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Eureka NAACP to HSU: Cease recruitment in minority-majority neighborhoods until substantial support is implemented

April 28, 2018

by Tina Sampay

The Eureka chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has sent out a press release regarding Humboldt State University’s recruitment efforts in minority-majority neighborhoods –telling HSU to forgo the revenue these prospective students offer until they implement substantial support for students of color.

Following is the press release, dated April 25, 2018:

Eureka NAACP requests HSU cease recruitment in minority-majority populations

The Eureka Branch of the NAACP exists to support, protect and amplify the communities of color in Humboldt County. Students of color at Humboldt State University have shared with us their experiences of racism in many forms, including micro-aggressive behavior in HSU classrooms, overt racism on the streets, systemic racism in the pursuit of housing and employment, and institutional racism in the form of more punitive measures than their white counterparts. We hear them.

The Oct. 6, 2001, murder of Corey S. Clark, a Black male HSU student, remains unsolved as does the April 15, 2017, murder of David Josiah Lawson, also a Black male HSU student. Many students feel that the murder of David Josiah Lawson was a racialized murder and the trauma of both his murder and of a lack of justice over one year later has many students afraid to venture far from campus or their homes.

Students of color at Humboldt State University have shared with us their experiences of racism in many forms, including micro-aggressive behavior in HSU classrooms, overt racism on the streets, systemic racism in the pursuit of housing and employment, and institutional racism in the form of more punitive measures than their white counterparts. We hear them.

HSU recruiters continue to travel to minority-majority communities with intent to enroll more students of color. Yet there has been no consistent presence of HSU administrators at the monthly vigils organized and facilitated by the students and Charmaine Lawson, the mother of David Josiah Lawson. There is no regular presence of HSU administrators at the City of Arcata’s Dialogue on Race, which takes place every third Thursday at the D Street Neighborhood Center. This is unacceptable.

The California Supreme Court has ruled that colleges in California have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect their students from “foreseeable violence” on campus and in school-related activities off campus. HSU’s administration has failed to take an active role in addressing racism and safety concerns in the City of Arcata and Humboldt County, thus endangering the lives of the students to whom it extends acceptance letters who have to live, shop and work beyond the boundaries of the campus.

The people of Arcata are not being allowed to forget David Josiah Lawson, whose death exposed the deadly racism facing Black students who attend college there.

A recommendation of the recent Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission accreditation team after visiting HSU states, “The admission efforts need to incorporate more information about the challenges as well as the opportunities for students considering HSU (i.e. present the realities of limited housing, safety concerns, racism in the community etc.).”

Students have expressed frustration and disappointment that the recruitment process did not prepare them or their families for the realities of the racial and social climate in our small, rural communities and that there are not sufficient campus resources to support them.

“The admission efforts need to incorporate more information about the challenges as well as the opportunities for students considering HSU (i.e. present the realities of limited housing, safety concerns, racism in the community etc.).”

How can HSU in good conscience ask students of color from predominantly minority-majority locations to attend HSU as things stand? If HSU is “number one for social justice” as advertised, the university must accept responsibility for the negative impacts of its actions and inactions on students of color and immediately implement changes.

To that end, the Eureka NAACP requests of Humboldt State University that:

  • HSU honor the experiences of students of color by confronting its institutional racism and actively engaging with the campus community, the City of Arcata and the surrounding communities in speaking to the racism that students experience.
  • HSU ensure that support is in place so that students of color thrive in this community.
  • HSU provide budget for permanent staff and student support for the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence.
  • HSU make transparency concerning the climate of racism in Humboldt County the top priority in recruiting and marketing.
  • HSU do more to serve our diverse population of students with appropriate funding and staffing for the programs that serve them.
  • HSU prioritize hiring more faculty of color and training current faculty and staff in “cultural competency.”

Alternatively, we request that HSU cease all recruitment until these measures are met in largely minority-majority populations and forgo the social and cultural diversity and revenue these students represent.

Dialogue on Race

The NAACP press release comes on the day of the resumed “Dialogue on Race” forums hosted by the City of Arcata. They were requested by David Josiah Lawson’s mother.

These forums were abruptly shut down last year after HSU President Lisa Rossbacher was forced to attend and answer frustrated students, mainly students of color, over the lack of progress in Lawson’s case and the lack of safety measures for students who felt afraid.

Only after pressure from the public and Lawson’s mother were these meetings resumed last month.

Slauson Girl’s blog, where this story first appeared, describes life through the eyes of Tina Sampay, born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She has received multiple awards including first place in the Society of Professional Journalists competition for her weekly column, Slauson Girl Speaks. A recent graduate of Humboldt State University with a degree in Critical Race and Gender Studies and a minor in Journalism, she writes about current events, pop culture, racism, Hip-Hop, economics and history. Email her at slausongirl92@gmail.com.

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