Letter to the Editor: CSUN’s Students of Color Coalition’s list of demands

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Letter to the Editor: CSUN’s Students of Color Coalition’s list of demands

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To whom it may concern,

We, the members of the Students of Color Coalition (SCC), stand in solidarity with the mission driving the LGBTQIA+ movements and other like-minded student-led organizations at CSUN (i.e. AASPP, AISA, BSU, CAUSA, MEChA), to fight for the liberation and restoration of historically oppressed communities.

The SCC has identified a number of issues between university administration and the student population. As students of the university, and therefore fundamental sustaining elements of this institution, we demand that the California State University Board of Trustees, CSU Chancellor Timothy White, and CSUN’s president, Dianne Harrison, address the conditions impacting historically underserved student populations and implement institutional changes to establish a just, equitable, and democratic educational environment.

The following identified concerns are not comprehensive and further critical analysis of our university system, as a whole, are subject to investigation if the institution is to breed student success and prepare graduates for the dynamic landscape of the future. The incomplete list is as follows:

To accomplish the mission of equity and justice in the university, the SCC demands that CSUN leadership take a decisively bold position in favor of AB 1460, protection of Section F, and expansion of the varied Cultural Studies programs (e.g. African/Africana, Asian/Asian-American, American Indian, Chicanx, Central American, Gender and Women, Jewish, Middle Eastern and Islamic, Religious, and Queer studies).

CSUN has earned a reputation across the state and beyond as a hub for cultural studies, largely due to the legacy of student activism on campus. This history and tradition of student activism should be welcomed, celebrated, encouraged, and compensated. The student activists of each era have sought to improve the condition, quality, and reputation of our university.

In reality, the exhausting work of theorizing, organizing, developing, and implementing direct action has always had the end goal of a better university to further advance an equitable, just, and restorative society. Any characterization of the SCC and affiliated or sympathetic groups to the contrary is shortsighted and ignorant. The success of student-led movements is testament to the strength and effectiveness of the envisioned mission of each of these cultural programs.

To further bolster the strength of these departments, the university should develop the ethnic studies departments and offer more graduate studies programs on our campus. Africana studies, in particular, still lacks a graduate program 50 years after its establishment. CSUN is recognized across the state as a leader in ethnic studies; it is disappointing that the innovation has slowed down due to a lack of support by the administration of our system.

84% of faculty of color currently hold positions within the College of Humanities. We find it evident that many faculty and administrators of color have been corralled into adjunct and figurehead positions with insufficient resources or authority to engage the community and enact substantial change. Faculty of color most frequently find positions within Gender, Ethnic, and Cultural studies departments, while other departments remain inequitable.

The lack of a fair distribution of faculty and administration and security for those positions throughout the university is discouraging for students of color. Students perform better when the education they receive is reinforced with reflections of their culture within the material and their educators.

Therefore, the SCC demands that CSU leadership make a concerted effort in hiring and developing faculty and administrators that reflect our communities in California. CSU leadership must also equip these individuals with the capacity and authority necessary to bring lasting and substantive change. Furthermore, the leadership must be willing to provide the resources necessary for the transformative elements of this endeavor to come to fruition if they truly stand for the best interests of students and aspire to cultivate the highest degree of student success.

To accomplish this task, the CSU must enact a strategic and ambitious plan to increase faculty and administration of color across campus; an acceptable first step would require an emphasis on the immediate recruitment, development, hiring, and sustainment of new and existing faculty and administration of color. The long-term plan requires a yearly increase in staff of both sectors with reasonable compensation plans until equity and parity is established.

The evidence of racism on campus is invisible to those who have not studied the origins and progression of history in our university. The SCC has identified Delmar T. Oviatt as an opponent to the creation and existence of cultural studies in Northridge during his tenure as university president. The fact that this person’s name is placed so proudly on the face of the most iconic building of our university, the historic heart of campus — the Oviatt Library — is a blatant example of the traditional role university administrators have played.

From then to now, administrators have been opponents to the desires of the student body. Therefore, the SCC demands that the campus library be renamed to something other than that of a racist and oppressive figure to the student population. In its place, a name that recognizes, explains, and reconciles the history of racism, the resistance of that racism, and the defeat of institutional racism on our campus should be deliberated and established.

In addition, the SCC is critical of the imperial and colonial history exemplified by the U.S. flag. Moreover, the U.S. and other flags of the colonial tradition are the only flags currently visible around campus. As an act of recognition and celebration of the cultures present in the San Fernando Valley, the SCC demands the university flies flags of the native nations of which the university stands on at the central library and anywhere the U.S. flag is present.

