Activists at Central Connecticut State University are calling for more support for students of color, particularly in STEM subjects

While many students at Central Connecticut State University attended classes and prepared for final exams, Dina Merone and Zoey Plas took time to lead a rally for campus change.

Along with members of the Black Student Union, the African Student Organization, and Women Involved Now, Merone and Plas roamed campus to advocate for more resources and better academic guidance for African American students and other students of color, particularly those interested in STEM study subjects.

Merone said the concerns are that the current course design for STEM majors is crowding out students of color from those fields and majors, and that the administration is neglecting this.

Plas, who is also president of the Black Student Union, said the organization conducted a survey in which they found that more than 80% of the students they surveyed experience microaggression in various majors.

However, she said STEM students felt there was no real reason for them to be successful in this major.

“So when we did our research and contacted our members, we found a pattern from the same department. But Dina was really the one who brought STEM to our attention…our primary focus at CCSU was really to provide those resources and support that would keep things like STEM from becoming so complex and so discriminatory … happen,” she said. “So if we have things like a resource center for black students, consistent counseling, diverse faculty, different faculty choices for classes and things like that, maybe we can get a little bit more help for the students in the STEM department and every department that does.” is really facing struggles.”

Plas also said they recently had a meeting with the Diversity and Justice Office about their concerns, but they felt discouraged after the meeting.

“I think we were prepared. And we were hit by a lot of what we couldn’t do, what the administration couldn’t do, what they couldn’t do,” she said. “And it wasn’t much like, here’s what we can do. Here’s what we’re trying. Here’s what we’re willing to do, what would you want to work with us on, anything you want to work on? It was like we couldn’t do that.”

Some of the changes Merone, Plas and other students are seeking include increasing the number of professors, providing a diverse undergraduate professorship that reflects the racial demographics of students at Central, more funding for already existing resources like the Africana Center, the John Lewis Institute, Women’s Center and LGBTQ Center increased faculty training on implied bias and racial sensitivity, including faculty variations, and anticipating the potential for faculty bias so that professors teach specific topics, among other things, and not only have office hours.

However, CCSU President Zulma Toro said she was a little surprised by the claim that the administration is ignoring students, pointing out that there was a recent open student forum where she first heard how the students expressed their concerns.

“Following this open forum, the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Vice President of the Office of Justice and Inclusion sat down with them last week. I listened… to their concerns. And we looked at their concerns,” she said.

While acknowledging that the campus isn’t perfect and there will always be something to do, Toro said it has made strides toward becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus for all students.

Toro also said that CCSU has increased the number of Black students attending the school, that in the fall of 2021 it introduced the Equity, Justice and Inclusion curriculum designation, which requires all incoming students to complete at least one EJI before graduating -Include a specific course in their curriculum. with nearly 65 courses to choose from, the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reorganized in early 2022 to have five subgroups composed of faculty, staff, administration and students, one dedicated to supporting the needs of CCSU Dedicated to students and initiated the founding of the John Lewis Institute of Social Justice.

“It’s very interesting because they claim they don’t have tutoring for biology and chemistry courses. And we have tutoring services in those areas. But as a student, you have to make your appointment and go to them,” she said.

About the request to hire and retain more diverse faculty and staff, Toro said they are working on a system to make this possible, but it’s a process that won’t happen overnight.

“We have processes to follow…I can’t say I’m going to hire you because you’re a black professor. There are processes and the initiative is progressing and ongoing,” she said.

She also said that curriculum changes are not her business, but experts in their respective fields.

Toro said she is willing to meet with students to discuss their concerns, but notes there are some things that can and cannot be done.

“Are you aware of all the things we do? I don’t know,” she said. “Are you aware that if we have to justify certain things, we might not be able to justify them?”

Ultimately, Plas said, she and other students simply want to be heard and have no intention of causing drama.

“We’re not trying to cause problems. We have identified our needs and are raising awareness,” said Plas. “The issues we identified don’t just affect black students, they affect all students.

“The things we want to see at Central will not only benefit us, but all the students here and those who will come. We are more than athletes, advertising and diversity statistics. We are whole students who deserve to be valued and protected by our institutions. Our rallying cries should not be ignored,” she said.