Earlier today, CMCers of Color, Asian Pacific American Mentoring Program (APAM), Brothers and Sisters Alliance (BSA), Generation University (GenU), and the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) released a letter to the student body, faculty and board members, addressing the issues they’ve encountered while working with administration as a club for marginalized identities. The letter was started by CMCers of Color, who then brought in the other groups to work as collaborators.
The organization began as a series of socials last spring where students shared similar experiences at CMC as members of marginalized communities. Afterwards, the co-chairs — Denys Reyes ’16, Jincy Varughese ’16, Edgar Morelos ’16 and Lisette Espinosa ’15 — began meeting with the ASCMC Executive Board and the CMC administration. They have shared ideas to make the campus more inclusive for marginalized students such as a Diversity and Inclusivity Chair on ASCMC, a diversity position in the Dean of Students Office, and a resource center.
During their conversations with the administration, which continued throughout the summer, CMCers of Color received assurances regarding several action plans for this fall semester. One major initiative was a temporary center for students of color to meet and use as a resource, with the expectation that there would be a more robust center that serves students of all marginalized identities in the near future.
Now nearing the end of the fall semester, the students who were involved recognized that none of their proposals had been implemented. In spite of the assurances the administration had offered that they would take action, they later deemed the students’ requests unfeasible. The lack of follow-through from their conversations over the summer frustrated the co-chairs: “They wasted six months of our time when we could have been organizing in different ways. It really highlights that the avenues that exist aren’t meant to serve students with marginalized identities,” said Reyes.
CMCers of Color drafted their letter in response to the inefficiency and lack of action from the administration. After doing so, in order to incorporate the intersections of many marginalized identities, they proceeded to work with four other identity-based organizations — SAGA, APAM, BSA, and GenU — “to show administration that they’re not just failing students of color; they’re failing students of all marginalized identities,” said Reyes.
The letter describes specific instances of aggressions towards students with marginalized identities, and provides evidence of a lack of resources and support for those students — for example, that there is no physical space on CMC’s campus dedicated to certain groups of students. Instead, students must rely on consortium resources such as Chicano Latino Student Affairs (CLSA), the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA), and the Queer Resource Center (QRC).
One of the concerns driving the letter is the feeling among many marginalized students that the burden is falling on them to provide resources and support for themselves, rather than CMC’s administrators supplying them for the students, as the administration does with other types of student support. Morelos added that marginalized students are stressed and mentally exhausted because “we are taking time out of our lives as students to organize what the school should have provided initially.”
While administrators viewed some of the group’s proposals as prohibitively difficult to implement, CMCers of Color and the groups co-signing the letter agree that the most immediately necessary proposals are reasonable. Varughese said, “We’re not even asking for a lot. We’re asking for things that a lot of other colleges — colleges of the same stature as CMC — already have. Just look at the other 5Cs. They have resource centers, they have positions in diversity.”
The students behind the letter feel that they are “not a priority to the administration,” according to Reyes. She explained that they have been cooperative and attempted compromise, but that all the avenues they’ve sought to work with administrators have failed them. “This is the only channel really available to us,” said Varughese. “We’ve done all we can.”
CMCers of Color hope that the letter will provide transparency regarding a systemic and recurring issue that students of marginalized identities face in their daily lives at CMC. Reyes said, “I expect and hope that the student body comes together in support of this letter because it really serves everyone. I hope that the Board of Trustees looks at this and sees what has happened and how this administration has failed to support marginalized students.”
Furthermore, they hope that the CMC community takes the next step, beyond raising awareness, to support the recommendations in the letter; push for diversity in faculty and staff; and demand change in the administration’s attitudes.
The co-chairs of CMCers of Color have accepted the fact that they, as seniors, will not be able to witness much of the changes that will, hopefully, be made. Despite this, Reyes said, “I think this is about serving marginalized students to come and making sure they have the support systems that have failed us.”
“This is going to be an interesting test to see if there truly is a CMC community or if it’s only meant to serve a certain type of people,” Morelos added. “This [letter] is how we are trying to force change,” said Reyes. “The ball really is in the administration’s court.”