Campus / News / April 13, 2011

Ethnic diversity lacking

The numbers concerning diversity at Knox have increased, but some have questioned whether student organizations like Student Senate and Honor Board represent this increasing diversity. Co-Chair of Honor Board senior Tanya Novotnak, along with some other members of Honor Board, had concerns on the lack of ethnic groups represented in their organization.

Novotnak said, “The reason why I think we should uphold that concern is because it comes from the community, specifically the faculty. We are aware that in terms of racial or ethnic background, we don’t represent the student body.”

Honor Board has 12 members: nine students (seven women and two men) and three faculty (three men). All members are Caucasian. The Board has been trying to recruit more people who come from different ethnic backgrounds by emailing more clubs and organizations they thought represented diversity, like International Club or Islamic Club.

In the year she applied to Honor Board, there were only four applicants and three were accepted, which Novotnak identifies as another concern. She said, “The reason I think more people don’t apply is because Honor Board has negative connotations … We hope to change that.”

While Novotnak said that Honor Board had different opinions, political views and activities, she commented on the reason for trying to increase ethnic diversity, saying, “It’s possible that people with different backgrounds have different takes on things that could help them be a better judge. But also the simple fact that any judgmental body needs to represent the body that it’s judging.”

Junior Yumna Rathore, an international student, disagrees with the notion of the Honor Board needing to increase its ethnic diversity.

Rathore said, “Everyone has their own judgment of fairness. I don’t feel like having an Asian or having an African is going to make a huge difference.”

“For Senate, diversity doesn’t necessarily depend on gender or ethnicity but it’s more how well an individual senator can articulate the viewpoints of students that they represent,” Senate president and senior Sam Claypool said.

Despite being the only international student currently on Student Senate, Rathore said, “Considering how small Knox is, I think it’s [Student Senate] pretty diverse. The thing about Student Senate is that anyone can join. There’s no way you can make it more diverse.”

Claypool said she thinks Student Senate has a very diverse voice amongst senators and represents the different voices on campus.

She said, “They’re [Student Senators] a good representative sample of campus; however, seeing that it is predominantly male Caucasians, it’s surprising … I never thought about it in those terms until I saw those results. ”

Claypool said Senate should do a better job of encouraging females and other ethnic groups on campus to run.

Sophomore Kyle Cruz, an international student from Cambodia who identifies as Filipino, was a Student Senator last year. When asked if he thinks more international students should be part of Student Senate, he said, “I think they should even vie for it. A lot of international students don’t care about Student Senate … There’s not enough effort on both sides to attract and enter Senate.”

“The thing about international students … they stick a lot together because they tend to miss home, they tend to miss that cultural environment,” Rathore said.

Senior Zoe Hatton, who went to high school in the South suburbs of Chicago, said that her school was more diverse than Knox. “As a Hispanic, right now I know a few people in Beta and a few people in Lo Nuestro and that’s about it. When I’m thinking diversity, I’m thinking there’s a neighborhood 15 minutes away that’s predominantly this or 15 minutes away that’s predominantly this and there’s this school that brings all these people together.”

Junior Cameron Posey said he came from a school in which everyone had the same opinion and mindset. He commented on how diversity was a reason he was drawn to Knox, saying, “I came from an all black school … I thought it [Knox] would expose me to more outlooks.”

When asked whether he thought Student Senate was diverse, he said that in terms of race it was not diverse, but it was in other areas like politics and religion.

Synthesizing many different views, Rathore said, “At the end of the day, we all are human beings.”

Sheena Leano

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