Cal State Fullerton's Queer People of Color and Student's for Quality Education staged a sit-in at CSUF's Associated Student's Inc. Board of Directors meeting yesterday demanding increased resources and space for the LGBTQ+ Resource Center on campus. Last year, ASI Board of Directors passed "A Resolution In Support of LGBTQ Student Life at the Cal State University, Fullerton" that set forth a list of policies to implement on campus in order to aid the LGBTQ+ student body. Despite its passing, QPOC & SQE feel that the campus hasn't acted fast enough to implement the items in the resolution leading to the planned sit-in.
The current LGBTQ+ center on campus is a room about 10' x 10', which members of QPOC & SQE describe as a "closet", with the space currently unable to house all the 20-plus people who utilize the space, let alone its five employees. The students feel that the the current renovation of 56 gender neutral single-stall restrooms still doesn't meet their needs, and that they would like to see the conversion of multi-stall restrooms. They also want to see more resources provided through their center, as the number of students who utilize this center continues to grow. Finally, the students say that events on campus are not inclusive to the community, and LGBTQ+ students are treated as "an afterthought."
The demonstrators from QPOC & SQE filed into the board meeting room around 1p.m., and stood waiting until the floor opened for public comment. Joaquin Caro, a ASI board member & QPOC member, began the sit-in with a speech to the board. While delivering his speech about the reasons the community came to the meeting, Caro fought back tears as he delivered the following excerpt.
Why are students in the center then? We are family. All of us consider that tiny little space home because it is the one place in our lives where we can be our true authentic selves. Be queer. Just be. What makes our resource center home is the students who frequent the center. We want our family to grow.
Caro ended the speech demanding for more resources for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and the declaration that "today we will occupy this space to show how important this is for our community."
As the speech ended, demonstrators began climbing into the center of the board room, with the board chair repeatedly asking them to exit the center of the room. As a result, ASI board chair Kayleigh Bate's adjourned the meeting at 1:31 p.m. due to feeling the demonstrators in the center of the room were a disturbance.
As demonstrators displayed disbelief as board members quickly began exiting the room, board member Jose S. Solano Jimenez asked for board members to stay in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in the room, and to hear what they had to say. Only members Jessica Dalley, Laila Dadabhoy, Andrew La, Adriana Martinez, and Jesse Rodriguez stayed; the other 10 members left, including both the Chair & Vice Chair of the board.
A discussion ensued between remaining board & staff members, and the demonstrators who stayed in the room. Frustrations began to be vented by students who felt the ending of the meeting, and the majority of board members leaving the room, showed an overall unsupportive AS. While things didn't go as planned, the show of support from the members of the board that remained, as well as the solidarity among demonstrators, fueled positive vibes from finger snaps and clapping every time someone spoke.
Jimenez asked the staff in the room to speak on possible solutions to the issues facing the LGBTQ+ center, which sparked LGBTQ+ center coordinator Chris Datiles to speak with the students. Datiles commended the students who're part of the center for "taking an initiative to expand their programming," but stressed that getting a space anytime soon might not be a reality because getting a new space in any institution is a slow process. That said, Datiles stressed he is still here for them regardless of the outcome of their demands.
African American Resource Center Coordinator Trimaine Davis showed his solidarity with the community by offering a quote from A. Philip Randolph "If you are comfortable with my oppression, then you are my oppressor."
"I am here in support of Chris, because that is my brother, so that makes y'all my family." Davis said, "There is a sense of tolerance of oppression all along the campus...without this kind of activity there will be no progress being made."
The event ended after 30 minutes of discussion, with demonstrators trying to remain positive despite seeming disappointed. Liz Sanchez of SQE & QPOC felt that the adjourning of the meeting, as well as the majority of the board leaving the room "was systematically transphobic and homophobic." Caro felt that while he's happy with the turnout for the demonstration, he's upset about "the board room clearing so fast after adjourning the meeting...the fact that most of the board of directors left makes it evident that they aren't supporting us, but we're grateful for the few that did stay and showed their solidarity with us."
The board members who stayed in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ students expressed that they feel other members left simply out of shock or flight-or-flight response, rather than nonsupport of the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Jimenez said, "I don't hold it against" the members who left, but does feel that the lack of space & resources for the LGBTQ+ center is an issue. Dalley said that while she understands why the chair ended the meeting out of "not knowing what else to do", she showed solidarity because "even though I don't identify as any minority group, I think it's important to stand up for groups that don't necessarily have that voice."
The same board members all plan to work with the LGBTQ+ community and the board to fix the issues the sit-in presented. ASI Board Chair Kayleigh Bate's didn't respond to a request for comment (despite the fact that ASI secretary's said she's normally "quick to respond"), but CSUF gave their thoughts on the situation.
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We are aware of the concerns expressed by QPOC and SQE today, and the University will be conducting an assessment to better understand space needs moving forward. Relative to ASI's LGBTQ resolution, the University remains very supportive of the spirit of the resolution. Significant progress has been made, including expanding the number of gender-inclusive restrooms, a preferred-name policy, and training programs.
"I know that after this, we're definitely going to hear a lot from ASI," QPOC treasurer Mel Barrios said. "In the end, we're going to continue to fight, and we're going to continue to demand for our needs to be met. It's not over."