Students with racial, ethnic ties form hot spots

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About five years ago, Eagle Rabbit came to CSUN looking for a group of people who had interests similar to his. A young man with indigenous ancestors, the 26-year-old Chicano/a Studies major identifies himself only by his tribal name.

Rabbit said that because he was born in the Year of the Rabbit and the Day of the Eagle, his name defines who he is.

After coming to one of the most diverse universities in the country, Rabbit began searching for his crowd and because he was already active in the community, it was fairly simple to find. His search led him to the American Indian Studies program office in Sierra Hall 158, where other students with similar ethnic backgrounds often meet up.

But Rabbit is just part of one of the several ethnic groups at CSUN who assemble in certain geographic areas on campus, something he has seen himself.

Some CSUN students have noticed concentrated racial and ethnic groups around campus in specific areas. Sociologist and Professor Herman Dubose, author of “New Faces in a Changing America,” said the areas might have something to do with students, particularly new students, looking for a “safe place” to hang out.

New students at CSUN probably hear about locations for different groups from fellow students, DuBose said.

On Oct. 4 at noon, mostly Latino students socialized in the halls of Jerome Richfield Hall, reading and waiting for classes to begin.

Twenty-year-old Chicano/a Studies major Liliana Nicolas leaned against a wall, where she said she usually hangs out. She was waiting with her friend for a class to start.

Her friends, who are mostly Latinos, enjoy hanging out in Jerome Richfield Hall because of its comfortable atmosphere.

“Because we have the same beliefs and same customs … it’s a more homely atmosphere,” Nicolas said.

Nicolas said when she began her Chicano/a Studies classes it became obvious that many Latino students claimed Jerome Richfield Hall as their social area.

“(Groups of races) go to a place where they see individuals who look like them, individuals who they think would accept them,” DuBose said.

Dubose said the location of certain groups of people across campus has to do with students’ need for contact with other students, particularly when they’re new to campus.

“They haven’t made other relationships yet and as they make relationships with other people of different racial (and) ethnic groups, then you see them begin to move out, so to speak,” DuBose said. “As people come to this institution, the word gets around that that’s where black folk hang out, that’s where Hispanics, that’s where Jews hang out, that’s where Armenians hang out.”

“When you are new, you go where you think you’re supposed to go,” he said.

A visibly high number of students outside Sierra Tower during weekday afternoons are black, perhaps because of the amount of Pan-African Studies Department courses taught in the adjacent Sierra Hall.

Logan Hartley, junior PAS major, said he has spent some time outside Sierra Tower.

“A lot of classes are here. … When you get out of class, everyone is right there,” said Hartley, who is of black and white descent.

Hartley eventually found his home within the PAS program, and he now takes his business courses through the department.

“PAS is family group-oriented,” he said. “They want to keep you in the program.”

One of the major qualifiers for a “safe place” is feeling welcomed, according to DuBose.

Students create a sense of familiarity on a university campus by making friendships with those who share similar characteristics, said Adilifu Nama, an assistant professor in the PAS Department.

“(Alienation) forces these groups to come together … so they don’t feel alone or marginalized,” Nama said.

Haik Soulakhian, junior marketing major, found his group right next to Burger King outside of the Matador Bookstore.

“When I first came here … everybody was here,” Soulakhian said of his Armenian friends. “A lot of Armenians come here. We play cards. We like (the) tables so we can play cards and study. It’s a kind of kick back.”

Soulakhian said race plays a small part in his choice of hanging out with fellow Armenians.

Discussing important issues like the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century is something only his Armenian friends can understand, Soulakhian said.

“I can be myself,” he said.

Armenians and Asians sometimes occupy the Burger King lunch area together.

Shin Ji, sophomore theatre major, is of Japanese decent, and he said he finds it easier to relate to those of the same culture and communicate with people who speak Japanese.

Ji said that he has opened himself up to meet other types of people, but his experiences have varied.

“Sometimes they accept me, but sometimes no,” Ji said.

Not all areas on campus have a majority race in a geographic area, however.

The Sierra Quad and the shaded seating near Sierra Tower are often filled with a high number of students from CSUN fraternities and sororities.

“Everybody hangs out with us,” said Eugene Lev, a junior finance major who is president of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Lev’s is a Ukrainian Russian Jew.

ZBT was founded by a group of Jewish men who were not accepted in other fraternities because of issues relating to ethnicity, Lev said.

Once the fraternity members noticed they were doing what was done to them, they opened up their doors and eliminated their restrictions.

“(ZBT is) for everybody,” Lev said. “Our chapter reflects Northridge. (In) our house we have everybody… Hispanics, blacks, Asians.”

Lev said that students who are actively involved become exposed to different groups of people.

“We have exchange with sororities … (and) meet different people through that,” Lev said.

Virginia Diego, a senior biology major and president of the American Indian Studies Association, said she is open to more than just socializing with people from her own culture at CSUN. Diego, an American Indian, hangs out at the American Indian Studies Program’s office quite often.

“We like to reach out … create networks to learn about each other,” Diego said. “There is already subdivision in society. … We should all work in conjunction.”

As an involved student at CSUN, Eagle Rabbit is working toward bringing people together.

“(It) sounds like a utopia, but it can be done,” he said.

DeBose said separated and concentrated groups on campus are part of the socialization process.

“They’re trying to find a way to fit in,” he said. “So I think it’s just part of the socialization process of being at an institution.”

Rickesha Morris can be reached at rickesha.morris@csun.edu.

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