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Minority students express concerns about treatment

Samantha Monterrey, Staff Reporter - March 6, 2013

A number of Central students feel they are presumed to have an opinion about certain issues based on their ethnicity, appearance, or sexual orientation.

Students are currently drafting letters to be presented to Central Washington University President James Gaudino and college administrators regarding concerns students have when certain issues are discussed in the classroom.

While the letters are being organized through the Equity and Services Council, they do not represent the official stance of the ESC.

According to Bryan Elliot, vice president for equity and community affairs for Central’s Student Board of Directors, the letters are to bring the issue to the attention of the administration in hopes that they can make professors more conscious about what they say in the classroom.

“I’ve read a few of the letters,” Elliot said. “They are essentially very short, to-the-point letters involving situations that cause discomfort, like micro-aggressions, stereotyping and so on.”

One of the organizations on campus involved with writing letters is Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ Aztlan.

Thomas Garza, senior law and justice major and co-president of M.E.Ch.A., stated the letters voice a concern about being singled out in the classroom during topics of hot-button political issues.

“I felt that because of the new presidential elections this fall, one of the major issues was border control and immigration,” Garza said. “It just so happens that I am Mexican American, and it’s an issue that inherently affects me regardless of whether I do or do not have family involved in that.”

Garza also said people perceive him to be involved with such topics without knowing his background.

“I am perceived and expected to have personal knowledge about these issues because of my appearance such as skin color and ethnicity,” Garza said, “and so that’s where I think we are taking the stand not so much [about] direct issues.”

When asked what he hopes these letters will accomplish, Garza replied, “I don’t believe that I or any other students that are voicing these concerns are qualified to demand certain aspects of change on a major university like this one, whereas we want to be able to trust the people who do have the knowledge and qualifications to make the necessary changes that they see fit.”

Another organization on campus that wants its voice to be heard is Central’s Equality through Queers and Allies. EQuAl is an Equity and Services Council organization, and provides support for, and awareness about, the LGBT community on campus.

Nikki Cook, senior sociology and communication studies major, is president of EQuAl and said she believes it is important for students to take initiative on issues they want changed.

“I think it is vital to us as students to be willing and able to challenge issues on our campus,” Cook said. “If students don’t take initiative, nothing will change, and we will lose our power to be heard.”

Although EQuAl members haven’t submitted any letters yet, they are planning to begin the process fairly soon.

“We are unsure as to how many letters will be submitted, but we are devoting a majority of our next meeting to writing them as a group,” Cook said.

Cook hopes to see action from the administration upon receiving the letters.

“It is one thing if the administration receives our stories; it is entirely different for administration to do something about them,” Cook said. “One concern with the letters is to be heard, but the primary focus is for oppressed groups on campus to be valued by our university.”

Lanna Abuhudra, senior business and psychology major, isn’t involved in writing a letter herself, but is aware they are being written and says she stands behind the idea.

“I know a little bit about the letters and I support the cause since in classrooms a lot of professors aren’t socially aware of the context that they are teaching and how different audiences from different backgrounds perceive it,” Abuhudra said.
When Abuhudra first learned about the letters, she said she did not fully understand the purpose behind them.
It wasn’t until she talked to a friend about them that she learned what they truly aim to accomplish.

“I had a friend who is writing a letter talk to me about it, and at first I was like, ‘Why are you doing that?’” Abuhudra said. “I was a bit hesitant. It took me a second to process and then I realized it is actually a very good thing When you live in such a small community like Ellensburg it is more difficult to be culturally aware.”

Abuhudra hasn’t necessarily been directly affected, but says that when it comes to her Muslim background there is always something to be said.

“I have heard a lot of comments on Muslims, and it’s not so much to me exactly, but it is to my heritage, and I think teachers are in a position to educate and not discriminate,” Abuhudra said. “I know people have their personal experiences but we are in the classroom to broaden our perspective and if you narrow your mind to be so subjective, then you really aren’t doing your job as an educator.”

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