Community expresses expectations for incoming president
The president of Humboldt State University makes a salary of nearly half a million dollars and yet 20 percent of our university students are homeless.
This was just one of many comments expressing neglected issues from the community during the presidential forum held at the Kate Buchanan room on Feb. 4.The event was filled with people in powerful positions that ranged from the Arcata Police Department’s Chief of Police to the Chairman of the Karuk Tribal Council to the Board of Trustees Member for The California State University, Peter Taylor.
“The meeting today is going to be focused on hearing from all of you students, faculty, staff, and the community,” Taylor said to a nearly filled room. “Your all represented on this committee but it’s important for all of you in the hall today to share with us your perspectives on helping us finding the best and most successful next president for Humboldt State University.”
Lisa Rossbacher, the current president of HSU, announced Oct. 1, 2018, that she would be retiring after a short lived and controversial presidential term. Among the controversies, Rossbacher was asked to step down from her position by Charmaine Lawson while speaking in front of the CSU Board of Trustees. Lawson’s son, David Josiah Lawson, was stabbed to death at an off campus party and Rossbacher was criticized for her lack of responsiveness to one of her students being murdered. Failing to even reach out to Lawson after the tragedy. Earlier in 2018 the NAACP asked HSU to cease all efforts to recruit students of color until certain conditions are met, including ensuring that sufficient support systems are in place so “students of color thrive in this community.”
Please, I urge you to find somebody who cares about students and cares about these issues.
“We want the students to do well and succeed,” Lisa Pelicher, member of Justice For Josiah, said to the forum panelists. “They’re not going to succeed if they are ending up homeless and they are not going to succeed if we aren’t addressing safety issues like in the Josiah Lawson case.”
Pelicher’s voice was raised in passion when addressing the neglect she has seen from the university. She said that she was outraged about the disconnect between the university and the community. Pelicher has been involved in multiple community organizations structured around important social justice issues such as the NAACP and Housing Equity Group in Arcata. She has written in the past to CSU Chancellor Timothy White addressing these issues without response.
“I have asked if a couple of buildings could be opened up or we could have an emergency transitional shelter,” Pelicher said. “I know you’re doing studies and everything but the time for studies has passed. I do not want to hear of one single student having to sleep in our community forest or in their car. Please, I urge you to find somebody who cares about students and cares about these issues.”
Other members of the community voiced similar concerns. The common themes were that the current administration has not listened, they are failing at safety, not meeting the basic needs of food and shelter, and mostly they have not been doing enough for students of color in a mostly white populated area. Fabian Cuevas, a senior in political science, was one of the students to address this very issue and to call out the president and current administration for not paying attention when they speak.
We like to say Humboldt State is such a progressive campus and Humboldt County is such a progressive area, but there are still a lot of issues that affect many residents here in our community.
“We don’t feel that connection and the safety that we are eager for and that we demand as students here,” Cuevas said. “ Not just people of color, but as humans that are falling victim to a lot of crisis and a lot of issues that not only affect our university but our community, our country, our state, our nation, and overall the whole world.”
Cuevas went on to tell the panel that President Rossbacher has never gone to their rallies or events and never reaches out her support. He said he thinks a president should be a symbol for what this university stands for instead of a person looking at students economically as clients.
“Unfortunately, the truth is we like to say Humboldt State is such a progressive campus and Humboldt County is such a progressive area but there are still a lot of issues that affect many residents here in our community,” Cuevas said. “We need at this university a president that identifies that truth and recognizes what we go through. To speak to us directly and offers us that safety net.”