By Rhyan Nile, Feature Writer
CSUB administrators are hearing the voices of the black student groups and have been made aware of their concerns. On Monday, February 28th the CSUB student groups BSU, ASA, and SQE had the uncomfortable conversation of “Getting Comfortable with being Uncomfortable” in which they spoke on what it is like being a minority on campus and not having their needs met. They hosted an open forum with a panel discussion that consisted of what has happened, what is happening, and what needs to happen to create a healthier environment for Black students at CSUB. The CSU system still has a lot of work to do to remedy the ongoing concerns and issues of the underserved population within their student body.
Several administrators were present at the event to hear the discussion, including the President of CSUB, Lynette Zelezny, and the Executive Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Thomas Wallace who each spoke on behalf of the campus that black students matter. Zelezny spoke briefly before the conversion got started, stating “we want to stand in the background so that you can feel comfortable saying what you need to say so that we can grow as a family and as a community here at CSUB.’’ Dr. Wallace also encouraged the black students in regards to their feelings and needs being met by their institution. “ We have as a campus committed, so we are interested in hearing the conversation tonight, where we all grow and we all grow together.” The faculty that was present at the forum were skeptical after hearing what the students are experiencing and concluded that their experiences weren’t quite different than their own. Both students and faculty have been asking for a seat at the table and have yet to see social justice on campus. Uchechi Okey-Dike, the president of the SQE spoke on the difficulties of asking for help, especially to those who do not understand the day-to-day struggles of a black student; “ it’s taken me a lot to feel comfortable to ask for help. It took me a few years before I was introduced to people who looked like me” said Okey-Dike. The very few black faculty that campus does have are not in a position to make a change. Black students and faculty get on zoom screens or walk in a room and are immediately anxious and feel isolated solely on the fact of what they look like. Their names aren’t being mentioned, their voices are not being taken seriously, and they as individuals are being dehumanized. President of the BSU, Fitzgerald Graves explains what goes through his mind every time he enters a zoom/classroom. “I’m a psych major, I’m observant. Every time you open up that zoom screen, I look to see if there are other black students and seeing none, I feel magnified in representation. And I must know the material because if not it goes with stigma. Always try to make other people feel comfortable in your own space” Graves said.
The black students and faculty are constantly having to be on defense and make others comfortable instead of being included in the safe space that campus so often purports that we have. Black students and faculty just want the same opportunities, the same freedom, and the same care as anybody else, despite what they look like and where they come from.