By Cassidy Crissman
SGA’s elected leaders “shall represent the student body of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.” And all students, “regardless of race, color, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or sexual orientation shall be considered eligible members of SGA.”
In practice, however, SGA falls well short of representing the racial and cultural diversity of IUP students, particularly in comparison to sister Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools.
Of the 12,943 IUP undergraduates enrolled in fall 2011, 80 percent were white, according to the IUP Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment’s 2011-2012 common data set. The remaining 20 percent were African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander or members of other minority groups.
But these minorities are not well represented on IUP’s white-dominated Student Government Association. No minorities served on its 2011-2012 executive board. And only two of SGA’s 32 senators — or 6 percent — were minority members, according to Ryan P. McNeely, SGA rules chair, in an April 25 e-mail.
Stephen R. Hyduchak, 2011-2012 SGA vice president and a candidate for 2012-2013 president in March 28-29 elections, said student government is not as diverse as he would like.
“We have only a small amount of minorities, which is something I would love to see changed,” Hyduchak, a finance and legal studies major, wrote in an April 18 e-mail.
Hyduchak lost the presidential election to Taylor R. Billman, also a finance and legal studies major, 46 percent to 54 percent.
OTHER Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools have more minorities in their student governments. Representatives at three western-region PaSSHE schools responded to queries about diversity and representation.
Mansfield University enrolls 3,400 students at its northern Pennsylvania campus, where only 10 percent are minority students, according to a PaSSHE website. Yet 24 percent of its student government members are African-American and/or international students, according to MU SGA President Thomas A. Thornton in a March 21 email.
MU SGA minority members provide valuable viewpoints during discussions, Thornton said.
“Each brings with them their own perspective and life experiences, which help others to see arguments on any given issue from a different perspective, and allows us to make decisions that are more representative of the entire student body,” Thornton said.
The Cal U SGA president and secretary for 2011-2012 were African-American, according to SGA President Walter D. Harris in a March 27 email. So were seven of its 34 senators, or 20 percent — proportionate to the school’s minority population.
Six of Shippensburg’s 24 student senators — 25 percent — are members of minority groups, Comfort wrote in a March 29 e-mail. Dixon said no two members of the Shippensburg student government are alike.
“Whether they are of the same ethnic background or not, their main focus is to represent their constituency,” Dixon said.
AT IUP, 2011-2012 SGA President Zachary J. Stayman did not reply to emails sent March 23, April 10 and April 25 or to a March 23 phone call requesting comment on diversity during his tenure.
Following his March 28-29 student government election win, 2012-2013 President Billman responded in an April 26 email that SGA membership and diversity are “in transition.”
“We actively recruit all students interested,” Billman said. “We recruit all genders, ethnicity, orientations, and races. We do not currently have a total count for the 2012-2013 school year; because, we are in a transition of leadership and membership.”
Cassidy Crissman, a sophomore majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from State College.
Sidebar: Diversity by the numbers
Following are diversity statistics for student government organizations at western-region Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education campuses cited in this story:
Campus Total senators Minority senators %minority
IUP 32 2 6
Mansfield U ? ? 24*
Cal U 34 7 20
Shippensburg U 24 6 25
* According to Mansfield SGA President Thomas A. Thornton in a March 21 email.
Source: Student government presidents for Mansfield University, California University of Pennsylvania and Shippensburg University, and IUP SGA rules chairman.
Sidebar: For more info
For more information or to get involved with the IUP Student Government Association, please contact the following sources:
Taylor R. Billman
2012-13 SGA president
Dr. Amber Sherman
Center for Student Life
307 Pratt Hall
Indiana University of PA.
Indiana, Pa. 15705