Diversity leaders resign

Mar 022011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

A breach in communication between student government and diversity offices has left minority groups on campus feeling underserved by their representatives.

Charged with keeping in touch with the seven diversity offices on campus, the diversity and outreach department of the Associated Students of CSU went from a staff of six to two at the beginning of the second semester due to resignations.

“For us to be diversity offices that support the university, and for us not to have a relationship­­ (with ASCSU) –– that’s not satisfying,” said Bridgette Johnson, director of the Black African American Culture Center.

Fall semester’s diversity and outreach staffers were individually assigned offices to build connections with ASCSU. Officials aided minority campus groups with requesting funding from student government senators.

Such efforts have been complicated since the department­ –– despite website advertisements and e-mails to campus –– has failed to attract all but one additional student to be a diversity office liaison for the spring semester.

“It’s hard to get people when it’s not an actual paid position,” said Sam Raso, ASCSU director of Diversity and Outreach. “I would like to see definitely at least one assistant position paid … they do so much.”

Tiffani Kelly, a former president of the CSU American Indian Science and Engineering Society, worries this decrease in communication does little to bridge what she feels is a huge disconnect between student government and minority groups on campus.

“I heard from students of color or from other underrepresented backgrounds or marginalized groups on campus –– they do not feel safe walking into ASCSU,” Kelly said. “They don’t know anyone there. They don’t feel like they’ll be taken seriously, and I think that is a very big problem.”

Raso believes that minority students are becoming increasingly comfortable with walking into the ASCSU office but acknowledges misgivings they may have in doing so.

“There’s a lot of distrust with people of color in general and marginalized identities,” she said. “The distrust with government, to break through that is a slow process.”

As part of its outreach to diverse individuals, student government has organized ONE CSU, which assembles minority campus group members.

But Sagarika Sarma, program coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Culture Center, said the goal of this group remains unclear to her.

“We’re not sure what came out of those meetings. That has never been conveyed to us­: if anything was achieved, or if it was just a bonding kind of a thing,” she said.

To rebuild, Diversity and Outreach plans to have discussions with ASCSU President Cooper Anderson and Vice President Jennifer Babos to reform the process that minority groups use to request funding from student government. They are also organizing a diversity week for early April.

“I’d certainly say anytime that you lose staff, it becomes a little bit of a setback in the sense that you have to reorganize and retool and refit,” Anderson said. “But hearing some of Sam’s ideas recently, I’m really excited to see where the department can head in the future.”

Raso said that once others see how the department is “picking itself up again,” it will make diversity offices feel unforgotten.

But Kelly remains unconvinced that action on behalf of the department is coming.

“I want to believe things can change, and with the right people and determination it could, but so far we haven’t seen too much effort, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come,” she said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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