Oshun is a goddess of the Yoruba people in southwestern Nigeria; she is the goddess of love, fertility and protection. She stands for opportunity, spirit, harmony, unity and negotiation.
Oshun is also the name of a new organization at La Verne that plans to fund underrepresented clubs, organizations and individuals on campus who do not have to be affiliated with the Associated Students of the University of La Verne.
Tyler Anderson, junior philosophy and speech communication major, created and founded Oshun.
“I do not want to say that Oshun is separate, because that implies more of a connotation that we are removing ourselves from the community,” Anderson said.
“The idea is that we are providing some sort of equity for the resources that are being allocated on campus.”
Anderson said she wants to provide engagement with the rest of the student body that is authentically [her] community.
“We want to be focused on getting more black Leos into those spaces,” Anderson said.
“When you have no black tour guides, no black spotlight leaders and no black ASULV representatives, there are not going to be very many opportunities where black students who are not attending La Verne already are thinking this is going to be a space for them.”
On April 17, Loretta Rahmani, chief student affairs officer, learned about the concept of the Oshun organization in a meeting along with President Devorah Lieberman, Provost Jonathan Reed, Chief Diversity Officer Beatriz Gonzalez, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Lawrence Potter and Professor of Religion and Philosophy Richard Rose.
“Oshun is a new structure being proposed and with that new structure comes change,” Rahmani said.
“There would have to be bylaw and constitution changes that are already existing.”
Rahmani said the process to change the resource allocation is more complicated than just another club proposal on campus; the Oshun organization has the opportunity to change the structure of student life, clubs and organizations.
The idea for Oshun stemmed from clubs not receiving adequate funding from ASULV, Anderson said.
“Black students are receiving the least amount of aid and resources on campus and our retention and graduation rates are the worst on campus,” Anderson said.
The retention rate of African American students from their first semester to their following fall semester was 61 percent in 2016, which is a significant drop from 86 percent in 2015.
“There has to be some sort of support system that provides resources for our community on campus, because there is no infrastructure set up for us.”
Anderson said the reason black students succeed less at the University of La Verne is due to the lack of resources and support from the school.
“Rather than ASULV be the only organization that has control over student life, this will bring underrepresented groups on campus to the table,” Anderson said. “The black students on campus need a community for them and there is not a community for them.”
Anderson has worked closely with Richard Rose on the bylaws and structure for the program.
“We are putting together our bylaws of the organization and they call for affinity groups to be a part of the membership or board along with a representative from the University,” Rose said. “If there is room for an adviser, I would be happy to serve in that capacity.”
Rose shared with Anderson history about a 2001 to 2002 program funded by the James Irvine Foundation; the program developed a comprehensive support network and environment to ensure the educational success of African American students.
“I had talked to Tyler earlier about this program, which was a partnership with the African American churches in the area and our La Verne students,” Rose said. “It was something we were able to do to create an atmosphere of belonging for our students back in that time.”
Rose said Oshun will operate as a support system for the African American community necessary for their success at La Verne.
Oshun will also allow students to find support directly on campus rather than searching for it outside of the community.
“Tyler was inspired to do something to help us retain our legacy as an institution so that it does not get lost in the weeds,” Rose said. “I think that was the stimulus for her to come up with an organization that would serve as a holding space for African American historical events that had happened.”
Rose said the University cannot fulfill goals to be a lifelong learner if spaces where students are able to feel a sense of belonging do not exist.
“There are some markers around campus that say, ‘La Verne is not a place to live, it is a place to belong,’ so I think the institution itself realizes how important it is to belong,” Rose said. “If you belong then you can thrive. You do not have the same struggles when you are simply in survival mode trying to make ends meet.”
Elmeera Nosrati, junior business administration major and president of ASULV, said ASULV granted the highest percentage of funds in history for the spring 2018 semester.
This semester, clubs requested the lowest amount of funds from ASULV in history.
“People have the misconception that the Greeks run ASULV club funding and get the most amount of funding,” Nosrati said. “In spring 2018, only two Greek organizations requested funding and got only 2.1 percent of our total budget and in fall, only 5.7 percent of our total funding went to Greeks.”
ASULV funded seven Multicultural clubs that hosted 17 events; a total of 14.3 percent of total granted funds went to these seven clubs.
Nosrati said she is sometimes unaware of issues on campus because they are not brought to her attention.
“We should have a better form of dialogue, but it takes two,” Nosrati said. “This upcoming year is probably one of the most diverse ASULV groups the school has ever had and I think that is a notion for change.”
Anderson said conversations with administrators regarding Oshun has gone well.
“There does seem to be support from the administration, but actions are louder than verbal support,” Anderson said. “We actually want something to happen with this and want something in place by next semester.”
There are plans to gather more student groups during the summer to talk about the future of the Oshun organization.
Layla Abbas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.