Who makes up SU? DAC releases first report on SU diversity
In the first iteration of what it plans to make a yearly report, the Diversity Affairs Council surveyed students involved with all branches of Student Union—including Senate, Treasury, Social Programming Board and the Council itself—to assess the diversity of the student government organization.
Findings from the report included increased representation of women, specifically in Treasury, as well as room for improvement with representation of those who identify as Hispanic or African-American.
The Diversity Affairs Council (DAC) distributed this survey with the hopes of establishing baseline data about the diversity of the makeup of Student Union. By creating this diversity report, released Thursday, the DAC plans to show areas for future improvement in Student Union, as well as to assess areas where progress has already been made.
By understanding where there is room for improvement regarding diversity within SU, the DAC can strategize on how to increase representation with the governing body, junior and DAC Chair Ruby Arora said.
“There are some places where I see a lack of representation of some of our students—where our student body is not represented,” Arora said. “We plan to use this data to kind of frame recruitment and try to get some of the areas where we don’t see as much representation, now understanding where that’s coming from and trying to use that to gain more representation in those areas.”
The survey report shows more representation of women in SU when compared with fall of 2014—in 2014, only 25 percent of Treasury representatives were women, whereas 14 of 24 representatives identify as women today—as well as a racial distribution similar to that of the Washington University body as a whole.
Junior and Speaker of the Treasury Iliana Ragnone said that she has seen this change in women representation during her time on Treasury, adding that this change has been beneficial for Treasury as a body.
“When I first joined, there were only a handful of women who were on Treasury, and as the semesters have gone on, that number has increased a bit,” Ragnone said. “I think it’s really interesting that stereotypically male-dominated fields—like finance or anything having to do with money or numbers that is typically associated with males—a lot more females have been comfortable breaking into those roles on campus, and that has also really done a lot to improve our diversity as a body.”
While Ragnone said there haven’t been any specific efforts by Student Union to recruit more women to run during her time on Treasury, she said that women might be more comfortable running for Treasury because of this increased representation. SU President and senior Kenneth Sng agreed, noting that the marketing campaign for fall SU elections focused on showing students with diverse backgrounds.
“In the recent SU election, we had a Facebook campaign, and we worked really hard to feature pictures of SU representatives and to talk about what they represented so students felt really positive about joining SU and students who were interested in SU knew that students from a diverse background were represented here at Student Union, and it’s not just a place for students with privileged backgrounds,” Sng said.
The survey results also show that there is little representation of Hispanic and African-American students on Senate and Treasury, and Sng sees room for improvement by recruiting student representatives who can better represent those identities.
Since the types of questions asked on the survey were sensitive in nature, Sng noted that the DAC made sure to craft questions that were not biased, especially because of controversy surrounding Senate’s campus climate survey, issued earlier this semester, which conflated sex and gender and misstated “transgender” as a sexual identity.
“I think the contents of the survey—the questions particularly—were informed by the incident that happened with the campus climate survey,” Sng said. “We were a lot more deliberate when it came to writing this survey. I know Ruby went to Tim Bono, a professor in psychology who is well-versed in putting out surveys that are not biased.”
Arora expressed enthusiasm about the final survey produced, adding that this information will become more useful with time, as the DAC will send out similar surveys in future years.
“I’m really excited about this project and to make this an annual thing so that we can actually do long-term comparisons of that data because right now it’s like, ‘I just have one year’s worth of numbers, and I can’t really compare it to anything,’” Arora said.