While February indicates celebration for Black History Month, with only 5% (1,002) of African American students enrolled at CSUSB, questions on representation and having a voice on issues on campus become even more evident.
The idea of having safe spaces on campus is intended to make a person feel free of bias, conflict, criticism, and a place of healing. For many students, they are able to walk around different parts of campus including classes and see people who look like them. They have a sense of belonging.
Nicholas Flowers, a third-year Child Development major, voiced how he felt about representation on campus. Flowers stated, “I definitely do not feel represented on this campus. The black community at CSUSB is one, if not the worst, poorly represented community at CSUSB.” He gave suggestions that can make his experience on campus a more welcoming and inclusive place. For example, more black representation in faculty and staff that will allow him to see people, with higher authority, who look like him.
The way the campus is representing the Black community was a reoccurring concern for many. Students felt they don’t see enough of what matters to them or the things they have asked for.
Tylin Sands, a third-year student, discussed how she felt representation should be prevalent on campus. Sands said, “I feel like my campus does try, but I don’t feel represented the way I would like to be, and I believe that being represented in the way we feel more comfortable matters most.” She emphasized that the campus should ask what would be the best ways to represent the black community as a whole.
One of the core values of CSUSB that moves towards accomplishing the mission and goals of the campus is inclusivity – which the campus describes as the commitment to the value of all kinds of differences among students, faculty, and staff.
Kameron Pyant, a fourth-year English major student, spoke on his view about the representation of the Black community on campus. “There are a couple of events, organizations, clubs, etc. that I believe do their best to deliver representation, but I still believe African American representation could be higher.”
Brittnee Joice, a fourth-year Kinesiology major, had a different experience with having a voice on campus. She stated, “I didn’t really feel like I’ve had a voice on campus until this year. This year I most definitely used my voice.” Joice discussed how putting one’s self out there, which involves networking, can boost the quality of one’s experience on campus.
“Don’t be afraid to network within your own community. Get involved, so that you can have the best experience on campus. Being involved brings so much opportunities your way.”
When asked about safe spaces on campus, it was clear they all felt there was one place they would be welcomed and comfortable in, without a doubt. The Cross Cultural Center located in the Student Union has become a safe haven for many students to be around those who look like them and would understand the daily experiences most have.
Avery Robinson, a third-year Communication major, expressed how the Cross Cultural Center is the place that he chooses as his safe space.
“The African American community here on campus mostly hang out in the Cross Cultural Center in the Student Union which also houses the Pan-African Center. This is where I have found my safe space on campus,” Robinson said.
Nicholas Flowers shared a similar sentiment as he said, “The only place I feel is a safe place on campus is the Cross Cultural Center.”
The impact of this center affected many of the black students on campus. For a number of them, this is the only space on campus where their presence is welcomed and appreciated.
As new school years continue to approach, the enrollment and retention of African American students is steadily decreasing. With more representation, accessibility to having a voice on campus, and providing more safe spaces, the numbers can begin to rise again.
Sands has a message for future students: “Do everything in your power to get what you deserve. People will not push for you if they feel like you don’t care.”