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Second Installment of WebEx series discusses new ideas for diversity at FAU, Hispanic/Latinx students plead with the school to do better – UNIVERSITY PRESS

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Tuesday marked the Hispanic/Latinx day of Webex forums hosted by FAU Student Affairs, in which students were invited to discuss their struggles, observations, and opinions on racism and growing racial tensions of the current climate.  

 These sessions, though targeted for all FAU student organizations, were separated by race, the only exception being a session on Thursday, July 16, that is targeted for International students, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Asian populations.

 The panelists for this Hispanic/Latinx meeting were comprised of the same members of the Black/African American forum: Interim VP for Student Affairs Dr. Larry Faerman, Interim Dean of Students Audrey Pusey, and Associate VP of Student Outreach & Diversity Dr. Andrea Guzman Oliver, and hosted by Director for Administration in the Office of the Vice President, Matthew Hinds. 

 The prompts for the sessions were just as similar as the panelists, with identical questions from yesterday’s forum presented to the Hispanic/Latinx students today. 

 Faerman reaffirmed that these sessions’ purpose was to “provide a foundation from which [they] can build the next steps to have a better experience for [their] current and future FAU students.” Faerman also reminded students that Student Affairs is the highest up they can go to enact change on the universities’ campuses, but their requests for action will be passed on to President John Kelly.

 While these sessions were separated by race, both the Black/African American forum and the Hispanic/Latinx one seemed to be in agreement on diversity and what they see missing in FAU’s community.  

“Diversity to me means the inclusion of all races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, and age. For what it means to me at FAU, I’ll be blunt, I don’t see it, I don’t see enough representation of the diversity that FAU prides itself on,” said Luis Argueta Pulido, President of Alpha Psi Lambda National Incorporated, Co-ed Latino Fraternity Incorporated. 

Many students at the panel raised issues with the university being a Hispanic-Serving Institution, or an HSI, and the 25% population they boast not seeing any equality or benefits from this title. 

Mariana Vallejo, the Executive Assistant to the Student Body President, argued that “FAU doesn’t really do enough for being called an HSI and an MSI [Minority Serving Institution], and that when a university is getting awards or getting monetary benefits because of the students, FAU needs to have something that shows pride for their Hispanic students that they have at FAU.”

 Arismendis Altagracia, President of the Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Incorporated, made other students aware that, “There’s a lot of benefits the government has been giving [the university], but what I’ve noticed is that we haven’t been receiving those. I wanted to know more as far as how we can gain more access to those resources so that it can benefit [the students] and break down some of those barriers.”

This is one of the many requests that were mentioned during the forum, where idea after idea was sprouted from student leaders regarding projects already in action or legislation that has yet to be written. 

Ideas ranged from creating visible markers of countries and cultures on Diversity Way on FAU’s Boca Campus to collaborating with different organizations overall of FAU’s campuses, for a more united front in terms of acceptance and diversity, to even simply making more translation options available for Spanish-speaking families to be a part of the college experience with their children.

One difference in the Hispanic/Latinx session in comparison to the Black/African American session is that one of the panelists went off-script. 

When Faerman asked how student organizations are handling the outpour of police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, Altagracia responded in truth, it was not going well. Altagracia’s candor in describing how frustrated and heartbroken many students and organizations were sparked Pusey to ask about the mental health of the students, and what FAU can do to support students during this time and all those after.

Altagracia responded, “Having someone that looks like me and shares my experience, CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services] is doing a great job, but at the same time, there isn’t really anyone that looks like me that is leading that conversation,” a plea for change that all on the call seconded. 

While the point of having more diversity in CAPS arose, Laura Tavano, the Vice President of SOMOS Boca, mirrored the previous session’s observation on the lack of diversity in FAU’s faculty. 

“I’ve had great professors,” Tavano said. “But I’ve only had one professor that I could relate to or that I could see myself in, so when we talk about diversity, we’re not only talking about student organizations but also seeing [it in] the faculty.”

A supporting voice throughout the entire forum was Maria Yepes, the Communications Assistant for FAU’s National Organization for Women, or FAU NOW. While Yepes added helpful bits of conversation to all topics highlighted in the hour and a half session, she also harkened back to the purpose of the sessions, talking to all the panelists about the police brutality in America and FAU’s coverage and support on the matter.

“We want to really focus on this year long. It’s not like it’s a new issue, and it’s really telling that this seems to be for the university, and for many organizations, it’s just not something for the moment,” Yepes said. “It’s really good that we’re doing these calls and you’re hearing students, but this also seems to be out of nowhere and that’s not the way this is supposed to be.”

When asked about racial injustice on campus, students asked FAU to simply do better, many admitting that they have felt unheard and uncared for throughout their college career, even during this present time of adjustment and change for the nation and the university. 

“What’s going to happen is that this conduct is going to keep going and FAU says they’re against it, but they don’t take public action,” Yepes said. “So, students are going to continue to do this because they know they are not going to be met with anything else other than, ‘We’re respecting your privacy’, and it’s microaggressions keep going, I think it needs to be harsher, I think it needs to be louder.”

Regina Holloway is the News Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]

This content was originally published here.

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