On April 17, junior speech communications major Tyler Anderson and another black student proposed Oshun, a separate funding hub for black focused clubs on campus, to Loretta Rahmani, chief student affairs officer, Lawrence Potter, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Richard Rose, professor of religion and philosophy, President Devorah Lieberman, Provost Jonathan Reed and Beatriz Gonzales, chief diversity officer. Anderson announced the plan to some students at a Black Student Union meeting May 7.
The inspiration for the name stems from Oshun, the goddess of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria, who represents opportunity, spirit, harmony, unity and negotiation.
If the goal is to reflect the attributes of Oshun, the organization should try to build more of a network with the already established organizations like Associate Students Union of La Verne. Elmeera Nosrati, ASULV president, said she is sometimes unaware of issues on campus due to lack of communication on the part of the student body. Although she is not required to know about the plans, the approach could have been more of a negotiation to incorporate the hub within what is already in place.
Students in ASULV and those advocating for Oshun should band together to strategize a plan so that the new organization will be recognized from a larger platform that is already established at the University. Since the beginning of black American history, black people have had to create separate institutions to serve their needs since the primary institutions were structured by white people to keep black people out. For example, historically black fraternities and sororities were created because the Greek organizations in place did not understand or serve the needs of black college students at that time, and were virtually uninviting.
In order to stop perpetuating the negative tradition, we have to express our concerns and use our power within the system instead of constantly creating new ones for others to try to tear down.
Black students have battled the University’s system for years, and as an institution that aims to be inclusive of diversity, black and other underrepresented clubs should not have to fight harder to be recognized on the same level as majority groups.
ASULV’s 2018 spring funding analysis says that “Multicultural clubs receive a great portion of ASULV funding.” A more specific breakdown of which clubs receive what amount of money is needed to determine the distribution of funds. Great is a relative term, and clearly some of these clubs felt short-changed regardless of how supportive ASULV claims to be.
Since black student representation and retention has been a prominent issue at the University in recent years, it is no question that the administrators present at the initial meeting are supportive of this movement. 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.
At the Center for Multicultural Services’ All Black Everything networking event in February, many black alumni expressed how the student activism among black students seems to have decreased since they were enrolled at the University.
With black students making up six percent of the student population at the University, ULV may not be equipped to develop another funding and governmental hub that is equal to ASULV.
In foresight, Oshun and ASULV will simply not be on the same playing field unless the student involvement in Oshun is more rigorous than it has been in BSU in the past few years.
Before creating a separate home for black student clubs, we should consider encouraging black students’ participation within campus student life at large. Student participation is vital for an organization like this to flourish, and if black students are already refraining from participation within student life at large, then they will remain inactive, even with the presence of Oshun.
If key details are neglected in planning, the idea of Oshun could increase and encourage segregation rather than diversity and inclusivity, which would be a complete disregard of the University’s values.
However, the University should have initially provided a space for black students to thrive, as it claims intends to, so that students would not have felt the need to create one on their own.