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North Bay / Marin | Education & Student Activism | Racial Justice

Comfort Level at Local CSU, Sonoma State University
by Katrina W
Saturday May 4th, 2013 3:23 PM
This article is regarding the comfort level, or lack there of at Sonoma State University in California
Students from Sonoma State University conducted a study for their Investigative Sociology class under the supervision of Peter Phillips as a course requirement. The research was investigating the comfort level of colored people on campus, and whether or not it has changed in the last five years (when the last study was conducted). The research was a follow up from a study that students from Sonoma State students in 2007, our group interviewed about 50 of Sonoma State students who considered themselves colored, non Caucasian, and asked them if they have experienced any racism while being at Sonoma, what their experience has been like, and what their comfort level was. Our survey had about fifteen questions, both open and close ended.
In the beginning of our study Sonoma’s campus had just been victimized due to a racial slur written on a poster of a derogatory term on a poster for our BSU, Black Scholars United association. The slur on the poster seemed to have affected a majority of the students and faculty at the school, which lead to more of a reason to go ahead with the survey we came up with. Although the incident that occurred on campus there was both positive and negative feelings regarding comfort level on the campus, which made our research project more interesting.
The sample group we interviewed was about fifty students, where as in 2007 a little over 34 students were asked what their comfort level was. In comparison to the results not much has changed, in 2007 32.4% of the students felt comfortable, and in 2013 37.5% of the students who were asked felt very comfortable. When it came to students who were very uncomfortable, in both years 2007 and 2013 the percentage was zero.
One of our other questions that was open ended was whether or not the student had ever experienced racial discrimination on campus, a majority of the students responses were shocking. The scale of the severity of the discrimination was very broad, one Latina girl shared a story with us about how people assume that because she is Latina she is fluent in Spanish, and it is her first language, when in fact English is her first language.
Along with asking students their comfort level on campus we also took it upon us and talked with faculty about the issues that are on campus. For those of you who don’t know, Sonoma is a predominately white campus, and one of the most expensive campuses in the state of California. One faculty member who we talked with was, Mark Fabionar, who is in charge of the HUB on Sonoma’s campus, who was also in charge of putting together the rally when the incident with the BSU occurred. When he was asked about the rally he mentioned he was very happy with the turn out of students who came to support, and he also mentioned that Sonoma’s campus does need more awareness and acceptance is needed. Secondly, we spoke with Elisa Velazques, who is the director of diversity on Sonoma’s campus about the diversity, and she seemed to mention that she has been here for a while and although she has been change there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for a more diverse and accepting campus. Unfortunately due to budget cuts and spending cuts two positions that would greatly support the change on Sonoma’s campus are being let go, and not re-hired. Even though the numbers are slowly increasing in comfort levels Sonoma has a long way to go to increase the number of comfort students have on campus.