Gonzalez Resigns Post as Chair of Senate Diversity Committee
By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief
Joshua Gonzalez ’21 has indicated his intention to resign as Chair of the Student Senate Diversity Committee after two months in the role.
Gonzalez, whose appointment Senate President Nick Arbaugh ’20 heralded as likely to bring a “new energy” to Senate’s diversity initiatives, struggled to find his footing during the committee’s first several meetings and cited scheduling and personal issues in his decision to resign. He will continue to serve as a voting member of Senate in his capacity as Affinity Group Leader for political clubs.
For his part, Arbaugh said that he is disappointed in Gonzalez’s decision to resign but that the departure would not hinder the Senate’s efforts to be more inclusive.
“Obviously, the Senate will miss Josh as the head of the Diversity Committee,” Arbaugh said. “I thank Josh for his service and wish him nothing but the best. The Senate’s commitment to diversity remains unwavering, and I look forward to selecting a new person to continue the energetic conversations that Josh was leading in the Diversity Committee.”
Gonzalez said that he believes the committee opened some important conversations on general awareness of diversity and inclusion as well as its impact on Greek Life and that he hopes those conversations continue.
“I honestly hope that the Diversity Committee can establish itself as a cornerstone of dialogue at the Senate floor, and that the Executive Board continues being more involved with the committee itself,” he said. “These issues are important and deserve to have a platform. I do intend to be very active in the other roles I serve in Senate, and I hope to remain a part of the dialogue that we’ve already managed to begin.”
Senator Ivana Lopez Espinosa ’19, who serves on the Diversity Committee, said that she struggled to understand what the committee’s goals were over the first several meetings of the semester and was unsure whether Gonzalez was equipped to facilitate discussion on diversity and inclusion.
“I’m not going to talk poorly [about] Josh. He was appointed, and he is doing what he can to lead the committee to the best of his ability,” she said in an interview with “On Target,” The Gettysburgian‘s podcast. “I know that sometimes conversations feel as though they are left unanswered, or these questions are coming from a surface level understanding of what diversity and inclusion is. It’s a matter of taking the time … if you’re going to discuss something, you should probably know what you’re talking about to a certain level of depth.”
Lopez Espinosa added that, in general, cultural competency is an issue on the Gettysburg College campus among students as well as faculty and administrators, including individuals who come from marginalized groups themselves.
“A lot of students on this campus believe that being a member of a marginalized group gives you authority to speak on issues or to talk in a way that only you know what is right, and that’s not true. I’m a Hispanic woman, but being a Hispanic woman doesn’t make me knowledgeable on these topics,” she said, elaborating that it is her experience studying marginalized voices and working in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that give her the skill to discuss these topics competently.
Some on campus questioned Gonzalez’s appointment to the role given his political conservatism and relationship with Arbaugh; Gonzalez is Vice President of College Republicans and Secretary of the Young Americans for Freedom, the latter of which is chaired by Arbaugh.
“The accusations of tokenism have honestly saddened me greatly because of their lack of recognition of individual experience that it fails to take into account,” Gonzalez said. “It is absolutely correct that I am an avid member of the Young Americans for Freedom and the College Republicans. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I would consider myself right of center. As is the case for everyone, our political views have been a product of our own individual experiences. While I may not have had the same extensive training in the ‘field of diversity’ as other people may have had, I have not lost my sense of empathy and acknowledgment of the issues going on around me.”
“Sure I may be conservative, but it did stem from the fact that both of my parents were immigrants from Latin American countries who came over at a very young age. They developed values that they raised my older sister and I with. My views are also a result of the main fact that my next-door neighbor who cared for me and my family for many years was a Cuban refugee from Castro’s oppressive regime. I grew up in an urban community in New Jersey where most of my friends were of Latin American and African American decent. I don’t say this with an upset heart, but with a mind that pleads to all in society to view people as individuals with individual experiences,” he added.
Ultimately, Gonzalez concluded that his political views did not affect how he approached his role as chair of the committee.
“When I assumed the chairmanship, I didn’t let any of my political views get in the way of very important work that was to be done on campus,” he said. “I was supposed to be the voice of the committee and not just for myself. My ability to empathize with my Latino heritage and community issues is not limited by my conservative views, and I really want people to understand the damage that is done to society when we begin thinking in those terms. Issues of diversity and inclusion mattered to me just like they matter to anyone else, and I hope that the next person to take up the office believes in these issues like myself and those who served before me.”
Arbaugh said that the vacancy will be formally announced at Senate’s meeting Monday evening and that students interested in the position should send him a cover letter and resume.
Lopez Espinosa said in an interview that she was not sure whether she would pursue the role, and other senators on the committee declined to comment.