Students who decide to attend Humboldt State University get to tell their friends and family about the area’s legendary natural beauty, the redwoods, beaches and the rivers.
In return, they get to answer endless questions about Humboldt’s legendary reputation for marijuana. It seems the stereotype is that if you are an HSU student, you are a stoner.
Third-year psychology major Taniqua Nelson said she wishes HSU would be recognized for its accomplishments and the strength of the institution, rather than just its association with marijuana.
“We’re noted by the National Geographic; our Geography program is really great and so is our science program,” Nelson said.
“When I heard Jimmy Kimmel discrediting the Marijuana Research Program at Humboldt State by focusing on non-important aspects about Humboldt County, I was happy we made it that far, but I was disappointed that we are still noted as being just a “weed school.’”
Most people are only vaguely aware of Humboldt County — they have heard a reference or two about how it is a part of the “Emerald Triangle” a region in Northern California encompassing Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It is home of the world famous giant redwood trees but the area is infamous for the climate and resources that lend themselves to the cultivation of marijuana.
HSU junior and communication major Emmy Searles said when she told her family she had decided to attend Humboldt State they teased her about going to live in an area famous for its production of narcotics.
“Humboldt State is not only notable for weed, our Rape Crisis Team has been recognized by a branch at the Department of Justice for having great model program for the support of rape victim’s & raising awareness,” Searles said.
“Although the isolation is a limitation in this town, I still appreciate the campus for its environmental awareness.”
Paul Geck, a history teacher at HSU expressed his thoughts on the school’s cliched reputation..
“I have been here for 10 years and I feel there are things to note about HSU other than weed, such as the Redwood Forest and the natural sciences programs,” Geck said.
“When I first got here I thought this place was kind of funny.”
Geck noted that Humboldt is not the only part of the country to be heavily associated with marijuana, it just gets the most attention. He points to Gainesville, Fla., as a college town similar to Arcata, where the attitudes concerning marijuana are more relaxed.
With no prior exposure to a place like Humboldt County, many students, especially those from inner city areas can only identify HSU as one of 23 California State Universities, or associate it with the area’s reputation for marijuana.
Angela Middlebrook, a psychology major in her third year at HSU said that prior to coming to Humboldt she knew only that it was in “the middle of nowhere.”
“Humboldt was the farthest distance from L.A. without going out of state. It is a quiet and peaceful place to focus on school,” Middlebrook said.
“People are like, ‘You go to the weed school.’ I guess [I do]. It’s just school to me.”
Third year psychology major Lona Tu stated that before moving, her only information about Humboldt (besides it’s reputation for weed) was that it was a very beautiful area full of nature.
“Initially I was a Botany major and I was swooned by the letter sent to me about the landscape of Humboldt,” Tu said. “The redwoods, marshes and the beaches. I also loved their logo.”
Tu said she initially didn’t understand why there were so many jokes about the school she had chosen to attend.
“I was sheltered as a kid so I did not know what weed was. To me, college itself is associated with partying and drugs so why did it matter what school I went to?” Tu asked.
“I knew that wasn’t something that I was into. Back home they still tease like, ‘You been smoking that weed?’ No, no, I tell them, not me.”