Maria M. Silva, Special Assignments Reporter
On March 22, students received an email from President Laura Casamento encouraging them to participate in the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates (NACCC) survey.
According to the email, the survey’s goal is to evaluate “students’ feelings about topics of inclusion, racial climate and the degree to which students see themselves as mattering in classroom and out-of-classroom spaces.”
From March 25 to April 12, students could participate in the 15-minute survey following a link provided by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center while entering a drawing for one of 10 $100 Visa gift cards.
Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Alane Varga has been sending out emails to the campus community reminding them about the importance of taking the survey.
“Every person’s experience matters, and we need to hear your voice in order to create the inclusive community we know we can be,” she stated in an email.
The NACCC survey focuses on evaluating the racial climate targeting undergraduate students in community colleges and four-year institutions. According to Varga, the Race and Equity Center invited UC to take part in their national survey.
Participation was not required from our campus, but “given the difficult situations that have been happening on campus, we thought it was really important to get the best sense of what’s happening to students and what their lives are like,” Varga said.
The results of the survey will be released as a report in late summer or early fall and they will provide the administration with “some ideas” in informing and educating on racial issues at UC.
“[The survey] might refocus some of what we do, or give us some ideas of other things we need to be paying attention to that maybe we weren’t aware of,” Varga said. “This is not a singular effort because if we did that, we are being reactive, so we want to be proactive with the information that we have.”
As to the extent of the survey and what measures are going to follow it, Varga said change is sometimes difficult to see, but that “should never be our fallback or reason for not doing something.”
“We need to do what we can right now, but we also need to do everything in our power to build long-term [results],” she said.
Some of the areas that the administration is working on right now are curriculum and “incorporating different perspectives and creating majors, minors and coursework,” besides evaluating diversity among faculty and staff, recruitment and retention at UC.
“Every opportunity that we have to give students another way to talk about what their experiences are, the better,” Varga said. “It gives us a broader picture of what’s going on.”
However, President of Black Student Union Alexia Colacicco said she feels discouraged by the number of community talks that have taken place at UC.
“There have been many opportunities to talk about what we want, the differences that could be made, and it seems like you are being listened to and then nothing happens,” Colacicco said.
After taking the survey, she said she does not think it is going to impact the school and that she hopes that “everything the administration has in place to make a change” will happen.
Colacicco said the survey has some flaws regarding students’ opinions and their representation.
“I don’t really have a problem with the survey itself, but I also feel like sending it to the whole campus isn’t as effective because the majority of people don’t realize problems when they don’t have to deal with them,” Colacicco said.
Colacicco said those who do not experience racism personally are not going to react to racist incidents happening on campus.
“I feel like a lot of people on this campus don’t go through race problems and they don’t realize there is a racial tension,” she said. “By sending [the survey] out to people who don’t notice those problems, it will not have an impact.”
Hiring more black faculty members would be one of the starting points for Colacicco. She said she would relate more to a professor who has been through the same experiences as her, while also having someone who could educate her and her peers more about racial issues.
Sophomore Phuong Nguyen, vice president of the Asian Student Union (ASU), said her organization is not “very included in the diversity part of the school.”
Nguyen is also a student from Vietnam. Being an international student, she said herself and her peers miss out on opportunities to get to know other students’ perspectives.
While she admits she has never had any discriminatory experiences based on her race or background with students, Nguyen said she feels more excluded from the administration.
“When they create diversity events they tend to focus on a bigger minority,” Nguyen said. “In ASU, we don’t really receive help or encouragement from the administration except from Alane Varga, who does come to our events.”
Nguyen was one of several student leaders on campus who were invited by President Casamento to hold a discussion about race issues and inclusion at UC. Held in Casamento’s residence, Nguyen said the conversation went on for over two hours and that the students who attended still had many things to say.
“The conversation is very predictable,” she said. “Students have a lot of things to say because there are so many problems going around in school and we need to be a real diverse campus, not just student-wise but also faculty-wise.”
Senior Justin Cortes took the survey and stated that while it was a “good way” to ask the campus community about diversity and the current racial climate, there were also “many repetitive questions.”
“Some of the questions were spot on, and some others did not have a correlation with what’s happening on campus,” Cortes said. “There’s a lifestyle that has not been considered, people coming from very different upbringings.”
Cortes is also a member of Africa in Motion and president of the Inter Greek Council, besides being involved with many other organizations on campus.
“There will be the occasional people that show some sign of racism but the campus, overall, is not racist,” he said. “There may be people of a certain culture but that doesn’t mean that there’s a racial divide between one another. We come together, whether it’s classes, events or parties.”
Cortes also stated Alane Varga and her collaborators in the diversity office “do a great job in compiling data and generating something good that might actually help people.”
In that sense, junior Eufranny Castillo said the administration “can only do so much,” and added that “the change is going to come from the student body.”
Castillo is vice president of Fuerza Latina, which has much representation from Hispanics and Latinos on campus.
“At Fuerza Latina, we are definitely affected by the racial tension on campus, even though not as much as other organizations,” Castillo said. “We are all part of one community regardless of our background or culture.”
Regarding the racial climate survey, Castillo said she is skeptical about the results because “many of the questions were repetitive and the survey itself was long.”
“I don’t think the problem is diversity because as a campus we are pretty diverse,” she said. “The main issue on campus is inclusion, and I think that is something you can only change within the student body.”
According to Castillo, the student population at UC can be segregated because “we like to stick to people who are similar to us” but added that students have the responsibility to make a change.