Students Rally for Diversity at HSU
By RYAN NAKANO, TRT Contributing Writer
“What do we want?”
“When do you we want it?”
Disembodied voices carried out from across campus. Someone shouted through the crackling projection of a red and white megaphone, the rest responded in unison.
Within minutes, over 50 students, faculty and local Native American tribal members surrounded a dormant drum lying underneath the overhang of Humboldt State’s University Center.
On Friday, May 9, several student organizations marched through campus with cardboard signs and leaflets in hand; raising awareness about a lack of diversity in faculty, staff and administration at HSU.
Moments after demonstrators gathered and recited their call to action, Academic Advisor Lonyx Landry led six others in a series of Native American songs.
After one final beat of the drum, Landry stepped outside of the crowd and fixed his gaze on the student protesters.
“This here today is about the student message,” Landry said. “From my point of view, I don’t want to see any sort of reductions for not only our native students but all underrepresented people.”
Like Landry, many students and faculty fear the possibility of reductions and consolidation to student programs on campus.
In fact, the demonstration itself marks the latest concern for one academic program in particular: STEM, formerly known as the Indian Natural Resources Science and Engineering Program or INRSEP.
After 40 years under the College of Natural Resources, INRSEP was relocated under the Retention Inclusion and Student Success program (RISS) last summer.
In addition, INRSEP was renamed the Science Technology Engineering and Math Program, or STEM, to reflect its focus as an academic program for the sciences.
Around the same time, fears surrounding the survival of the Center for Indian Community Development were high, and justified. The program has since been cut from the University for not sharing the same goal of retention and academic success among students.
President Richmond, who attended the majority of the protest and even spoke to the student demonstrators at one point, shared his thoughts on what was going on as he recorded the event on his phone.
“I think this group here comes out of our INRSEP house on campus and they’re primarily concerned with the fact that we’ve made it into the STEM house,” Richmond said. “But the effort there is to help as many students as we possibly can.”
As Richmond stared out at the student demonstrators he seemed to remain hopeful about the amount of diversity on campus.
“Look at the diversity you see here, it’s drastically different than it was since I got here in 2002,” Richmond said.
At 1:30 pm, the megaphone ceased to circulate throughout the crowd of protesters, the sound of the tribal drum had been silent for some time and an air of indecision hung over the heads of students unsure about how to proceed.
Eventually a voice emerged from the crowd rallying students to move the demonstration to the doorstep of President Richmond’s office.
Within moments students took to Siemens Hall 224 and quickly discovered President Richmond was not there.
Outside of Siemens Hall, Joe Camacho, President of the Society For Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), still held onto a sign that read: I support diversity in education.
“Radha Webley a leader of the Center for Academic Excellence, was here for 40 minutes,” Camacho said. “I talked to her and said ‘this is what’s going on, we’re here to increase awareness on the lack of diversity of faculty’ and she said said, ‘I am in total support of what’s going on here today’.”
Webley addressed the concerns over the reorganization of programs under the Centers of Academic Excellence in the Fall.
“It’s a changing in reporting lines and it’s important for this restructure to maintain the individual identities and purpose of these programs,” Webley said. “Centers for Academic Excellence, that’s the new part, that’s the part that’s being built.”
But, when asked whether or not there will be faculty cuts as a result of the new centers, Webley declined to say.
“That’s not what we are looking at right now,” Webley said. “Right now, what we are looking at is the building.”
After waiting outside President Richmond’s office students were eventually invited to speak with President Rollin Richmond and his administration in the next room.
Once inside, students began asking what they could do to increase the diversity amongst faculty and administration on campus. One of them was Shawna Fleming, an HSU freshman who sat directly across from President Richmond.
“How can we make something happen, because you’re the president,” Fleming said. “I’m just saying we finally did it. We’re here. We’re in the room now. We’re talking to you… we’re telling you.”