The first-ever discussion forum hosted by the new Division of Equity and Community Inclusion (DECI) office turned into an event that focused more on quality than quantity.
About a quarter of the two-tiered circle of chairs in Jack Adams Hall was filled as DECI hosted an open forum for students to speak on the political climate they feel at SF State sparked by the events that occurred in Charlottesville earlier this month.
“This is the pattern, not the exception,” Trevor Getz, history department chair and inaugural work group member for DECI, said in the forum’s opening remarks. “We are a country founded on three-fifths.”
The turnout was low, but even with fewer eyes on students than expected, there was still hesitation to speak. The first person to speak was Jackie Foley, who said she was speaking as an individual student and not as president of Associated Students Inc., her current position. The forum addressed the topics of Trump “emboldening” white supremacy and how to attack racism head-on.
Disappointment lingered as the man behind the initiative, President Leslie Wong, failed to attend since the initiative was a direct response to the list of demands agreed upon by the students from last year’s hunger strike.
“It’s hurtful to know that these are such huge issues on our campus and that he’s not here,” ASI President, speaking as an individual student and not as a representative of ASI, Jackie Foley said. “He may have his reasons for not being here but even having representation of some sort; from his cabinet or from someone that’s representing him, I think that that should have been made apparent here.”
The forum discussed possible ways for students to become more engaged in social justice advocacy. While the conversation did not steer in the direction of the events in Charlottesville, today’s political climate at SF State was discussed front and center.
“I see the students have a lot of anxiety,” Dr. Derethia DuVal, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said. “With these past two and a half years of this election cycle, they feel even more anxious because not only am I [the student] not getting any end roads, I’m being assaulted as a result of it. I’m told that I’m the problem and I don’t see a solution.”
Aimee Zenzele Barnes, director of the Office of Diversity & Student Equity at SF State, hosted the event and wrote concerns voiced by students during the forum on white boards.
“We do really want to hear all things related to the unit (of equity and community inclusion),” Zenzele Barnes said.
Barnes said she strongly encourages students who have a specific topic that they believe should be discussed to go to the online DECI forum, which is available 24/7 and leave a response or concern.
Another public forum is in the works for next Friday, Sept. 5 in response to Trump’s expected decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which he needs to decide by early next week, according to CNN reports. This would impact immigrant students around the country, including those at SF State.
The official offices for DECI will be ready for student walk-ins by the end of September. Until then, students can attend DECI events and leave posts on the website forum.