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Podcast: HSU From Two POC’s Who Made It Through

“During spring semester 1994, the California State University (CSU) system administered the Student Needs and Priorities Survey (SNAPS) on its (then) twenty campuses, which included questions regarding the campus climate. Although the results revealed that there was good news concerning Humboldt’s students, Dr. Paul Crosbie did find some cause for concern when comparing the responses of White students to the responses of Students of Color. This led to Vice President Edward M. Webb’s decision to authorize a follow-up survey of HSU students regarding the campus climate during the fall semester 1995.

These survey results have revealed some differences between the ethnic student groups in their university experiences. In particular, African-American students appear to be the least satisfied with their university experiences. The African-American respondents indicated the most dissatisfaction of all groups with the opportunities on campus to learn about other cultures and to discuss issues related to cultural differences among racial-ethnic groups. This group also revealed the highest percentage of respondents who have either experienced or observed insensitive behavior based on Race and Ethnicity. Review of the campus climates of other universities and the literature concerning student attitudes toward cultural diversity offers some direction for proposed recommendations for the university in addressing this “multicultural tension.”

A friend of mine from Humboldt State came to Humboldt County last Thanksgiving to visit friends in the area. We met up and discussed our experiences in Humboldt while attending HSU and we recorded this conversation for his podcast

I was appreciative of the conversation because it was a chance to reflect with someone who shared similar experiences as mine while we were studying as students–transplanted in a community completely different from the ones we grew up in.

The topics that we touched on made me think a lot about the importance of institutional memory at universities like HSU, especially with the climate that the school is currently in.

We found it interesting that around that same time the previous year, students at HSU and my friend in particular, were protesting and organizing against what students of color felt was a complete disregard of their experiences by HSU’s President Lisa Rossbacher.

In an email, she made the statement of “knowing that racism was not the norm on campus and in the surrounding community.”

Here is an older white woman, who has been heavily criticized for being overall absent at events or discussions surrounding students of color. How does she know for a fact, what their experiences are and that they don’t experience racism on and off campus?

Needless to say, students of color were pissed and they took over the University Senate meeting and read open letters to the president.

A Facebook page, POC Norm was created for students to share their experiences of racism in the local community and on campus. As a reporter for the campus newspaper in my last semester of school, we documented all of this in a feature issue we did on the students organizing (shouts out to Siu! As it was her idea and vision, beautifully executed).

There were also demands presented to the Presidents Office which included her making the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (& Equity) a part of her cabinet.

We found it bizarre that in 2001, HSU student Corey Clark was murdered (with no justice) and we had no clue by the time we came to the school less than a decade later. There is not even a bench at HSU to commemorate his memory. But seeing how the school is hush-hush about the murder of David Josiah Lawson and will not even come to discussions on his murder in the community or vigils brining light to his unsolved murder, I can totally see how and WHY…..HSU does not give two fucks about their student of color population other than using us a props for “diversity and inclusion.”

Conversations, meetings, and forums to address “equity” in the community and HSU started around October 2016–with the model of equity being led by a local non-profit organizations in the area.

Since the stabbing death of HSU student David Josiah Lawson at a house party in April 2017, these conversations of equity have merged with the concerns of student safety.

For someone new to what I like to call “university politics,” one might be led to believe that things are moving in the right direction due to meetings and forums.

As someone who has graduated from HSU and played an active role in sharing my voice and the concerns of students of color years before Lawson was killed, I wish the school and the city of Arcata would have acted sooner and I wish they were more sincere in their efforts.

Especially considering that students have been expressing their concerns about not feeling comfortable or included on campus or within the surrounding community, long before I set foot on this campus.

You can not measure the time and energy that myself and other students spent, trying to illustrate to grown people with Ph.D.’s and Master Degree’s, who are working in higher education, their institutional failures of inclusiveness. In addition, you can not measure the time and energy that me and my comrades spent in picking up where the university dropped the ball, creating events and spaces for students of color where there once were none.

This was before the cultural centers were created–which also speaks to the role of institutional memory and the work that students of color put in to help the school when they were not getting paid. Yet, they did so but because they loved HSU and cared about the future of the school and the experiences of the students of color who would come after them.

My dear friend Cherrish Robinson did research about the significance of cultural centers on college campuses while a student at HSU and presented this information in a presentation to HSU’s administration. She coincidentally, even spoke to the lady who now heads these centers during the compiling of her research.

When I was a student, HSU was the type of school that would not have any events for Black History Month, unless they had Black faculty or people of color whose job it was as staff to focus on “the Black stuff.” And since there were none at the time, we as Black students had nothing and had to create events and spaces ourselves.

When I was Vice-President of the Black Student Union at HSU, we created a whole calendar for the month of February, which included various events each week from movie screenings, to roundtable discussions, soul food dinners, and we even wrote to receive a grant to bring keynote speakers to campus.

But we made sure to let the university know we were unhappy with this while we leaned on each other for support.

This is why institutional memory is important and this is why I am terribly disappointed that the Lumberjack newspaper archives are no longer available online..

As someone who was both a default student-activist on campus, as well as a reporter/writer for our campus newspaper, I have a lot of perspective and history based directly from my own lived experiences during my time at HSU.

Students have expressed their discontent as students of color at HSU throughout my undergrad and long before I stepped foot on campus.

In 1996, HSU’s Dean of Students Randi Burke, wrote her masters thesis on why students of color don’t feel comfortable at HSU.

The problem is the university heard the concerns from day one but rarely made any strides to ensure institutional change.

Slauson Girl is a guest on her friend Jesse’s podcast, La Divina Joteria De Los Angeles, Thanksgiving weekend 2017. They both attended Humboldt State University, a CSU in a small, rural, mostly all-white town in northern California. They share some insight into their and other students of color’s journey at HSU–and how they deal with trying to cope with the undergraduate experience they had in Humboldt County.

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop--currently living in Humboldt County. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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