Chico State doesn’t value diversity


Students in fear as Border Patrol’s presence looms over campus Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

By now I think most of the campus probably knows that this past Wednesday, California Customs and Border Patrol officers were on campus, recruiting at the Career Fair in the BMU.

At the same time this was going on, the first in the “Diversity Talks” series, by Richie Reseda, was also taking place upstairs in Plumas Hall. It focused on how state-sanctioned police tactics and mass incarceration have a long history of racism and targeting minorities. University Communications staff members were there watching. Reseda got lots of questions, and applause.

First, I want to acknowledge that based on your ideology, you might not think these two events are connected at all. It’s possible that based on how you see the world, you might not be fazed by the fact that border patrol officers were on campus recruiting, at all.

That’s how the director of the Career Center, Megan Orm sees it. In fact, she claimed that it was not an option for the university to not invite the officers, and said she believes that the campus took all of the necessary steps to warns students and faculty.

If that’s true, however, why did a number of students react with anxiety and fear at the presence of the officers? Why did so many students take refuge at Gender and Sexuality Equity Coalition (GSEC), some in tears, or post on social media about their feelings of not belonging and fears that the campus doesn’t care about them?

Chico State, if you’re going to invite officers that are state-sanctioned to break up families and remove students from campuses and homes, you have to acknowledge that even if you have the right to invite them, students are going to feel threatened. You have a significant population of Latinx and black students who have plenty of historic reasons to fear these officers. You have acknowledged that dreamer students are supported on campus. And now your precious image of being a campus that values diversity is in jeopardy.

It’s very profitable for universities to act like they care about diversity. In some cases, it’s even mandated. Chico State was in fact handed a recommendation when WASC awarded the university an eight-year accreditation, that included needing to improve its handling of diversity.

The university has also signed proof that it is committed to protecting and supporting its community of Dreamer students.

So, how’s that going? Students are left in tears with fear as border patrol is discovered on campus, and in fact invited to be there to recruit more officers. And the fact that the first presentation in the “Diversity Talks” series by incarceration activist Richie Reseda was going on at the same time, well-publicized by the university as if it is proof that they believe in diversity, makes the campus’ image ring even more hollow.

I don’t think I’m alone here in saying that it absolutely turns my stomach on the whole idea that Chico State loves its diverse campus – based on how I saw students on social media reacting with fear and indignation. And I’m not even a dreamer student. So how are these students supposed to feel when the campus not only allows, but INVITES the officers who are state-sanctioned to take people away, to come recruit in the same space?

Again, if your ideology differs and you feel that allowing the officers to recruit here is a legitimate practice, you may not understand the ramifications of this event. But I think it is necessary to try to think outside of your own worldview and try to imagine how it might look to someone else and how it might make them feel threatened and unsafe — which is the very goal of diversity, isn’t it?

Inviting the Border Patrol makes it seem as if the college is in full support of their actions. Business or no business, the university made the wrong choice and many students have been left feeling anxious and unsupported due to this action.

The director of University Affairs, Alejandro Alfaro Ramirez, said it well Thursday when he reminded other students, “We are all people, we are all students, but in reality that kind of avoids a discussion of power and privilege.

“It’s one-step before having that conversation of understanding there are power dynamics that are in place. In reality, CBP and ICE are terrorist organizations… and they are affecting livelihoods of not only students and families on campus but also people in this country,” he said. He and the president of Associated Students Trevor Guthrie made it clear that they stand in solidarity with all students, including dreamers, on this issue.

However you see this incident, what is true is that it has left many students feeling unsafe. It is true that as soon as this happened, Associated Students acted quickly and made it clear that they will support and stand alongside fellow dreamers. By contrast, the university has chosen to remain silent on the matter.

Does that tell you all you need to know? In my opinion, it’s a bad day for diversity when the university can’t even comment on its actions. The college has failed its diverse population of students if it cannot even acknowledge what its action may have done to them.

Natalie Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.

The above editorial refers to reporting done in a previous story by Angelina Mendez and Ricardo Tovar.