Minority dilemmas on HSU’s campus

By Tina Sampay
Flapjack Chronicle

Are minorities able to achieve the same level of achievements at Humboldt State? Many dilemmas are in place for those who identify with the “other,” who are in pursuit of knowledge on HSU’s campus; with geographical location being the biggest problem for those who travel over 13 hours to arrive at the university in the heart of California’s Redwoods. What are the dilemmas minorities on campus are faced with that make the task of achievement so distinctive?

Minorities face challenges unique to them as students in American schools at all levels by virtue of their social identity. It is crippling the ways identity can be the source of devalue in contemporary American society, more specifically American schools.

“The dilemma of achievement facing minority students is being members of a group subject to an ideology of intellectual and cultural inferiority, ” says Dr. Ramona Bell who is one out of the two only African American teachers on Humboldt State’s campus.  “This identifies a phenomenon that can be illustrated to show in a major way how certain stereotypes still play a major role in society, more specifically on college campuses.”

Within the past decade, colleges and universities across America have seen a decrease in minority student enrollment. More recently, the University of California and California State Universities have also experienced these declines. The enrollment problem is compounded given the fact that the attrition rate among African Americans is higher than other student groups. While some of these students are disqualified for academic reasons, others leave for a variety of personal reasons, including dissatisfaction with their college experience.

Cherish Robinson, a 3rd year African American student at HSU, expressed her concerns being a minority on Humboldt’s campus.

“I don’t believe that I can engage in my full person hood on HSU campus; how can I?” She adds, ” With all of my cultural formations how can I reach my highest level of achievement in my class, my work, my school, if the teachers and the adults in the building are both attracted to and repulsed by these cultural formations- the way I walk, the way I use my language, my relationship to my body, my physicality and so on?”

In the Spring of 1994, Dr. Paul Crosbie of Humboldt State University’s Sociology department analyzed the findings of a CSU study, the Student Needs and Priority Survey (SNAPS). This survey was administered to select samples of students at all CSU campuses including Humboldt. Crosbie wrote that students of color (who made up 10.1% of the Humboldt sample) often “feel lonely” and “less often experience friendly and supportive relations.” The survey also noted that students of color experienced a higher level of insensitive behavior based on culture and race.

In her follow-up study to the SNAPS survey, Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Randi Darnall Burke, focused on the experiences of students regarding their perceptions of the campus climate at Humboldt. Burke’s research revealed that of the students surveyed, African American students were the least satisfied with their experiences at HSU. Burke pointed out that students of color experienced or observed at least twice the number of racially insensitive incidents compared to white students.

For African Americans it was even higher: 49 percent of African American students reported incidents of racial insensitivity, while at the other end of the scale only seven percent of the white students surveyed reported such experiences.”Intolerance on the college campus can be seen as the new racism,” says Monica Stine. She is a former HSU student who now goes to CR in high hopes of transferring to Southern Califronia.

This is just one of the dilemmas minorities face on college campuses as they attempt to commit themselves to high academic achievement. It is these dilemmas and more that fundamentally alter the nature of the task of achievement for minorities specifically African Americans. Noting that their struggle is distinctive, it should also be noted that it requires extra social and cognitive competencies.

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