The SCC recognizes that we are not currently situated in the same socioeconomic and political environment of the 1960s. Found in a promising light, the SCC also identifies programs that are beginning to address the realities of maldistributed life chances. The CSUN Food Pantry, Pantry Pop-ups, and Women’s Research and Resource Center (WRRC) are valuable assets to our community in the mission to establish food security for every student on campus. Even so, the CSUN Food Pantry is only open two days a week, less than what was originally offered at the inception of the program and these efforts can not abolish hunger on our campus alone.

Mental health services have been more heavily promoted around campus as a way to improve the present realities of mental wellness. It is apparent that funding for these services are insufficient because many students have complained about the difficulty in securing appointments, the length of time offered to each student per session, and the lack of cultural reflection in the professionals assigned to them.

It is hard to believe that the university cannot find the resources to provide improved quality and quantity of service when campus Police Services are allocated $5 million per year, tuition payments have consistently increased over the last 10 years, parking fees have grown substantially, events and leasing opportunities that generate revenue for the university corporation are frequently seen on campus, and administration salaries have grown dramatically.

Looking at a specific example in our university president, Harrison’s salary increased considerably and consistently from 2011 to 2017. Her salary and benefit increases topped out in 2017 at $154,086 higher than her starting salary of 2011, bringing her total university compensation to $437,990 for that year.

There is no acceptable excuse for the absence of equitable resources for programs that would have restorative results when the university has found the money to fund those who already have the most access to economic resources, as well as a police force that has a clear and evident history as the largest perpetrator of injustice against communities of color.

Students from underserved communities have found it difficult to manage the realities of education and the need to support themselves, as well as their families. Financial aid packages have lagged behind the financial obligations required of all students and have affected students of low-income communities the most. These conditions make it more likely that students of color will have to work a job concurrent with their schooling, thus taking time away from their studies. The slippery slope is such that many students will not complete their degree in four years, if at all.

The SCC has found an exciting, yet ambivalent, opportunity on the horizon in the forthcoming USU renovation and the promised Center for Unity in Racial, Intersectional, Social, and Economic Justice, otherwise known as the URISE Justice Center.

While the promise of a new building and an abundance of space allocated for the values encapsulated in the name of the center is attractive, the SCC is weary of the level of accountability we might expect from the USU, The University Corporation, and any other subsidiaries involved in the design, development, implementation, and management of the proposed building.

Of critical concern to members of the SCC is the future of the cultural houses spread throughout campus allocated to various groups and organizations such as the Black House, the Omatsu House, the WRRC, the Chicanx House, the Revolutionary Scholars Resource Office, and the Central American-American Indian Friendship House and Garden. We recognize that the USU referendum committee has made a great effort to include students in development discussions and has provided a venue to voice recommendations and concerns in this nascent stage.

Still, requests presented to the committee have not generated tangible results up to this point. Each of these spaces offers different resources to members of the community and the loss of any of them would be detrimental to student success. We hope the establishment of the Justice Center does not jeopardize the security of each individual space.

Furthermore, we hope that the establishment of the Justice Center will not become a barrier for these spaces to secure more resources that may be reinvested into our campus community. Instead, we hope the Justice Center becomes an asset that will help generate more resources for the included communities. Members of the SCC have demanded written documentation securing the long term safety and viability of the cultural houses, but nothing of such sort has materialized as of yet.

The SCC envisions a near future where university administration will stop their policy of resistance toward the concerns and desires of the student population. We imagine a relationship that will allow young leaders the necessary encouragement and guidance required to accomplish a societal change that values bodies of color as much as the most privileged among us.

CSUN is rich in history, struggle, and success for students of color. We have accomplished this much with minimal, if any, help from the administration; imagine what we could accomplish with the full support of the institution where we spend a substantial amount of financial, emotional, temporal, and physiological resources everyday.

Finally, the SCC must turn its attention toward the governing body composed of students themselves. The Associated Students (AS) governing body has not always lived up to the mission of advocating for student demands. Despite requests from the student body and direct action by the Faculty Senate, AS has yet to officially take a vote of no confidence against Chancellor White. The chancellor’s attitude and actions toward ethnic studies are antagonistic, aggressive, and unacceptable.

Furthermore, AS has yet to take a position of support for AB 1460. We urge AS to take a stronger stance against attacks on ethnic studies and to support of students of color at CSUN. When we help our most affected siblings, the whole family wins.

In the words of Timothy Jacob Wise, an anti-racist activist: “If we don’t figure out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs, we are not going to survive as a productive and healthy society.”

With all due respect,

The Students of Color Coalition at California State University, Northridge