How many professors of color have you had throughout your entire school career? For CSUSB, diversity is big. Representation of different cultures, races, ethnicities, and genders is important to exist in our college community. It shows that everyone is welcomed and matters, no matter what identity one identifies or associates with.
Assistant professor of the communication studies department, Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos, expresses that of all full professors in higher education in the U.S., about two percent are women of color and only eight percent are men of color.
Conlisk Gallegos says, “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle for me to get my PhD.” From the start of her college career she knew the struggles she would face because of racism and sexism in academia. But that didn’t stop her from achieving her goals and continuing to want to inspire students every day.
“There’s a problem with thinking that because a room is full of Latinos that this automatically takes care of the issues of diversity. To assume that is racist; especially to merely quantify brown presence without striving for institutional changes. True diversity is something that goes beyond that, it’s a representation of our genius, our sensibilities, ways of thinking, and this comes from multiple places and experiences even within Latinx.”
The idea of having diversity, having people who ‘look’ like you brings comfort because you see yourself represented. You see your culture and battles through them and it makes you feel more invited and reminds us that if they could do it so can we. It brings benefits and motivation to others. Professors of color not only teach differently but also bring an abundance of knowledge and experience that helps us envisions ourselves in a greater light like them.
Most students of color on campus are not aware of the fact that being in college is a huge accomplishment because of the low statistics that we represent.
Grad student and newly graduate teaching associate, Loydie Burmah, says, “Hearing those statistics now is very daunting just to know that and try to understand that there needs to be more representation.”
Diverse identities create a unique and rich experience that brings in more familiarity for community CSUSB serves. Burmah believes that “racial identity doesn’t necessarily dictate character, just the simple notion of connecting with another individual that you share certain cultural remnants with whether by language, food, etc., it creates a unique bond you may have missed for a really long time.” Thats what diversity means to her.
College is tough and as students we all work hard every day to get our degree. To have a college community where you can feel represented, safe, and accepted should be the standard of all universities.
CSUSB works hard to be diverse and encourages the celebration of people’s cultures, but as a community there is always more that can be done. Burmah believes that to raise the statistics we must create an even larger safe space for people of color. Those who hire new faculty should have “open submission, not just allow more faculty of color but those who are about their work, people who are legit and are proud of their identities, bring those people in who are beacons of hope in their community.” She continues by bringing up another excellent idea about “advancing forums in which students can interact with candidates. To be about ones’s work. To witness what a potential faculty’s area of research. I’d like to be more involved in that, personally.”
Professor Conlisk Gallegos agrees that “we need to pay attention to who takes part in doing the hiring and be very careful about properly preparing those who take in part in such an important process. Such people have to have a required awareness of what diversity, equity, and inclusion means in the context of Cal State San Bernardino.”
Supporting and being empathetic to students and faculty of color is the main way of advocating for diversity. As a campus community, we need to start by educating our students about the alarming numbers of underrepresentation in academic positions and what the consequences are to our communities. Doing this will help us achieve more and want to keep going because of the urge to improve our statistics and wanting to break the cycle, just as many first generation students here are already doing.
Burmah dives into the idea of what we should be taught and how our own categorization of colored students going into college. “Honestly data, the hard cold facts, to see that, even in some sort of infographic, something to let us know that if this is such a disparity why is it happening? Make people question more and demand an explanation for these statistics.”
Representation of people of color on our campus should be our number one priority. Demanding instructor and professors to understand and respect our student’s cultures, unique identities, and perspectives should be a prerequisite to have them be able to teach us in the best way possible. The warmth of feeling included and welcomed is what every student should feel when they step onto campus.