Students meet to discuss improvements for key university issues
The Santa Clara
February 14, 2019
The sound of young adult voices filled the room as students shared their ideas and experiences relating to important issues at Santa Clara during last Thursday’s event, Voices of the Bronco Community. The students in attendance produced two main conclusions: they felt a lack of diversity and acceptance on campus, as well as a lack of available information.
The event was created as a replacement to “When it’s not a great day to be a Bronco” (WINGs), a former event held to discuss how to improve student life on campus. The Associated Student Government (ASG) hosted Voices on Feb. 8 in the Willman Room.
This change in event name and format was prompted after students from the Multicultural Center (MCC) and the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP), who co-hosted the event, felt that WINGs had not been effective in previous years. The new format allows for students to discuss specific issues in smaller groups. Their feedback and the results of the discussions are sent to relevant faculty and administrators.
One of these administrators is Jeanne Rosenberger, vice provost for student life and dean of students, who believes events such as Voices are often what help Santa Clara improve and inform leaders on campus about what they can do to make Santa Clara better.
“I think [this event] is really important for any student representative,” Rosenberger said. “Especially those that are elected or appointed through ASG, as it gives them some direct feedback from their constituents about campus life.”
ASG Vice President Jahwala Johns felt the discussion format was more productive, engaging and comfortable for students who attended.
“The intimate setting of smaller groups makes students feel more comfortable expressing their ideas,” Johns said. “The leaders of ASG, MCC and SCCAP thought it would be best not to invite faculty because we didn’t want students to be afraid of expressing their honest opinions.”
The topics discussed by students included contentious issues on campus such as the unionization of adjunct faculty and the treatment of Benson Memorial Center workers. Issues regarding minority groups on campus were also discussed through topics such as diversity in the classroom setting, the physical and emotional safety of minority students on campus and bias incident reporting.
Students also chose to highlight other topics including the effectiveness of the Career Center and the sense of belonging students have on campus.
When talking about diversity on campus, many students noted they had misconceptions about the diversity of Santa Clara’s campus. Students felt there was a strong dichotomy between Welcome Weekend and events like LEAD Week, in which minorities are more heavily represented. LEAD week occurs prior to the beginning of the academic year and introduces LEAD scholars to university academics.
The absence of diverse faculty was noted particularly within the Counseling and Psychological services (CAPS) at Cowell Health Center. There are no counselors who are women of color, and students said they felt counselors were not trained to provide adequate help to students. Minority students said negative experiences with CAPS affected their outlook on mental health as well as their regard for their own physical safety on campus.
When discussing the diversity of Santa Clara’s campus, students voiced concerns about the lack of ideological diversity on campus and in classrooms. Many students with conservative-leaning ideologies felt discriminated against through grades and by other students on campus.
They mentioned hate emails received by the first Turning Point USA president at Santa Clara and how they feel isolated by other students on campus for trying to create a space for their conservative ideologies. The discussion of discrimination against students also brought up the lack of information available on how to report incidents of bias.
Santa Clara provides an anonymous bias reporting service called EthicsPoint, however many noted that people are not aware of it or what it does. Students suggested teaching students about EthicsPoint during orientation as well as adding other programming to increase awareness of the service.
Additionally, students complained that Santa Clara has little to no resources to help students with bias issues outside the classroom such as with interactions in the dorms with Community Facilitators, off-campus with landlords or with Campus Safety Officers.
Students also discussed wanting more awareness of events held by the Career Center and how to use Handshake, the online job search platform used by the Center. This habitual absence of communication was also reflected in the discussion surrounding the unionization of adjunct faculty.
Students expressed a general opinion of support for faculty unionization but also expressed curiousity about the unionization process.
A general sense of dissatisfaction was noted toward university leaders who had made efforts to prevent adjuncts from unionizing. A similar sentiment was also expressed in regard to the treatment of Benson workers, an issue students felt the university has not sufficiently addressed. Students want to see the university provide healthier food options at Benson in addition to addressing the needs of the workers.
The final discussion topic centered around how to improve an individual student’s sense of belonging on campus.
Suggestions included creating more events between residence halls and between underclassmen and upperclassman.
“My experience is that faculty and staff will take the feedback very seriously,” Rosenberger said. “For me, it’s really important when looking at the compilation of the feedback to be able to share the information with those that are in a position to do something about it.”
Students who attended the event, such as junior Jim O’Brien, saw the Voices of the Bronco Community event as productive in decoding why students do not feel like they belong, especially given the diversity of the students present.
“We had a healthy blend of people who felt the issue was particularly pertinent to them as well as people who have never struggled with belonging at Santa Clara and were interested in learning more,” O’Brien said.
Contact Emma Pollans at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.