Diversity on campus gets a different view

 

 On Sunday April 6 SDSU had its second diversity and inclusion summit. Semehar Ghebrekidan, sophomore global studies major and Graciela De Reza, junior psychology major, shared their opinions on diversity at SDSU. 

Q: Do you think diversity at SDSU is represented well?

Ghebrekidan: I think there is, but I feel that we are underrepresented because we aren’t on the main level. The tours of campus show the Multicultural Center but they never go through it, or they won’t even mention it. They’ll come all the way down here to see Papa Johns but won’t think twice about the center, which is home to many student groups. 

De Reza: There are these groups available to students but they don’t realize that because we’re in the lower level where nobody goes to unless they absolutely have to.

Q: How about in general?

De Reza: I think that people see what they want to see. It’s about entertainment for people. We want to share the culture but it has to be a two way street. You have to learn about our struggles and issues also, they’re going to have to show interest in what we’re doing. Be aware of the microaggressions going on. 

Ghebrekidan: The students will come out for the step show or India night but they won’t ever come to the meetings to be engulfed in the culture of those students. Like GSA, BSA, or LASA. How can I be entertained by these groups? All of the nights are about entertainment and not about what is actually going on. Black people can dance, gay straight alliance can throw a drag show, Hispanics can throw a soccer ball around. You would never go up to a normal couple and ask what their sex life is, but yet people think its ok to go up to two gay guys and ask who pitches and who catches?

De Reza: And white people wouldn’t go up to other white people and ask, where are you from? 

Q: What do you think is the most challenging thing about diversity? 

De Reza: Personally for us, it would be proper representation. Like I said we’re here in the lower level, we’re not seen, we’re not heard. People come down here for a purpose and then get out as fast as they can.

Ghebrekidan: Also in senate meetings we’re not allowed to vote because we’re ex officios for the groups, so we really don’t have a voice, and senators at large aren’t doing their jobs. They’re always talking about student engagement but if they’re the senators at large then they should be the ones going to the small group sessions, to talk and ask them if they have any issues they want to talk about. The only time they come out and talk is when they want a vote, which isn’t the right way to do it. You should be actively involved. 

Q: Have you personally seen problems with diversity? 

De Reza: Just people making jokes, trying to be funny. Like, oh you’re Mexican you must have connections to drugs. 

Ghebrekidan: No one really talks about microaggressions. We even talked about it with agriculture students on campus. They get labeled that they’re hicks, that they’re all hicks.

De Reza: It’s mostly the ignorance and lack of motivation to understand the stereotypes.

Ghebrekidan: It also comes to lack of respect, just watching what you say. 

Q: Why do you think diversity is such an issue?

Ghebrekidan: I think it’s because it’s a part of our everyday lives. Students have come up to me and talked about how they feel underrepresented. Some kids said they would want to move from the school because they didn’t feel equal. 

De Reza: It’s all about representation when you think about it. When you see someone like you it validates your ideas and traditions and to be in a school like this where you might not see someone like yourself or have the same sexuality as you it kind of makes you feel small. They [students] won’t want to be at the school anymore and will want to transfer or something.

Ghebrekidan: Yeah and the fact that our school tours don’t go down here and show inside the Multicultural Center. If you look at Mancato and their retention rates it’s equal. They’re a whole, not just black and white but as a whole student body. Their biggest event on campus is not homecoming, it’s Africa night. That says something about their community there that they really care about culture.

De Reza: Every city is important, because it’s another way to educate yourself. Why not learn about the other cultures and other ideas. 

Q: What else can you add about diversity?

Ghebrekidan: I would enjoy to have the Multicultural Center moved from the bottom of the Union to the main level. Then people can come in and do what they need to do, have the tours come by there. Have a home for every minority student group. Have a room that we can go to and gather. Sometimes we get kicked out of the meeting areas because of lack of communication. It would be nice to have a home, a nice place to go to and connect. 

De Reza: I think the big goal is to have that presence on campus where when you think of SDSU you don’t just think about football, but the different diversity and the different people that go here. 

Ghebrekidan: It’s like what we were talking about at the senate meeting. The school is ADA approved at the moment but it could be better. The Multicultural Center does a great job but it could be better with resources. It could be one of the best things on campus, something that people look for. Students’ Association has a brand new space, and they are students who get nicer things than the people hired at the Multicultural Center. The people who are actually working get small desks and up in the Students’ Association office they  have everything brand new.