student government.
The program, hosted by the Women and Gender Equity Center, aimed to promote more diversity within USG. Iqura Naheed, USG’s press director and candidate for USG President, led the event with a small group of other women in the student government. The event was composed of an overview of USG’s role on campus followed by a panel with two former USG serving students, Tatiana Lee and Lena-Marie Evans.
Student government has been around since the start of Brooklyn College, yet there continues to be a lack of diversity and exclusion of women in positions. Nearly sixty percent of students at Brooklyn College are female, but only three cabinet members are not male. Women also make up 40 percent of the USG Senate.
“This is troubling because a significant portion of the student body is not being represented,” Flavia Shyti, a student advocate, said. “You are the face of Brooklyn College and we want to ensure that you are represented.”
Student government representation is important because many of the decisions for funding for clubs and grants for club events, events on campus, and new rules for the school go through cabinets at USG. The line of thinking then goes that a less diverse governmental body stands to upset and let down a more diverse constituency with diverging needs and wants.
The panel emphasized how much easier and manageable student government is to join then they previously thought. In order to join, students just need to have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and be an undergraduate student with at least one semester left before graduation.
However, the panel saw how difficult it was initially to connect with USG’s messages.
“There are a lot of unnecessary things that get passed around,” Evans said, “so it was really difficult to actually understand what USG was and stood for.”
The USG roles for Lee and Evans somewhat fell into their laps. For Lee, she was friends with the USG president at the time. Lee had been helping around the office at the time and received a suggestion that she should become secretary for USG. Evans, a transfer student, was looking for a way to become involved on campus. After joining USG, she had found USG to be a great way for meeting people and being directly involved on campus.
Other members of the Women and Gender Equity task force weren’t all that interested in student government, but over time they saw that “you didn’t need to be an elected senator but still could get involved,” according to Lauryn Andrews, a committee member of USG.
Many of the panel members including Lee, Evans, and Naheed all found that they were able to have a deeper understanding of what was happening on campus and were able to understand why things happened on campus the way they do.
“It was really eye opening learning about how Brooklyn College runs both as a business and as an organization,” Evans said.
Many of the members know that there is information on USG, but the problem is getting students to read and interact with this information. Having more students means more exposure and support for the student body, and members of the panel said that if more students were able to see what USG was, they would be more willing and likely to pursue a part in USG.
“I think that once you become a member of a group or organization like USG, it kind of becomes addictive,” said Evans. “It put me in a position where I was ok with everything, and you feel prepared to take on anything.”
The women of the panel noticed an uptick in their confidence and their abilities to lead and understand that they can have an impact on the school and their community.
“I can be in a virtual room with a bunch of people who are very experienced and yet I still feel like an equal member of the group because I am an equal member of the group and not someone who is lesser,” Andrews said.
The group heavily emphasized the importance of a student body to be represented, stating that it should not just be one group of people making these decisions for others. As they stated before, a majority of the student body at Brooklyn College are female yet they are significantly underrepresented.
“In terms of uplifting women in student government and those that are already serving, I think more women will be encouraged to join and feel supported while serving.” Andrews said.