BY PATRICK KELLEY
Washington – SAIS’s D.C.-based Student Government Association plans to rename and alter the format of the annual Mr. and Ms. SAIS talent contest following suggestions from the SAIS administration to drop gendered aspects of the competition in favor of a more inclusive event.
This year’s competition will break with the tradition of awarding prizes to the most-talented male and female contestants. The SGA has yet to agree on a new gender-neutral name for the March 4 contest, though “SAIS Superstar” is being considered. A similar event taking place on February 18 at SAIS Europe will keep the name Mr. and Ms. SAIS.
Student life director Khorey Baker proposed changing the event’s name to the SGA in an effort to promote gender inclusivity, following Johns Hopkins University’s Roadmap on Diversity and Inclusion.
“We don’t know how all students identify in terms of gender identification,” Baker said. “Colleges changing the names of pageant-type events is a trend on the national level.”
The SGA agreed to the name change after approaching consensus during last Friday’s meeting, eschewing a voting process that is sometimes used to settle impactful issues. The name change has yet to be officially formalized, though, leaving the potential for further deliberation.
“Usually, we debate things much, much more extensively. About this Mr. and Ms. SAIS event, it was very informal.” SGA member Aniket Maitra, who was approached by at least one student concerned with changing the original name, said. “I would have liked to have seen this debated a little bit more … to address where the concerns are coming from [and] who brought this up. Usually, we do a thorough job of kind of addressing any of these concerns. But, I feel like this one was a little bit rushed. … I’m always really, really open to hearing student concerns.”
SGA meetings consist of the 11 elected student members and Mr. Baker, occasionally including other stakeholders in the school, depending on the issues of the week.
Maitra had dueling priorities during SGA’s Friday meeting as he was concurrently working with issues relating to the happy hour – one of his main responsibilities – as the SGA discussed the name change.
This year’s yet-to-be-named competition will be held in the Kenney Auditorium and will likely feature a talent contest as well as an international relations questionnaire for contenders, mirroring last year’s event. While competitors have been judged by a panel of SAIS staff in the past, there could be an element of audience participation at this year’s contest. The SGA is also considering using the competition to fundraise for the class of 2017’s gift to the school, according to SGA President Nathasha Soon. The SGA will announce more details on Friday.