AS hosts first Latinx student forum

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The event that brought in over 20 students began with co-host Zoram Mercado, VP of internal affairs for AS, screen-sharing music while waiting for students to trickle in. On the call were a few Latinx professors that made themselves available for students to reach out to regarding academics and campus life. (Associated Students)

Associated Students (AS) hosted the first Latinx student open forum on Dec. 4th, held via Zoom, to advocate for a Latinx Unity Center on campus.

This open forum allowed a space for all Latinx-identifying students to join in and voice their concerns regarding the pandemic, student organizations and academia within the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). The forum was the continuation of a meeting that several Latinx students had with President Mahoney earlier this month.

“One of the goals that I wanted to achieve with this is, of course, meet the needs of students. Students were saying they wanted this [forum], so that is our role as Associated Students, to make things happen for students, to advocate for change,” said AS board member Jennifer Valencia, one of the hosts of the forum.

The event that brought in over 20 students began with co-host Zoram Mercado, VP of internal affairs for AS, screen-sharing music while waiting for students to trickle in. On the call were a few Latinx professors that made themselves available for students to reach out to regarding academics and campus life.

“Having faculty there and taking a step back to just listen, letting the students kind of just share what they’re feeling is important,” said SF State graduate student Victor Aguilar.

Hosts Valencia and Mercado started by reiterating the importance of having a space for students and asking what students are looking for once the Latinx Unity Center is established at SF State. A few of them brought up the needs of having a safe space for Latinx students, not only for academic reasons but also as a place where they can receive guidance from fellow Latinx staff.

“Like we were saying during the forum, if they’re not in a Latinx studies course, you’re hardly going to see a Latinx professor on our campus, and a tenure track… It’s very difficult to find that representation,” said Valencia.

Associated Students have taken stock of the recurring issues within the Latinx community. Valencia and Mercado have heard over and over again the need for a resource hub and an overall better representation across campus.

“It’s not about just having Latinx folks for representation, but, like, queer Latinx, Afro-Latinx, Central-American Latinx. Dark skin, light skin, and first generations other than just Mexican,” said Mercado.

Valencia explained that SF State is itself technically a Hispanic Serving Institute, with the student enrollment population being 31.1% “Hispanic”. During the prior meeting earlier this month, President Mahoney clarified that the HSI money the school receives is going towards the academic part of the campus rather than student life, but that she would look into applying for more funding.

“I think it’s important not only for the Latinx community but for every demographic on campus to have some type of forum like that. It gives them the opportunity to share the injustices or any concerns that they may have that aren’t being reflective,” said Aguilar.

Though the transition to remote learning has made events like these more difficult to put on, Valencia thinks that it’s allowed more students to show up. With SF State being a predominantly commuter school, where only 21.4% of students living in San Francisco fall 2020, many had to think about their commute back home.

“It’s a blessing and a curse in many ways because we don’t get to have a human to human interaction but we’re able to try new things,” said Valencia.

Once discussions about the Latinx Unity Center came to an end, Mercado proceeded to play Bad Bunny and allowed a moment for students to share any additional thoughts, ideas, or concerns. Students thanked the two for creating a space for Latinx students to be heard.

“The community helps uplift each other,” said Mercado “If I need help finding a textbook, someone would be there. If I need help with my financial aid application I should be able to go to somebody that I know personally that looks like me if I need a translation.”