By Jahlil Rush, Rachel Dalloo and M’Niyah Lynn | Dec. 1, 2020
African Americans across the United States are struggling to cope with COVID-19, which is impacting their community disproportionately, while also combating racial injustices like the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police.
At CUNY, Black Students make up approximately 25 percent of enrollment, according to data from the fall 2019.
But at Baruch College, they make up just 11 percent of the student body, leaving both the college and Black students trying to figure out how to ensure that they have a voice.
That role tends to fall to clubs like the Black Student Union (BSU). Baruch is home to approximately 35 multicultural clubs. However, only a few of them gather the majority of Black students.
“I am learning that other students share similar sentiments when it comes to the social culture at Baruch,” says Solei Spears, the event planner of the Black Student Union. “I want to make sure to make strides towards improving this, breaking the fourth wall, and not have other students feel as I did.”
BSU was created to help Black students address their “academic, social, political and mental needs and concerns,” according to their Facebook statement.
In the wake of COVID-19, BSU still plans to hold events in hopes of encouraging students to engage in discussions and activities.
The pandemic has proven to be a bit of a challenge for another club, the Gender, Love, and Sexuality Spectrum (G.L.A.S.S.), according to its President Taina Torres.
She says most of their events are on Zoom and they are trying to adapt. “The transition to virtual events has been difficult, but we are doing all that we can to incorporate online games and activities to keep our events as interactive and engaging as possible,” she said.
Torres says that the club doesn’t have any issues getting Black representation because it has a history of raising awareness, showing support, and highlighting the experiences of people of color.
One silver lining of having online events is that they make it easier to share information and they also help “alleviate some of the anxiety that some people may face when having difficult discussions in person,” Torres said. She added that one of the club’s responsibilities is to search for resources and direct students to where they can receive physical and mental health support.
Many international students are people of color and they often find it difficult to fit in the school’s community too. The International Student Organization (ISO) tries to bridge that gap.
Shariq Rizvi, one of the co-chairs of events for ISO, said that a common struggle for international students is dealing with a large number of rules and regulations, which can be challenging to manage without the proper support.
He believes that a strong understanding between the students can create good relations both on and off campus, something that ISO has helped to facilitate in the past with events, such as “Cultural Day.” Unlike prior semesters, all future events for ISO will be held virtual for the fall.
Some students have tried to advocate for student voices by talking to Baruch’s clubs and organizations. Lauren Farrugia, the chair of Diversity, Inclusion, and International Affairs’ new Adhoc Committee, used her position in The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to raise awareness about the lack of diverse representation within the organization.
“It takes a village,” she said. She is on a mission to create committees that address some of the underrepresented groups at Baruch. Her goal is to create committees on diversity for international students and for first generation students.
However, she was only able to get USG to agree to create one of those committees. “A lot of people thought I should have been mentored by someone, they thought I should have been in another committee, I said to them, ‘you’re putting diversity in a box again.”
Farrugia organized a Black Panther event on Sept. 10, right after actor Chadwick Boseman’s death. The event was only supposed to last an hour, but it went on for two because it helped students create connections, she thinks, something that they need a lot of now more than ever.
Black Students have had mixed feelings about how clubs embrace and support them. Maya Alexander, a double major at Baruch, finds that the school has a lot of diversity, but she notices the absence of the Black student population. “There is a lot of diversity at Baruch but there also isn’t a lot of Black students especially Black American students,” she said.
Despite the lack of Black Americans, Alexander thinks clubs representing those students are important. “Creating spaces where Black people are able to talk liberally about ourselves, our culture and our experience is the best way to amplify Black voices.”
In contrast, Chyna Crawford experienced “an overwhelming feeling of belonging,” since she’s entered Baruch.
Crawford believes that Baruch embraces diversity “in a way that [she] hasn’t really seen anywhere else,” because she can see that the clubs have a great intention of creating change.
Nevertheless, she said she isn’t too familiar with the specific ways that clubs are actively promoting Black voices. She believes the clubs need to still work on finding a way to all come together to “brew up more opportunities for the college as a whole.”