Unity in Diversity? The BDE Elections
This Friday, the 26th of January 2018, students will gather on campus to vote for their next BDE. Our BDE is composed of six members, and this year 13 candidates are competing for election to the next mandate. The current BDE has asked each candidate about the challenges posed to the organization.
With the student body increasing in numbers, it is no surprise that the diversity of campus grows too. This trend is particularly relevant to the Bureau des Élèves whose objective is to to ensure the social life of the student body is as inclusive as possible. The work of the BDE includes ensuring students are well integrated to campus life by organizing events such as the integration week, bar and club nights, casino night, as well as the end-of-year gala. The challenge that comes with hosting social events has always been catering to the myriad of different interests of the student body. Lalonde elaborates on the deliberate oxymoron, "unity in diversity" by saying that there exists "unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation." Indeed, within a campus as diverse as ours, this concept must be kept in mind. Whilst this notion is usually applied in federations, the challenge for the BDE has always been to realize this concept in the microcosm of our campus, where students have different ideals for a “social life”. So, the most important question that the BDE must answer is; can the BDE, with limited resources, unify a campus that is increasingly diverse?
Coincidentally, all of the candidates have advocated for the need to diversify events on campus, taking the polarity of interests into consideration. Philippe Andreas Bédos states that "diversity is a strength, but one that requires the right mindset to deal with." Further, he reiterated that we "need to take into account the existence of cultural barriers, and how easy it is to fall into specific groups based on our backgrounds." A sentiment which was echoed most of the candidates. Maya Shenoy discussed the need for the BDE to "facilitate socialisation and transition", empathizing with the difficulty in "reaching out to groups that aren't yours in terms of diversity." The candidates have offered many suggestions on improving inclusivity. There is an increasing support this year to have more non-alcoholic events in addition to the customary events held by the BDE; these include - but are not limited to - international dinners, potlucks, volunteering and a colour run, as suggested by Hortense Pin-Plaud, Alana Tang, and Joséphine Cousin respectively. These events strive to achieve inclusivity similar to successful events such as Diwali and Chinese New Year which bridge the "gap between the international and the French" in the words of Plamédie Mesongolo, but also "reflect the many different cultures on campus" as Jean Castorini later elaborated. Joséphine Cousin also keeps those who love a good party in mind, she wants to assist the hosts of house parties by funding a cleaning service and provided a framework for the feasibility of her proposal. On the other hand, Arjun Vadrevu said that he believes in strengthening inter-association collaboration on more events, focusing on events which "don't require that many resources nor manpower." While it is true that the BDE requires funding to stay afloat and make many of our events possible, the lack of resources shouldn't perversely limit the association. Francesca Moro alluded to an inventive American TV character, saying "if McGyver can diffuse a bomb with a hockey match ticket, limited resources aren't a problem for anyone."
In addition to the obligations of the BDE, candidates such as Camille Capelle believe that "the six members of the BDE should represent this diversity that is atypical and dear to Sciences Po." She argues this would avoid certain groups being overlooked. Ayush Dhall stresses on a peer-to-peer approach by asking students for ideas to "reach a common consensus", however one must question the extent to which a complete consensus is realistic. Keeping in mind a busy calendar and the traditional roles of the BDE, we asked the candidates what they believe the biggest challenge of being a member of the BDE will be. Marguerite Matoussowsky highlighted the Gala notingthe intense workload associated with it, while Jean Castorini concentrated on the importance of integrating incoming first years and ensuring they feel as welcome as possible. Meanwhile, Maya Shenoy takes a pragmatic approach, and believes the biggest challenge is the budget, saying that, "we have ambitious goals, and that's very good, but it conflicts with the monetary realisation of those goals. We need to learn how to marry those two ideas." Suhanya J. De Saram took a more subtle approach, acknowledging how all candidates have ideas and convictions, but keeps in mind the difficulty in reconciling differences within the BDE "if no one is willing to compromise on their ideas for the sake of the team." She further said, "Ideally, no BDE member should be grandstanding and/or too caught up on pride.
While there has been an emphasis in this campaign on events that cater to a more timid or introverted demographic on campus, perhaps innovative solutions which garner the interests of the divergent tastes on campus deserve further consideration. Staying pragmatic, and being able to cooperate within a team is going to inevitably shape the functioning of the next BDE, and we urge you to cast your six votes tomorrow with your vision of an ideal BDE in mind.
Paxia Ksatryo is an Indonesian second year student and the incumbent event manager of the Bureau des Élèves of Sciences Po Paris, Campus du Havre.
Edited by Pailey Wang.