It’s no secret that the majority of UVU’s high profile student leaders are white males. In UVU’s 76 years as a state institution, white men have been elected to student body president nearly every time. In fact, the only time a woman served as student body president was 20 years ago and it’s been nearly ten years since a person of color was elected to the position. Of the six positions on this year’s Student Government Executive Council, only one position is held by a woman and one position held by a person of color.
The presidential internship, UVU’s premier internship experience, has fared only slightly better. Each year nine students are chosen to be presidential interns and are mentored by President Holland, along with other members of his cabinet. Last year’s presidential internship cohort had two students of color, which is the largest number of students of color in the internship’s history. In regards to female representation, only 20% of all interns (past and present) have been women.
No one should feel guilty or ashamed of their race, ethnicity, gender or any other identity they espouse. However, problems surface when one group is overrepresented in leadership positions over long periods of time. When one group remains dominant, especially in positions of power, it significantly impedes other voices that are just as valuable and in many cases needed. Often, this hindrance of other perspectives is done without realizing it. In addition, there are needed skills and backgrounds that women and people of color bring to the table that allow them to see the world differently. For UVU to continue to thrive, it is essential that things be seen from different lenses than the ones that are so often looked through.
It is entirely possible that one of the main reasons there are so few women and people of color in these positions is because they do not apply. However, this is more likely the result of the overrepresentation and bias against these populations, than their being few qualified minorities. When a position is dominated by one identity for years, it discourages minorities from seeking the position, or thinking that they could ever obtain it. Just the mere presence of women and people of color in leadership positions increases the likelihood that others will follow in their footsteps.
Put simply, it’s time for UVU’s student leaders to be something other than white men. There are plenty of women and people of color who are just as capable, if not more so than current leaders. It’s time that female students, as well as students of color, see that their inclusion at the table is not a mere formality or a symbolic gesture, but an actual commitment to let them lead and show others new ways of viewing the world.