Presidents, 36 years apart
Last April, Lynne Thompson ’72 and Ashley Peters ’08, the first and second African-American Scripps student body presidents, respectively, discussed their presidencies and the campus environment and political climate surrounding each. Over lunch, the two discovered many commonalities: both have four brothers, both worked as receptionists in the Dean of Students Office, both majored in psychology, and both were presidents during a time of war. Excerpts from their talk:
LT: You and I have probably experienced a lot of the same things, but what surrounds it is very different. We were very politically aware. I think we were so focused on issues beyond the campus — people were very wrapped up with the war, especially since we had a draft. You’re getting a lot of support from your fellow students and particularly the African-American students. People were proud of me, but they thought, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
AP: There are a lot of black women staff members on campus, and everyone was very much involved in my running and supporting me. People are more apathetic to what’s happening in the world. We’re in the middle of a war that is rarely acknowledged in everyday activities or conversation.
LT: What difficulties have you run into during your year as president?
AP: The hardest is juggling the social justice aspects with recognizing not everyone at Scripps is passionate about that. Also, having to be the face of not just the Scripps that I want to see, but the Scripps that doesn’t agree with the things I want to see happen… When I found out I was elected, I realized I’m really stuck in a weird place, because all my work up to this point has been very social-justice oriented and wanting to bring more women of color here and give more support to the women already here. Now that I represented the entire student body, I couldn’t just say, “Sorry to the 90% of you who don’t look like me.”
LT: I think it makes a heck of a difference that you can see someone who doesn’t look like you really has the same worries: the grades, the “Will I get into grad school?”, or if I’m not going to grad school, “What am I going to do with myself?” All that is pretty universal if you’re a student in college, and it doesn’t matter if you came from Japan or Ghana or wherever, you’re going to share those kinds of concerns — and that has real value for the College.
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