ASWC Opening Senate Foregrounds Diversity and Accessibility

Kate Grumbles, News Editor

The first meeting of the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) was held this past Sunday, Oct. 1. As another year of meetings and projects are beginning, ASWC appears to be taking steps forward to make their activities more accessible for everyone.

Photo by North Bennett

Specific goals that ASWC has this year include changing the pay of members of ASWC to be minimum wage for set hours, collaborating more with the other two colleges in Walla Walla and leadership groups on campus, and communicating more via social media. Another of the overarching goals enumerated by various members of this year’s Senate is to increase the diversity and inclusion both on campus, and in ASWC itself. This goal is being brought to fruition through various steps, one being the retreat that all members of ASWC attended before formal meetings began.

The retreat took place at the Johnston Wilderness Campus on Friday, Sept. 22. The retreat was an opportunity for members of ASWC, especially new senators, to get to know each other better. It was also an opportunity to go over the expectations each person has for the year ahead.

AnnaMarie McCorvie, President of ASWC, spoke about the benefits she thinks the retreat will bring to the Senate this year.

“We were able to have a retreat this year, where last year there were a lot of outside factors that made it so we couldn’t have [it]. On our retreat we got to bond and set group norms around respect and around diversity, inclusion and privilege. I’m really hoping that because we got to set that groundwork, Senate will be a more inclusive and comfortable space.”

Another step in the direction of a more inclusive Senate and campus is the creation of a new position in the executive board of ASWC, Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Megumi Rierson holds the position this year, and she hopes to start a Diversity and Inclusion committee early this year as well.

Photo by North Bennett

“What I want to do is get a group of really excited people who are well connected on campus, and who have a sense of what specific issues of diversity and inclusion affect the campus,” Rierson said. “What I’m really, really committed to is less of the diversity and inclusion that the admissions office traffics in, which is the kind of numbers game and the brochures.”

Beyond forming new committees, the fresh perspective of the first-year senators has the potential to bring positive change to ASWC.

Ari Louie, a first-year Senator, spoke about the importance of having students know about the role ASWC plays on campus.

“Something I’ve noticed since I’ve been elected is that people don’t know about ASWC. In general, it’s a huge part of our lives. Almost everything that students do is at least related to ASWC, and a lot of people don’t really know or care about it,” Louie said. “It’s something that we all pay for, and something that we are all sort of involved in … I definitely want to make ASWC more accessible.”

Making Senate more accessible to the greater student body is on everyone’s mind at the first meeting. AnnaMarie McCorvie reiterated this idea by mentioning her hopes that more students will come to Senate meetings this year.

“We want everyone to know that they can always come to Senate … When we discuss things that students have thoughts on, they should always know that they can come,” McCorvie said. “That’s on us to advertise to them.”