Richard Oakes Multicultural Center’s relationship with student organizations is a work in progress
The center has had back to back conflicts arise as early as Fall 2022.
April 18, 2023
Johnny Philip Dietsch Hire resigned from his position as director of Richard Oakes Multicultural Center due to a controversy between him, Associated Students and student organizations. He is not the first ROMC director to be involved with uncomfortable workplace challenges.
On Feb. 2, AS’ Culture and Social Justice Senior Director Shanice Robinson sent an email to Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations Lead Facilitator Cash Martinez in regards to alleged sexual harassment and homophobic actions from Cathleen Rose Manuel. Manuel was the ROMC director during the Fall 2022 semester.
“I know that last year was not the best and I would like to know how we can move forward,” Robinson said in the email. We can even put together an MOU [memorandum of understanding] to ensure that we all hold ourselves accountable for our roles or contributions in continuing the mural celebrations and Richard Oakes’s legacy events. I wanted to inform you that I have hired a completely new team at ROMC and hope that we can begin to work together this year.”
Hire, a senior majoring in English education, was hired mid-February by Robinson.
“I was interested in having some more economic security because that was an issue last year when I nearly dropped out,” Hire said. “So AS had a job open called the Multicultural Center mural coordinator. Then a drama bomb, three years in the making between Associated Students, very poor management of these departments, and then long unresolved issues between Associated Students and several student organizations.”
Hire says that AS cared more about protecting its name than protecting its employees and student organizations. This became apparent when a conflict arose between two student organizations, Movimiento Estudiantil para Liberación de las Americas and SF Hillel during a meeting on March 9.
“It was reported that during the meeting, a member of a student organization articulated they did not want SF Hillel members collaborating on the event and made anti-Zionist statements,” wrote Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jamillah Moore in a statement sent University-wide on March 14.
As ROMC mural coordinator, Hire was assigned to work with MELA, the organization in charge of the Farmworker’s Mural Celebration event planning, along with inviting other organizations who he saw fit.
“I was the guy who organized that because I had friends in SF Hillel and some of these acquaintances used our, you know, knowing each other outside of work to kind of get a foot in the door,” Hire said. “Then eventually, these two organizations had a meeting together. The student organization in question says, ‘No thank you, we do not want to work with Hillel’ and you know, you’re allowed to do that.”
Hire was present and witnessed the entire March 9 meeting to discuss the event planning. On March 16 MELA posted a statement on their Instagram account stating that they felt targeted by Moore’s statement.
In MELA’s Instagram post, they alleged that during the meeting “it was re-established that MELA students would be in charge of planning the celebration.” Afterward, they asked SF Hillel to leave as they were not part of the celebration, according to MELA.
In another post, MELA also expressed their concerns regarding the ROMC hiring process.
“We demand that there be a more cohesive hiring process specifically for the ROMC. What we are experiencing would not have happened had AS hired someone with a better understanding of communities of color and student organizing at SFSU for the role of Mural Coordinator. We demand that there be at least one representative from a historical student organization present in a hiring committee for the ROMC,” stated MELA in their post.
Hire was told by his supervisor, the head of AS production Horace Montgomery to bring in as many groups into the mural celebration planning as possible, which led him to invite SF Hillel. He expressed how he would like the administration to resend the email due to inaccuracy.
“MELA did not want to work with Hillel because MELA is against Zionism. The statement that SF Hillel said no, no, no we’re not an explicitly Zionist organization,” Hire said. “Except they kind of are through and I mean that’s the truth of it and I don’t like this obscurantism that was used.”
MELA blames Hire’s lack of cultural competency due to knowledge and positionality for the timeline of events.
“I am the third person in this position,” Hire said. “I think it has been demonstrated that AS doesn’t care and will continue doing this because AS is more interested in protecting its brand. If you go far enough in MELA’s Instagram, I’m sure there’s a statement about past mural coordinators as well. Or the same with the BSU or SKINS.”
Hire says that he hopes to never work with AS again.
“I hope AS reforms itself and gets its shit done so I don’t have to be the poster boy of this disaster,” Hire said. “Every single year this continues.”
SF State alum Marianna Lira, who started in AS as an intern and moved up to director of the Queer & Trans Resource Center in 2020 until Fall 2021, described AS as tokenizing.
“I was super excited about working for AS because I had worked my way to the top,” Lira said. “I really believed in what we were doing and then it was like a curtain was lifted for me.”
In light of MELA’s situation, Martinez, who is in solidarity with MELA, revived the sexual harassment allegation involving the previous ROMC director.
Martinez put out a statement on his Instagram on March 16. The post was captioned with the following statement.
“I demand an **immediate, personal apology** for the way that your institution has treated me, my partner, and my community. This behavior is unacceptable and disgusting and the fact that THIS. KEEPS. HAPPENING. is a terrible reflection of the value of progressiveness, social justice, diversity, and inclusivity that you claim to uphold. Fix your shit.”
Martinez tagged both SF State and AS’s Instagram accounts.
Lira was aware of the alleged sexual harassment and homophobic actions members of SKINS experienced from the ROMC director in the fall of 2022.
After seeing the post on Instagram, Lira also voiced in a 24-hour Instagram story that “if you are a student involved with AS wake up, they don’t believe in you, they don’t care about you, they want to use you as a puppet and discard of you if you step out of line.”
Lira disagrees with AS’ motto ‘for the students by the students’ due to lack of support for employees and student organizations.
“I can vouch that AS is not good to anyone. Their employees, the people who they are supposed to be serving, the students,” Lira said. “The social justice organizations that they’re not serving, that they have historically had a relationship, especially with the relationship with the ROMC.”
MELA and SKINS are examples of social justice organizations with poor relationships with the ROMC directors due to lack of a cohesive hiring process, according to MELA’s Instagram post.
According to AS, “the hiring process for student employees is to submit an application through Handshake, which will be forwarded to the hiring supervisor. Once the hiring supervisor reviews the applications, they will determine who meets the qualification to interview for the prospective position. Interviews are set and once completed a hiring decision is made,” said Jamila Ali, assistant executive director of Human Resources.
After Hire’s resignation, the ROMC community events coordinator student position is vacant.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the university as I work for Associated Students, not the university. We are unable to speak about current or former employees as it infringes on employee rights,” said Tonee Sherrill when asked about the situation involving SF Hillel, MELA and the ROMC director’s abrupt resignation.
Golden Gate Xpress reached out to SF State Public Affairs/Communications Specialist Kent Bravo, AS President Karina Zamora, Jamilah Moore and Shanice Robinson for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.
Editor’s Note: Cash Martinez is a student in the Journalism Department, however he is not currently involved in either Golden Gate Xpress or Xpress Magazine.