Open dialogue key to campus debate about cultural and racial representation

Senior Communication Major Brent Bernacchi

















By Chris Nolan

This semester, many students and faculty at Humboldt State University have spoken out about how they feel their cultural and racial identities are being represented or misrepresented.

“I’ve overheard a group of guys in my marketing class talking about how all Mexicans look the same, it makes me so angry,” said Raymond Ocelotl, a finance student at HSU. “The same goes for people getting South Americans mixed up with Mexicans almost as if they are categorizing all the South American countries as a product of Mexico which it isn’t at all. I try to treat everyone with respect but some things I just can’t let go of it.”

“I am culturally Jewish and I can’t stand the stereotype that cheap people are being Jews,” said Eliana Hall a communication student at HSU. “Our school needs to do a better job of making sure we are monitoring these acts and make sure there are consequences to such discriminatory statements cuz I’m sick of it.”

“I often hear people refer to white people as the problem and it saddens me because I am white,” said Frank Heggeness, an environmental major at HSU. “I understand racism is alive and a lot of it is the white population’s fault but you can’t scapegoat every aspect of bigotry to one race, that’s racist in itself.”

Campus relations are an essential component to keeping a community as small as HSU connected and on the same page. In October, HSU President Lisa Rossbacher sent out an email about “Standing Together for an Inclusive Community,” in which she took  a stand against racism and bigotry on the HSU campus. In the same email, President Rossbacher described racism as not the “norm” on our campus. Some in the campus community pushed back, saying they have experienced racism at HSU.

Rossbacher then sent an apology email, reassuring the population that she had read “emails which described reoccurring cases of racism,” in attempts to hear what the community has to say on the subject. She reiterated that any form of racism is intolerable and that she used the word “norm” to describe “a standard of accepted behavior.”

Professional Social Advocate and Communication Professor Maxwell D. Schnurer discussed his thoughts on the matter and what tactics he would take to bridge the gap of separation and if HSU is an inclusive campus or not.

“We are not now but we are headed there we are trying,” said Schnurer. “We currently don’t do well for ECI students, undocumented students, working class students while race and gender are also huge problems.”

Schnurer did not hold back on addressing other problems on campus aside from racism that don’t get enough publicity.

“I wouldn’t want that job,” said Schnurer in regards to President Rossbacher’s position. “Feeling divided would be tough … Students should hold the president accountable; it just should be done in a respectful manner.”

What are some things a leader could do to show full support for student diversity?

“Engage in the student perspective, what events are desired and prioritized from this generation,” said Schnurer. “Create a panel of undergraduate students who provide a feedback loop to the president.”

A public forum might provide useful perspective for all. Free food would encourage students to attend.

“We as the students should host an open forum debate about the email and ask the president questions about issues so that we can clear up any lingering misunderstandings,”

suggested Brent Bernacchi, a communication student at HSU. “Maybe have it during finals week.”

Another student thought it would be useful if students could visit the president on campus.

“The President should open office hours to students like an advisor would,” said Daniel Moriarty, a communication major.




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