Coalition discusses diversity problems at Chico State

Professionals of Color Coalition president, Malcolm J. McLemore leads the group in discussion. Photo credit: Brittany Mcclintock

Chico State’s Professionals of Color Coalition held a forum Wednesday, Jan. 28 to discuss the racism in America and what Chico Sate can do to make the campus more diverse and supportive.

The forum started with the coalition’s president Malcolm J. McLemore introducing the topic of the day and how they came to choose it.

He said initially the forum was going to be about Ferguson, but after a trial of discussions, they decided to have the forum be about something they can touch, and control: the campus.

Diversity is definitely lacking here on campus. In fact, it lacks diversity so much that Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center program manager Trisha Seastrom said she felt uncomfortable being on campus.

McLemore had the attendees split up into groups of three to five, and discuss one question, “What are the problems about diversity do you see on campus?”

One of the first things that was discussed was the faculty. Mimi Bommersbach, one of the Chico State counselors, said that many colored applicants will fail what she called the “Chico Test.”

This is the philosophy that many employers will hire someone that looks like them. Therefore, if the person hiring is white, they are more likely to hire another white person.

Because the faculty is so predominately white, more white students are going to attend the school.

Jeff Harrington, Assistant Residence Community Coordinator, said students subconsciously attend schools where the faculty looks more like them.

The discussion turned to recruiting. If the students aren’t coming on their own, let’s invite them.

The group mentioned how journalism professor David Waddell goes out and recruits students from schools that are less privileged to attend Chico State to pursue journalism majors.

“We need to get the environment better before we land students in here,” said David Stephen, Director of University Housing and Food Services.

Stephen said that the faculty and staff need to be trained on how to teach other kinds of students. He said that not all professors use appropriate language that would make certain students comfortable.

McLemore admitted that no campus is perfect, but he wants Chico State to start to become a place where everyone feels respected, accepted and affirmed. He said that it doesn’t matter if more diverse students start attending Chico State if the mind frame hasn’t changed.

“Diversity is not just the math, but the philosophy of inclusion.” said McLemore. “People always talk about having a seat for everyone at the table, but what’s the point if there isn’t enough food to eat?”

Brittany McClintock can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.