Opinions

Students of Color need more space

Pictured: Some of Puget Sound’s residential halls — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As a student of color on campus, community can be something very hard to come by. Four students have an idea that just might change that.

Though it’s still in its early stages, the Student of Color Community Initiative (SoCCI) task force is looking to establish first-year housing for students of color. Christina Mills ’22, Becca Lumbantobing ’21, Mara Henderson ’20 and Collin Noble ’19 have banded together to provide a “living and learning community for first-year students of color,” according to Lumbantobing.

Creating a community requires dedication and effort. It’s never as easy as just going to a club meeting or being friendly with others who look like you — developing actual community takes time and resources.

“The four of us have experienced Puget Sound at different times, and we’ve seen the campus climate change throughout our time here. A shared experience that we’ve had is that there’s a lack of central community for students of color, and we feel like this initiative will address that,” Henderson said.

This undertaking is exactly the kind of change campus needs to see right now. With a worsening national political climate, many people of color are beginning to feel like good news is hard to come by. The success of this initiative would not only vastly improve the sense of solidarity between students of color on campus, but it would also make the University better and more equitable as a whole. Students of color, even if they don’t want to participate or don’t think it’s necessary, need this initiative to succeed.

According to Henderson, the initiative would likely begin as a single floor in a first-year residence hall and involve an application process similar to that of the Honors program. Students of color admitted to the University would have the option to apply for and live in a community of other students of color for their entire first year, provided that they are dedicated to social justice.

“There is no program that is catered to students who are really interested in social justice or civic engagement. It just doesn’t exist. And if you were to want to do something like that, it’s on you to get involved with the Yellow House. Then I thought about how we also don’t have anything like that for students of color, and so I started to think about how I could merge the two,” Henderson said. Thus was born SoCCI (pronounced “saucy”), and in April the task force will present their proposal to Dr. Uchenna Baker, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

Henderson and Lumbantobing are also both members of ResLife, currently serving as Resident Assistants (RAs). Lumbantobing referenced a conversation she’d had with one of her current residents: “I was talking to her, and she’s a student of color, and she really likes Tacoma and wants to be here, but from the minute she got to UPS, she didn’t feel like this place was for her. Even when she went to the club that represents her identity, she didn’t feel a strong sense of community. … The whiteness of this school is something that is a barrier to her feeling like this is somewhere she can learn and comfortably exist. That hurt me so bad, because if this had existed years ago, so many students’ experiences would be different,” Lumbantobing said, referring to SoCCI.

Living in a society already starved for representation and resonance with people of color, the best medicine so far has been realizing a community of people you identify with in your personal life. At the very least, even if you can’t change the whiteness of our campus, you can change how you feel about it and what you do about it. With a first-year hall for students of color, I and many other students of color on this campus would feel so much more sound in tackling our everyday lives. This initiative would provide push back against the isolating power of whiteness.

“This effort is to build on work that’s been happening the last year by Multi-Identity Based Union, which is a coalition of all the identity-based clubs on campus, to create this sense of community. Also, Solidaritea, a social gathering of first-year students of color led by RAs,” Henderson said, and proceeded to tell me how other students can help.

Currently, a petition in support of this initiative is live and in need of signatures. If you want to support these students and generations of students to come, check out the SoCCI posters around campus this week.

2 Comments

  1. Ugh. Just ugh. This is not the direction that the school or any other institution should be heading in. News flash, when you end up in the real world 99% of the people that you run into and work with do not care about any of the social justice drivel that’s being preached above.

    Isolating people into safe spaces creates people who can’t cope with the realities of what life actually is. College is about learning and creating a foundation for your future, not being coddled and allowed to live in an echo chamber that makes them phobic of opinions that don’t match their own. You went to a club that serves your race and still thought there was too much “whiteness”? A floor of a building can’t cure that kind of narcissism. You are not that special.

    Although I know that the administration will vote this in because they’re afraid of being branded as “racist” or whatever, it’s disappointing to see.

    As an alum, I will not be donating any more money if it’s going to be used to promote this kind of short-sighted pandering.

    1. Please keep your money and stay away from a) people of color b) this university and c) other countries until you develop a better understanding of the world and society you live in. Racism is not a “reality of life”, it’s a worldwide violation of human rights. Racism is not an “opinion” that doesn’t “match” people of colors’, it’s an absence of moral and humanitarian values, bred by the cutthroat selfishness of late-stage capitalism and perpetuating colonial toxicity. I can’t even unpack all the false and misleading things you said in your comment, because I’m an enrolled student and have enough essays to write already. Please refrain from commenting on my work in the near future, as it’s clear that you feel entitled to voice your opinion a) on a matter that does not concern you and b) in a space that does not belong to you.

      In the meantime, I highly recommend you do some reading on critical racial theory and whiteness. “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Fire Next Time” and “Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin, and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander are all excellent places to start. You may find that learning more about the fallacy of race from a black American perspective makes you more adept at understanding the complexities of race for Latinx Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and all other races (including white). Please also look into some authors and books for each of those experiences, as you clearly need the education.

      Lastly, your comment reduced my article to “social justice drivel”. This is offensive and insulting to The Trail, at which we reporters partake in real journalism and present well-informed stories about our campus to the university community. Not to mention that this is insulting to me, who often personally experiences the issues that I write about. Consider seeing a therapist and better developing a sense of empathy for your fellow human beings.

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