Photo Courtesy of Sky + Em for Northwestern Facebook page
Coalition of Colors held a debate with the Associated Student Government (ASG) Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates this past Thursday, April 12. Sky Patterson and Emily Ash have since won the ASG election against Justine Kim and Austin Gardner, and this debate shed light on what this new administration plans to do for marginalized students—students of color, low-income, and LGBTQIA students—once they are sworn into office.
Patterson and Ash’s campaign’s primary focus was battling financial barriers for marginalized students. For example, some opportunities on campus require funding your own experience, and for low-income students, this means that some of these opportunities are simply not available to them. In their opening remarks, Patterson and Ash also introduced their plan to make Northwestern more affordable by providing books for low-income students.
They went on to stress how integral supporting mental health is on this campus, their desire to have more time spent on mental health seminars and the recruitment of professional therapists from the Chicagoland area.
When asked how they plan on making sure marginalized students feel supported and have safe spaces, Kim and Gardner warned that they know they cannot pretend to know the experiences of all students. Due to the soon-to-come renovation of the Black House and the importance of accessibility of resources for marginalized students, Kim and Gardner wanted to create more physical safe spaces, so all students of color don’t have to share the Multicultural Student Affairs house. They also hoped to change Northwestern’s metaphysical spaces, including addressing the fact that both Latinx and African-American studies share the same academic department.
In the same strain, Patterson and Ash brought up the fact that the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center is only one small space in a corner of Norris. The students of the LGBTQIA community don’t even have a designated meeting space that can fit more than 15 people.
Ultimately, Kim and Gardner’s social plan for students of color was a little unclear. They seemed to know that they had to address the issue that many students of color on this campus feel isolated, but didn’t suggest specific initiatives in the debate. But they did raise a good point in focusing their energy towards the world of academia; differentiating and recognizing the disparity of minority groups helps validate their identity for others—something students of color shouldn’t have to do, but is inevitably necessary. It must be kept in mind, though, that creating a discourse to support marginalized students is a long-term solution.
Patterson and Ash, on the other hand, were focused on the economic disadvantage of many marginalized groups. They voiced their realization of the fact that students of color often have a different allocation of resources from the start of their academic career—something they have no control over. Patterson and Ash want to provide resources for these students by using the already abundant amount of money that Northwestern has. This immediate resolution will also, hopefully, lead to less isolation and more collaboration between student groups.
Overall, supporting students of color on campus was a major part of both tickets’ platforms. With this new administration, students of color can hope for more recognition, more listening, and more validation.
*April 15, 2018 @ 3:50 pm- An earlier version of this article attributed the quote “If we start improving the situation of marginalized students first, then everyone will benefit,” to Justine Kim. This was incorrect, the statement was actually made by Sky Patterson.