Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, June 22, 2017

SG presidents discuss historical lack of diversity

The current Student Government president and two former SG presidents have expressed concern that the SG is not doing enough to promote social, racial and economic diversity in its staff.

Student Government President Tim McBride said shortly after being elected in April 2011 that SG needs to work on outreach to people of other races, genders and minorities to create a more diverse pool of presidential candidates.

“It’s about getting the best person for the position, but it’s also about having the choices and the election that are representative of the student body,” McBride said.

All of the last seven Student Government presidents have been white and most were males, with the exception of one female SG president — Ashley Mushnick, during the 2006-2007 school year.

SG President-elect Emily Yu is looking forward to bringing gender and race diversity to the SG.

“But I think for a lot of other people it matters to see someone who looks different from everyone else take on a position like this,” Yu said. “So if anything it might just be a symbolic gesture.”

Former SG President Andy MacCracken said the amount of unpaid work required of SG presidents might prevent qualified students from running because they can’t afford to hold the position without a salary. As a result, only students who are financially well off tend to run for the position.

Candidates can only spend $200 on their campaigns, which is much lower than the campaign budgets at other D.C. schools, MacCracken said.

“If they can’t afford the election, they’re not going to be elected,” he said.

Former SG President Nate Bronstein said he worked 50 to 60 hours a week as president but was only paid for 18 hours.

“If you don’t pay the office and treat it like a job, you’re going to have students who can’t afford to do it, and that’s going to severely limit who’s able to run,” MacCracken said. “And that’s going to severely limit the diversity of the candidates.”

McBride currently earns $10,000 for the academic year.

Bronstein said AU should focus on increasing the diversity of the student population as a whole, which would lead to a more diverse Student Government.

According to documents from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment:

•The number of international first-year students has decreased from 5.5 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2011.

•The number of degree-seeking “black or African-American” undergraduates has increased from 4.2 percent in 2009 to 5.3 percent 2011.

•The number of degree-seeking Asian undergraduates increased from 5.2 percent 2009 to 5.4 percent to 2011.

•As of October 15, 2011, 56 percent of degree-seeking undergraduates described themselves as “white, non-Hispanic.”

MacCracken said there’s also a significant geographical diversity among former SG presidents. The past five presidents have come from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kentucky and New York.

“We’re from all over the United States, which I think is a unique thing,” he said. “I think anyone who comes to AU from outside the Beltway bubble here will recognize that the different backgrounds and cultures you have change your perspective.”

Both MacCracken and Bronstein said one of the reasons they decided not to run for reelection was because it is important for every new administration to have diverse ideas and projects.

“In order to maintain continuing perspectives and a flow of ideas,” Bronstein said, “you need to allow for that diversity to occur.”

Staff writers Heather Mongilio, Zoe Crain and Zach C. Cohen contributed to this report.

nglass@theeagleonline.com