Student representatives from the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE) presented at Occidental College’s monthly faculty meeting yesterday. The students advocated for the faculty to create a vice-president for diversity and foster a welcoming environment for people from marginalized backgrounds. Two student representatives spoke on behalf of the larger group, members of which stood arm-in-arm behind the speakers.
“The case we presented is simple: a vice president for diversity is necessary in order to foster the multicultural environment the Occidental mission statement claims to have,” CODE student representative and sociology major David Pino (senior) said in a later interview. “We’re bringing to attention the fact that students do have a voice, and that this is not just a faculty matter.”
According to its website, CODE’s mission since its inception last fall has been to promote institutional change in the object of excellence and equity at Occidental. “Our mission is to serve as the conscience of the institution,” the website reads. “C.O.D.E. challenges Occidental College to match our rhetoric with concrete reality.”
In accordance with this mission, the speakers at the Tuesday faculty meeting shared personal stories of their struggles in the face of marginalization.
“We are student leaders informing the Oxy community about our culture, our different lived experiences, and building a community of support for one another – something that is crucial for us as students who may not connect with the larger Oxy community and could be having a hard time here because of it,” Latin American Studies major Tracy Garcia (senior) said during her presentation.
Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jorge Gonzalez was receptive to the students’ monologues, although he did not guarantee any significant change would take place.
“We welcome the conversation. Let’s talk about what the VP can do, and let’s figure out what is the best structure that we could or could not put in place to make sure we address the issues we are trying to address,” Gonzalez said.
At the meeting, Gonzalez said that the Occidental faculty are some of the greatest advocates and allies CODE could find anywhere on campus. He then opened the meeting up to questions for CODE.
“You have among this faculty more commitment to this issue than I dare to say in almost any institution in the country,” Gonzalez said. “I talk to every faculty who gets hired in this college, and when I talk to them, we talk about the mission of Occidental. If the mission is not a good fit, many of them decide not to come.”
Engaging the faculty and soliciting their assistance was CODE’s main purpose for the presentation, according to Garcia.
“We wanted to inform them as well as ask for their support, especially in our demand for a VP of diversity that we think will be able to enforce our demands and be someone who we can go to for suggestions about improving resources for marginalized students,” Garcia said.