By Ashley Johnson ’14, Special to The Denisonian
As a freshman, I had my heart set on getting involved in a bunch of amazing things, including joining DCGA. Student government was so appealing to me and the senators made it seem so interesting. It wasn’t until I attended a meeting that I realize it was not nearly what I though it was. When I think of student government, I picture a body of students that stand up for the rights of the entire community and embrace the ideas and opinions of all their peers.
Now I’m not naïve enough to believe that every single opinion or person will be accounted for within a small group of students, but the least I expected to see was my views being respected and included in some way. However, that is very different than what my experience has been like.
For three years I’ve sat on the executive board of La Fuerza Latina, so I’ve had many opportunities to engage in debates with our representatives. In my personal experiences with DCGA, I’ve noticed a high level of disrespect that is so deeply rooted in ignorance that you just wouldn’t expect from your own peers. To sit in a meeting and have someone tell you that some of the speakers you want to bring to campus seem the same so they just decided to choose one for you, or for someone to minimize the importance of your event down to whether or not there will be piñatas is appalling.
Most importantly, it was beyond painful to sit in a meeting and have several people tell us that our organization was less important than a campus bar. It wasn’t the fact that students wanted a bar, but the idea that more people were willing to rally behind a bar, as opposed to a space for a campus organization to accommodate a growing population in our community.
As an organization, we’ve provided so many informative and entertaining events and activities to this campus, while alcohol has been a factor in several of our campus problems. Still, the student body felt more comfortable supporting a drinking culture than members of their community. While we did eventually get our space, the backlash was not necessary.
As for the newly elected members of DCGA, I am asking that you do a better job of representing your student body. Don’t use people for votes, but attend an event, go to a meeting, and learn about what they want. Since almost everyone ran a campaign on student voices, I want people to challenge themselves with the question of, “WHOSE voices matter” or, “who am I representing?”
Ask yourself if you’ve actually taken time to listen to other views, or just ignorantly waited for your turn to refute it. If you’ve ever disregarded someone’s voice because you didn’t think they were educated enough to have an opinion, then it’s time to rethink your position.
As a graduating senior, I don’t complain just to complain. If I care about something, I put in work to make it better. That is what students of color are trying to do at Denison. Everyone should feel like they have a voice that stands for something. Students of color will continue to speak up because we all deserve to be heard at Denison.