In Depth

Community Debates Role of Diversity on Club Boards

According to an informal survey conducted by The Phillipian, 30 percent of the leaders of seven major clubs on campus are non-white, compared to the 35 percent of the student body who are of color. While the proportion of white to non-white board members corresponds to that of the student body, the question arises as to how important it is to have more diverse club boards, and how this issue should be approached. Some students and faculty believe this responsibility lies with the school, while others would delegate it to club boards themselves. None of the clubs polled recruit members based on race. Therefore, diversity among club leadership varies greatly on an annual basis, depending on the applicant pool. When asked by The Phillipian if ensuring diverse leadership in a club is the responsibility of the club, Associate Head of School Rebecca Sykes said that she thought it was Phillips Academy’s responsibility. Sykes said, “I think to the extent that an organization is lacking in diversity, it should at least ask itself the question. There’s what you say and how you look at it.” Dean of CAMD Linda Carter Griffith said, “People want leadership but are intimidated by organizations where they don’t see their presence.” Griffith emphasized the importance of role modeling within clubs. She said, “Most students think, ‘My people aren’t over there. Maybe it’s not the place for me. Am I going to be called upon as the token voice?’” Okyeraa Ohene-Asah ’09 said, “[Students] have a lot of work already, and being on the board of clubs takes a lot of time, so it has to be taken upon the school for them to model for everyone to feel welcome…I can’t complain about Andover, they’re doing a great job, but we can push a lot further.” Griffith said, “Saying we’re here and available is not enough. Maybe you need to do something more. These organizations should make greater efforts to reach out.” Many clubs take advantage of the club rally to appeal to a wider spectrum of students without targeting a specific group. Sykes said, “Sometimes it’s a matter of extending an invitation that’s a little more personal.” Lydia Dallett ’08 said, “The problem is that [students] don’t feel accepted into the club, so they don’t go, but you have to take the first step to cross the line. In freshman year, I was the only white person in Af-Lat-Am, but they all really welcomed me.” Dallett went on to mention that although our school is diverse according to the numbers of students from different backgrounds (35 percent of students are non-white, for example), diversity goes beyond numbers. Students must integrate in order to benefit from their peers, Dallet believes. Farah Dahya ’08 said, “Overall, we’re sometimes trying too hard to be politically correct. We end up sugar coating a lot of stuff. That’s all good…but I feel like we’re focused so much on just facts and percentages.” The Philomathean Society attempts to encourage diverse participation by hosting forums open to the entire community, which provide a means for all students and faculty to talk about campus-wide issues. The 25 community service coordinators are significantly more diverse than many boards polled, with nearly 30 percent of leadership positions filled by students of color. However, this may be partially due to the larger size of the community service board. Community service general coordinators, Jessica Cole ’08 and Mary Doyle ’08, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “The community service program] offers a wide enough array of programs to appeal to students from diverse backgrounds.” Griffith said, “There is real challenge in being a diverse community. The work here is never done. The work here changes all of the time.”