Thursday, June 13, 2024

DEI moves in, students get evicted

By Kiyanna Noel

The H.U.B., located in the Angell College Center, was known as the place for students of color to hang out, study and collaborate exclusively from administration. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office has moved locations from Hawkins Hall to the H.U.B. While many people agree with this decision, I don’t. In making this decision to transform this safe space, DEI changes the narrative as to what the H.U.B. was. 

The environment of the H.U.B. used to be freeing, despite the Office of Enrollment and Student Success residing there. It was a place where students didn’t feel forced to interact. When you entered the H.U.B., it used to be vibrant, it used to be a place where you go when you can’t find your friends in the Sundowner.

Now, you avoid the H.U.B. out of fear that administration is going to corner you about your classes, grades and post-grad career. 

I understand that this notion isn’t shared amongst my peers. 23’ Alumna Justice Hall, hosted club meetings in the H.U.B. biweekly. Hall believes that by having DEI move locations, it can encourage students to interact with administration. 

“I feel as though DEI moving into the H.U.B. is great for the BIPOC community because it will allow for easier access to DEI, provide students with a more comforting mindset knowing the people who have their backs are in a space where they can feel supported, and overall I believe it will increase student interactions and bonding,” Hall said. 

This argument is not lost on me. I do see that DEI moving can increase student-adviser relationships. However, if DEI wanted to get to know the students better, wouldn’t they reach out individually to each student?

Multicultural Student Success Coach Travis Gorham has recently been added to my list of advisers, yet I have not met or been introduced to him.

Student Hannah Sudla also sees the move from DEI as a move in the right direction. 

“DEI shifting locations encourages students to take initiative and speak to faculty about ways to improve their grades. This can also help students feel more pressure to do the right thing, knowing that someone is always watching to make sure they get the job done,” Sudla said.

This statement solely undermines the difference between college and high school. Advisers who are strictly there to monitor students are no longer advisers, but high school teachers who get graded based on student performances. Colleges are not meant to be a hand-holding experience. Advisers are meant to help students, not hover over them like a helicopter parent who doesn’t believe in boundaries. 

As students, we want to know what the college is really trying to accomplish with this move. Regardless of the title, fulfilling the role of DEI should have a clear vision, and this doesn’t seem like one. How will the university help BIPOC students feel safe? How can they ensure that students aren’t being discriminated against in the classroom or dorms? How will they make BIPOC students feel equally cared for in an environment where they are a gross minority? What do the students want? How did they determine this is what students want?

Decisions like these specifically from a predominantly white institution like SUNY Plattsburgh also feel performative, which causes an entirely different host of problems, but solve none. Performative efforts like these do not do enough to realistically ensure diversity, equity and inclusion. Performative actions like this only maintain a status quo.

1 Comment

  1. I am happy to see students expressing their viewpoints productively in journalism, it’s exciting! And I hope this article fosters good conversation, there are good points here and there’s plenty to talk about.

    For me, the move to relocate DEI in the H.U.B. signals an important measure to increase visibility for DEI as being central to the student experience and mission of Plattsburgh State. What’s more, if you were to conduct a literature review, you’ll find representation and equitable access are two considerable dimensions to fostering DEI in a campus community.

    Rather than undermining each student’s status and power in college, I feel Hannah Sudla’s statement offers empowerment and opportunity in connection. As students, if we have been failed or let down previously, it may be easy to look vacantly upon an additional support resource such as a multicultural advisor in your student support network, but I would encourage folks to reach out and change the narrative. Be curious, be active, be a part of it and introduce yourself. Persist and seek answers to the questions posed in this opinion piece.

    I believe a key difference in student and institutional perspectives involves the pace of change and prioritization. Students often desire swift action and immediate results, while institutions may face bureaucratic hurdles and slower timelines. This may lead to differences in priorities, resource allocation, and perspectives on accountability. The important thing is that we continue to work together and espouse our views in favor of a shared mission and vision. All of the ways in which students get involved, such as this article in Cardinal Points and activity in student government, matter. The ways in which you show up and participate in the campus community are meaningful, and will continue to drive change. Everything changes, don’t be afraid.

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