“Loh is part of the problem,” Nasreen Baten-Tschan said.
“Any board that he is on, it’s not going to have a full solution.”
The junior economics and community health major paused and looked around the room.
“The whole administration is part of the problem because they’re not diverse and their wants are not student of color wants. There’s so much disconnect that I am failing to see how we can come together and create an idea.”
About 20 individuals sat in the Nyumburu Multipurpose Room Dec. 3, facing a fourth of the students who are currently on President Loh’s Student Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
The town hall was created at the last minute to update students and faculty about the council’s past two meetings. The council includes 18 undergraduate and graduate students of a wide variety of races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations and incomes.
A mix of students and faculty were present. Dr. Kumea Shooter-Gooden, this university’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, stood up in the middle of the event to address the council. She suggested there be more caucusing in order to discuss these concerns.
The student members of the council asked Gooden if she could be more vocal during the meetings and give them an opportunity to discuss with her afterward. Gooden agreed.
The matters discussed ranged from having student organizations be more collaborative and inclusive, to President Loh’s proposal of a Diversity Day. The event would consist of a day next semester where classes were cancelled and students and staff would participate in events that would involve them with other communities, showcasing the campus’ diversity.
There was some protest to this idea.
Corinne Paul, a junior PLUMAS (Political Latinx United for Movement and Action in Society) Ambassador, expressed that the event would be a trial run for commuters because classes would be canceled and many would prefer not to come to campus.
“Don’t just take my identity and my culture and put it on display,” said Kalyn Cai, a senior American studies major. “There are already enough ways that that gets done.”
There was also the question of how people would get tracked and if there would be more resistance to it, doing the opposite of what it intends.
“Diversity Day is a really nice marketing tool and maybe some good will come out of it, but I don’t think it’s a solution to any problem,” said Baten-Tschan. “At worst, it’s part of the problem, and at best, it’s a gesture.”
The six council members conveyed that President Loh focuses more on changing individuals’ behaviors instead of altering how the institution operates.
“It sounds like they’re treating the symptoms and not the actual causes,” said Sade Ayinde, a junior global economic development and policy major, earning several nods from the attendees.
Questions such as “What do you want diversity to look like?” and “What is cultural competence?” arose from the audience, seeking solutions for the problems.
Some of the solutions listed were diversity training for Greek life members and faculty, as well as workshops and diversity oriented courses.
“There’s a really big difference in making that extra effort to look diverse and actually wanting to work for social justice in parts of their students,” said Cai. “Diversity is saying, ‘Let’s have a bunch of different kinds of slices of pie.’ You don’t have to do anything for those slices of pie, they just have to be there for you to say it’s diverse.”
The next council meeting will take place on Feb. 28, completing three of the four meetings planned for the school year. The members stressed they want to continue being transparent and receiving the feedback from students and faculty.
Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.