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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

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Racist graffiti, free speech discussed at ‘Your Voice, Your Power’ campus safety dialogue
Tammy Moua, sociology major, adds her voice and experiences to the open discussion at the “Your Voice Your Power” talk held in the Student Quad. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Katy Escobar | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Hate speech. Racial profiling. Religious proselytizing. Sexual assault. These were just some of the issues that City College students raised at the open dialogue on campus safety that took place Feb. 5 in the main campus Quad.

The forum was the first of three dialogue events planned for the spring semester in the new “Your Voice, Your Power” series created by the Cultural Awareness Center and the Student Associated Council.

“What we heard in the fall semester during the student protests and the forum that followed after is that students were feeling like their voices were not being heard by the people that work here,” said City College President Michael Gutierrez to the crowd of over 70 students, faculty, and staff. “We want you to give good, honest feedback today.”

Student Senator Suzie Ramirez and counselor Dr. Anh Nguyen facilitated the dialogue with open-ended questions. Over 20 students, most of whom did not give their names, shared their experiences, opinions, and suggestions at the microphone throughout the course of the hour.

The official school response to three separate discoveries of racist graffiti on campus last October was the first topic raised.

“There were a lot of complaints that there should have been some kind of RAVE alert, which I do agree on,” said the first student who took the mic. “Going forward in the future, when we have these types of issues, let’s have an open talk here in the quad like we’re having now. Let’s get it out in the open so we can dissolve some of that hate.”

“The teachers could have said something like, ‘Due to this incident, these rules are in place for your safety,’” shared a student who said it was her first semester at City College. “Because I had no idea. Just a little more communication from semester to semester about events that may have affected a group of people.”  

A significant portion of the hour was spent discussing what kind of free speech should be protected on campus.

Several students expressed frustration that campus police did nothing two weeks earlier when two men entered the school with religious signs and made offensive statements about women.

“A lot of students were super uncomfortable, especially when they started following students and trying to force them into understanding their beliefs,” shared another student. “I feel as though they should have been kicked out.”

“It’s not the first time that this has happened on campus,” said Tammy Moua, president of HOPE, the Hmong club on campus. “A few semesters ago, a lady was going around telling Hmong students that they’re going to hell because they’re Hmong. It just makes me realize, wow, no one has really fixed this.”

Several students agreed with the idea that non-student groups and individuals should be required to get a permit to use school grounds, including one student who said he was told by an administrator that he wasn’t allowed to rap on campus and ask passersby for feedback.

“I don’t really understand why white people are able to come to school grounds and use our campus, and I wasn’t able to,” he said. “Because I go to school here.”

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“Free speech should be everywhere regardless of how it makes people feel,” one student said. “It’s a very slippery slope. At the end of the day, these things are always used by the reactionary fascist elements of society against the progressives.”

A few students shared negative experiences they’d had with school staff, from perceived racial profiling by college store employees to insensitivity regarding medical issues to harassment by campus police (LRPD).

One such experience was detailed by a student who described herself as disabled veteran reliant on paratransit bus services. She said campus police threatened to arrest her because she was unable to arrange an immediate ride home during the Camp Fire campus lockdown last semester.

“Up until Nov. 14th, I felt safe on campus,” she said. “The people that were in charge never gave a thought to those of us that were disabled.”

On the topic of sexual assault, one student opined that the school’s emails about Title IX video trainings aren’t getting through to enough people, including her English professor, who she felt failed to adequately moderate a classroom discussion on what constitutes assault.

Common sense safety issues were also raised during the hour, including the lack of adequate lighting around many parts of campus and the dangers of students walking through the faculty parking lot on their way to class.

The dialogue ended on a positive note as students spent the last several minutes describing times when they felt safe on campus.

“I felt really safe when a RAVE alert occurred and said, ‘Hey, stay away from this spot.’ And then I stayed away,” stated one student, prompting chuckles from the crowd.

“I feel safe when I see authority figures that look like me,” another student shared.

Student Senate President Kimberly Ramos said that she felt safe when school nurses and staff listened attentively at a time when she needed support for personal issues.  

“Staff, faculty members, and counseling are ready to help you at any time,” said Nguyen as the conversation came to an end. “Just walk in and let us know what you need.”  

“I think the event was really successful,” Student Senator Sheku Baryoh shared with the Express after the crowd dispersed. “A lot of the topics that came up have been discussed in the Student Senate already, but some of them we have not investigated as deeply because we’ve been dealing with other issues.”  

The next dialogue in the ‘Your Voice, Your Power’ series takes place March 5th at noon in the main Quad and will address the needs of part-time students.

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