Campus News Blog: Sing Song Lacks Diversity

April 18, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Kathryn Sharkey

One of the main events in the spring at Southern Methodist University is Sing Song, a concert that organizations throughout campus put together and perform musical numbers in.

One thing I’ve noticed about Sing Song- the lack of campus diversity in which organizations are involved.

It’s gotten better in recent years, though. Besides the usual array of fraternities and sororities, the Christian fraternity BYX has joined the cast. In the past the men’s swim team even teamed up with a sorority (Delta Gamma) for a performance.

However, there is still no inclusion of the multicultural sororities and fraternities or any other organizations on campus.

This could be because those groups simply aren’t interested in participating or don’t have the resources to participate. It takes a significant number of members willing to devote a significant amount of their time to choreograph and practice the dancing, plan out and practice the singing, make the back drops, find costumes, and complete the many other tasks it takes to put on a good show.

Sing Song is a tradition at SMU that more organizations should be able to be involved in, if they’re interested.

So, either Program Council should help find a way to help other groups get more involved or they need to realize the potential Sing Song has at increasing their visibility on campus.

If the problem is that they don’t have enough members or resources, Sing Song can help attract more members. If the problem is that they aren’t interested in participating in Sing Song, then something needs to be done to make Sing Song more representative of SMU as a whole, rather than just SMU’s Greek organizations.

Debate Continues on Adding LGBT Senate Seat

March 24, 2010 by · Comments Off 

by Kathryn Sharkey

As the day for campus elections nears, some may be wondering what happened during the debate about adding a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender special interest seat to the Student Senate. The LGBT debate was in full swing last semester and garnered even Dallas media attention with articles in the Dallas Morning News and even air time on the local news. The motion to add the seat did not pass in the senate, so the rumor was there would be a referendum vote of the student body some time this semester.

“According to our by-laws, a student wishing to place a motion to be voted on by the student body or to create a referendum vote, needs to submit the signatures and ID numbers of 10 percent of the student population,” Patrick Kobler, SMU Student Body President said in an e-mail. “This did not happen so the motion will not be voted on by the student body,” Kobler said.

Political science and philosophy major, Tom Elliot actively campaigned for the addition of the LGBT seat in the fall. He hopes that this is not the end for this debate.

“The reason there is not going to be a re-vote, is simply because I don’t have the time to single-handedly push the issue like I did last semester,” Elliott said in an e-mail.

“I consider it a failure on my part, because I was unable to encourage my peers in the LGBT community to make the issue their own and continue forward with the cause without my initial motivation,” said Elliot.

The Great Debate

Last semester, the debate about special interest seats, including the addition of the LGBT seat, was in full swing.

Freshman political science major, Philip Hayes is against special interest seats in the Student Senate.

“There needs to be a set method of representation,” Hayes said last semester. “In the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks didn’t want a special bus. She just wanted to use the same bus.”

Elliott disagrees.

“It’s natural for someone to represent his own interest, so if a certain group is not in that person’s interest, they won’t get a voice and the typical majority groups will not represent them,” Elliot said.

The Student Senate at Southern Methodist University faced a struggle over minority representation as failed legislation, including a recently tabled piece, stirred up debate during the fall of 2009.

The Student Senate currently has four special interest seats: one for an African-American student, one for an Asian-American student, and one for a Hispanic-American student. The debate was, and continues to be, whether these or even more special interest seats, such as LGBT, transfer student and disabled student seats should exist.

“The most common argument is overrepresentation. Someone with a double major is represented by two seats and then also represented by special interest senators, so why should this person be represented by maybe four people when the common single major student is represented by one,” said sophomore Brad Mitchell, Student Concerns Chair of the senate.

“The term overrepresentation annoys me because on a college campus I see no problems with that,” Elliott said. “It seems more beneficial to me that someone with more needs has more representation.”

Elliot believes that these seats are necessary to meet the needs of students within these groups on campus because not everyone starts out in society at an equal playing field and some students need more accommodation. If someone has more needs, the Student Senate doesn’t have the authority to choose what category a person has a voice in, Elliott said.

“I know discrimination and prejudice exists in the minds of others, so the question is how to move past that,” said Hayes. “And I believe that is to treat everyone as individuals and equals.”

Hayes disapproves of special interest seats because he believes they create inequality by treating certain groups differently, giving them special benefits, he said.

“When you have some seats only certain students can run for and others that all students can run for, that’s inequality,” Hayes said.

The solution he advocates, and what the tabled legislation would have put into effect, is to only have general election seats. Nothing prohibits any student, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else from running for a general seat, he said.

Hayes thinks students don’t need someone with their exact life experiences to feel represented as senators should be able to listen to and empathize with all other students.

The Big Picture

The larger, associated issue that comes into question with this debate is the question about how far America has really come in minority relations, including race and sexual orientation in that definition.

A 2006 CNN poll regarding racism showed that 49 percent of black respondents saw racism as a “very serious problem,” while only 18 percent of whites did. Forty-three percent of whites and 48 percent of blacks said they knew someone they considered racist, but only 13 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks considered themselves racially biased.

This is because “we’ve reached a point that racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don’t even recognize,” University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years, told CNN. According to Dovidio, up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even recognize.

For SMU, this is manifested in its struggle with its external image.

Elliot thinks SMU may have a poor image from the outside that its students are not accepting of minority student groups, of being homophobic and not providing race or class interaction, and that image is just as hurtful as if the university itself were acting racist.

