Newly Formed Student Committee on Diversity Aims to Reform Reed from the Inside

The last two semesters have featured an unprecedented administrative overhaul that has left students worried about the integrity of institutional leadership at Reed. The abrupt nature of these changes within the administration has raised larger questions about issues that shape the school and student body from the ground up. At Reed, it’s no surprise that student body senators have been stirred to take action during a time of uncertainty regarding the present and future challenges to institutional policies and dynamics, as well as replacing the people who oversee the decisions that inform these principles.

The Quest spoke to two senators involved in helping establish new policies that will guide both the administration and student body in fostering a more diverse community at Reed, students and administrators alike.

One solution the college has conceived of in the past is the Committee on Diversity, which prompted the formation of a separate but equally as integral Student Committee on Diversity (SCOD), both of which seek to reevaluate how inclusivity is promoted at Reed. Currently, the membership on the Student Committee on Diversity consists of: Pax Lloyd-Burchett, Student Body President; Apoorva Mangipudi, Student Body Senator; Aziz Ouedraogo, Student Body Senator

 When asked which obstacles are the most conspicuous within the administration that have hindered progress in supporting diversity at Reed, Student Body Senator Apoorva Mangipudi reflected how “it can be difficult to voice student opinion[s] without being met with indifference or condescension.” The labor that senators have put into amending the dissent policy affirms a similar issue of student autonomy when it comes to expressing views that oppose administrative precedents, resulting in student voices effectively being drowned out in the past on certain topics. However, Mangipudi stated that “[the Committee on Diversity] is extremely welcoming and has been supportive of the issues we have raised thus far, thankfully, but I would expect there to be some resistance to some of the ideas students will have within the community in general.”

Mangipudi’s background as a member of other committees has given her insight into how the collaborative process typically works in shaping institutional policy. As a member of the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (SCAPP), she’s witnessed “a dynamic between a faculty committee and students that was formalized to both include student opinion regarding campus-wide issues and encourage the involvement of students to participate in the vital processes of our academic institution.” In comparison, as an index of progress made in promoting student voices on issues directly affecting the student body, Mangipudi stated “I found the Committee on Diversity (COD) meetings to be incredibly relevant to the issues several students face during their time here at Reed and was particularly interested in beginning the process of including the voices of students who invest their time in making this campus more equitable who don’t have access to COD meetings in the way some of us do by virtue of being a senator.”

Fellow senator Aziz Ouedraogo weighed in on the same issues of equity within processes that shape the composition of the student body. Remarking on a significant factor of inclusion amongst faculty and staff, Ouedraogo stated that “part of the reason I wanted to be on the [Committee on Diversity] was to figure out how hiring is done, and like who gets to say how faculty are chosen. That’s one of my biggest interests on the committee.” He added how student senators follow this administrative practice, explaining that “I think everyone on the [student] committee would agree that like we’re trying to improve the diversity experience for all people of color at Reed, or I guess not just [people of color], but like all [people from] marginalized backgrounds at Reed.” On the same topic, in demonstrating how student involvement in hiring decisions works, Ouedraogo revealed that “something I’ve been trying to do through the Committee on Diversity is critique CAT (the Committee on Advancement and Tenure), and how they are doing their job, because it seems like that’s where the issue is.”

The conversation took a brief turn towards recent developments concerning turnover within the administration, and the glaring lapses in institutional support especially for staff members at Reed, given the recent flux of departures of staff members of color. Ouedraogo explored a reason for these departures, saying “I think [senators] get the initial goal we really started with… faculty of color, hiring, like how do we critique the people who’s doing that. And then now we have very much moved to how do we support [staff] after they start”, citing a lack of resources for staff members of color at Reed to support them at a historically and predominantly white institution.

Things are looking up, however, or at least they have the chance to. For the first time, the president of Reed seems to genuinely back inclusion and diversity. “I would definitely say that I feel like Audrey supports Equity and Diversity, like immediately things are very different. But I definitely do think the biggest challenge being on the committee is administrative”, Ouedraogo said, highlighting how administrators have typically always expressed pushback against student ideas on reforming parts of the college from admissions to representation in Reed syllabi.

The Student Committee also faces a separate issue of exposure, which Ouedraogo hopes to remedy with “a public meeting kind of similar to Senate, but for the Committee on Diversity. That’s publicity. And then, yeah, we’ve always been focused on more staff of color, but the roadblock there is CAT. And it’s actually a goal of mine to critique them to do their job a little bit better,” which suggests that support for students, faculty, and staff of color and marginal backgrounds is more feasible now than ever before.

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