In actuality, the university is the opposite, trying to make campus more acceptable to others and the administration and admissions department put a lot of effort into reaching out to people of different backgrounds and making campus more diverse, said Elliot

“But it appears that the student body is not in line with that and the student senate’s refusal to accept proposals reinforces that,” he said.

Anthony Tillman, Assistant Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Director of Student Retention also has concerns about the campus climate.

“I’m not completely confident that there’s a comfort level for minority students to go to the majority population and express concerns,” Tillman said. “And the opposite where the majority population goes to the minority population to ask about concerns. I’m not sure we’re at that point yet with that free and open dialogue,” he said.

Tillman approached the Student Senate regarding the bill that would remove all special interest seats and spoke to them about the administration’s concerns.

“Normally, the administration, we don’t get involved in student politics or government issues, however this particular issue had risen to the attention of the office of the provost and there was a concern that this could result in campus polarization along racial lines,” he said. “And, frankly speaking, that is the last thing we want to have as an issue.”

Diversity at SMU

In 2009, the SMU student body was 8.2 percent Hispanic, 6.5 percent Asian, and 5.8 percent Black, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

These statistics mostly follow with a 2009 Kansas Law Review article, which showed that of the U.S. population over the age of 25, more than 40 percent of Hispanics have less than a high school education and less than 20 percent of Blacks have more than a high school education. The article notes that the low number of Hispanic education attainment may be in large part due to immigration from countries where completion of 12 years of education is not the norm. According to the article, the Asian population, however, has higher rates of bachelor’s completion, master’s completion, doctoral completion, and completion of advanced professional degrees than do any other racial or ethnic group.

The article goes on to say that, “while the number of blacks earning four year college degrees has increased in absolute terms over the past forty years, there apparently have been little gains in bridging the educational attainment gap despite the presence of affirmative action.”

SMU is not unique in its struggle with the minority student population. This problem is nationwide as to how to include minorities in higher education.

In Elliott’s fight to gain an additional special interest seat for the LGBT community, he said he saw little opposition from the student body.

“It seems like there are a few senators in the chamber against special interest seats and it’s their prerogative to get rid of them,” he said.

Tillman suggests students take a deeper look at the student senate and how it currently stands.

“The way it stands, there are automatic seats for each school, so one could argue that we already have special interest seats for proscribed schools,” he said. “We should really think about what that term ‘special interest’ really means,” Tillman said.

The Future

So what happens now with the special interest seats?

Since the legislation to add the LGBT seat was already seen by the Student Senate this academic year, it will not be brought up again until the 97th student senate, Student Body President Patrick Kobler said.

Elliot said, “I hope the movement to advance LGBT issues at SMU doesn’t stop with me. I hope that someone else will pick up the torch and carry it on to advance equality for all SMU students.”

As the day for campus elections near, think about where you stand on the issue.

Campus News Blog: Investigating Diversity at SMU

February 12, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Kathryn Sharkey

I’ve decided to turn this blog into an investigative series to see what it is like at Southern Methodist University for the non-majority student. So, the first thing I needed to do was get an idea of what kind of students we have on campus by seeing what kind of organizations there are.

I found a list of student organizations and many of them surprised me. I didn’t know we had an Iranian Students Association, Japan Club, Turkish Students’ Association, Russian Club, Diabetes Association, National Society of Black Engineers, and many women’s organizations. I was also surprised to find that at least 14 out of the 19 religious organizations on campus are Christian. (There could be more, but I’m not entirely sure with what religions three of them are affiliated).

I’ve learned two things writing this initial post:
1) The diversity the campus does have is pretty hidden, since I would bet that most students are like me and not aware that most of these multi-cultural organizations exist.

2) It seems the campus could do more to make other religions feel welcome. It’s possible that there aren’t any organizations for any religions beyond Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam because there aren’t any or enough students to support their creation. But, it’s also possible that other religions find it hard to find a place and voice on campus.

I plan to find the answer to this problem and many more. Check back as I highlight a different group on campus with every post, either with words or video.

Campus News: LGBT Community Fights for Special Interest Seat in SMU Senate

November 3, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Sarah Acosta

On Oct. 7, 2009 the lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgendered community on the SMU campus urged the SMU Senate to create a special interest seat for “sexual orientation and gender identity.”

No legislation was drafted by senators after hearing this proposal, instead a piece of legislation fighting for less diversity by doing away with all seat titles and special interests seats was presented a couple of weeks later.

These actions did not discourage the LGBT community on campus, but seemed to fire it up even more. Shortly after the bill was presented groups on facebook were created such as, I support a “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Senator” for SMU and Help to maintain equality on SMU with hundreds of members.

After receiving much controversy and complaints inside and outside of senate, the authors recently dropped the bill.

The LGBT community continues to fight for its special interest seat by urging the SMU student body to sign the “I Support “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Senator” petition online. Also on the Westbridge outside Hughes-Trigg students will also be able to sign the petition from Nov. 3- Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Campus News Blog: How Diverse is SMU?

March 19, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Lindsey Washburn

I’ve felt like this campus is diverse. During my time here I’ve had the opportunity to meet students from all over the world. I think it’s great. I think as students we can learn from each other just from where we are from and how we were raised. I’m enlightened to hear about various cultures, religions, and lifestyles from students. I’m always curious to hear stories from students with different backgrounds. In a way it teaches me more about myself.

I think diversity in a university environment is important. Apparently the diversity rate at SMU has dropped. What a shame. I hope this university can bring more diversity to this campus, and make sure minority students feel welcome.