Graphic by Dakota Cox
Graphic by Dakota Cox

Students and staff are afraid of HSU administration

How a former LJ reporter unraveled at the seams while writing about HSU admin
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Humboldt State nearly broke me in a way that I did not know was possible. After months of nearly obsessive reporting and looking for the truth, I became a burnt shell of a person with depression with no desire to write again.

While News Editor for The Lumberjack, I covered the actions that the administration was taking regarding the University Center, who previously ran many of the student-facing services on campus before being formally shut down in December of 2020.

What started as a piece about the UC group eventually connected to the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center and the possibility of, what seems to me now, the administration taking advantage of the pandemic to put forth plans with as little input from students or staff as they needed.

Over the course of the semester, I spoke to a wide variety of sources, both on and off the record, for hours via any method that I could. Some were angry at what they perceived as an intentional lack of communication and the others were tired of the way that members of the administration seemingly acted on their own authority when executing plans, without thinking of the consequences for those beneath them.

The one common thread amongst them all, however, was a sense of fear about what may happen if they were caught expressing themselves in a manner that was critical of HSU.

I was told stories of long time, dedicated workers, literally working in supply closets and rooms with water pipes running overhead because their offices were being claimed for other things that the administration deemed more important. Staff told me point blank that they were ordered not to talk to the press by higher ups and could face repercussions.

I listened to Zoom meetings where student workers testified for the importance of these programs and how unsure they were of how they would react if they did not exist in the same way.

Every time, their anxieties seemed to fall on deaf ears as the plans continued to move forward without care.

When I wasn’t reporting I was listening to my friends, fellow students, talk about how they felt abandoned by HSU. I saw panic attacks and depression sweep over them like waves on the shore during a thunderstorm.

Even now when the topic comes up the most common reactions are that of anger and confusion at why any of this seems to be happening while the entire education system is experiencing unprecedented difficulty.

Words cannot express the emotions that I saw and what reporting all of this did to me, or how hard it is for me to type this. For a while, I was angry at what I thought was apathy from others over what seemed like such an important story.

Eventually I realized that it wasn’t that others didn’t care what the administration was doing, it was the fact that no one had the energy to combat any of it. How could anyone try to fight back against this injustice when everything else was already so demanding? It seems to me that these large shifts of power and control occurred during a time when people were distracted by the world around them.

I wrote at the beginning of this that I never wanted to write again, and for a while that was true. Before the semester even ended I began to clock out mentally of classes and conversations. On one or two occasions, I came close to crying in Zoom classes due to absolute emotional exhaustion. I kept my head down, went to work and tried to bury these feelings, and just let it all go.

But I couldn’t. I had to write this, partially as a form of catharsis but mostly to state my opinion on what I think are unjust actions.

I am taking this semester off to better myself and I plan on returning in the fall. When I do, I will write with everything that I have. HSU knocked me down, but I will not let it break me.

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10 Comments

  1. Paul Bruno Paul Bruno Wednesday, February 10, 2021

    Thank you ~ hang in there and come back fired up!

  2. Anon Anon Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Maybe change your major. Only one of the fifteen paragraphs of your story are comprised of more than two sentences, almost half of them written as a single sentence. That said, I do agree; HSU administration has historically been a boat of bozos. Look into the John Stearns debacle. Or, research the multitude of professors across all disciplines who have been jailed, many of them for violent behaviors and crimes. One such for cutting his wife to bits and storing her parts in a small closet within a Hefty bag. An island of misfits, for sure.

  3. Paul Jacobsen Paul Jacobsen Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Being new to Arcata your article leaves me frustrated. I have no difficulty imagining what you describe, however you give almost nothing for a person to sink their teeth into. Motive would be a good place to start.

  4. Wax Jobber Wax Jobber Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Hold on Carlos. Keep writing and search for the truth. As Leonard Cohen sang “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

  5. Kenney Mencher Kenney Mencher Thursday, February 11, 2021

    I’m afraid that this is pretty much the state of affairs at most academic institutions. It makes me sad. I fought against all kinds of injustices and inequities while I was a professor and routinely faced hazing and ostracizing behavior by my colleagues and administrators. In the face of real quantifiable and provable ethics breaches I finally brought a class action law suit against the school. I was rewarded in the same way that this person describes and so I retired literally fifteen years earlier than I had planned. I don’t know what the solution is because I see faculty as much a part of the problem as the administration. Couple that with how students are manipulated and misdirected it’s a cluster of impossible to change behaviors. So mush like what is happening at the capital right now. Wow! I guess this triggered me.

  6. Sean Donohue Sean Donohue Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Thank you for speaking your truth, and giving a voice to those who feel silenced. please, please come back and Co tinue to write if your heart is in it. much love

  7. Matthew Matthew Thursday, February 11, 2021

    I’m a new writer to the Lumberjack’s News section this semester. While I have not met you yet I can tell you are a strong writers and even stronger reporter. I look forward to meeting you Fall semester of 2020.

  8. Mary Pezzuto Mary Pezzuto Thursday, February 11, 2021

    Thank you for writing this, for your courage on sticking it out though what sounds like a really hard process. You deserve a break! What you’ve described is common in many institutions, not that it’s any consolation, but I hope you’ll hold onto your resolve to expose and demand positive change for fellow students and university employees. Unfortunately, universities and larger institutions, though often progressive in nature, are way behind the curve on constituent advocacy, if their leaders are even aware of the concept. Good resources for more information and inspiration (IMO) include Influitive and Chip Conley’s PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. Take care and stay strong, Carlos. You are a gift to the community.

  9. Lisa Nicole Delaney Lisa Nicole Delaney Friday, February 12, 2021

    This is a very brave piece and while you may feel like you are alone you are speaking on behalf of a vast majority of the students. The University is lacking leadership and change communications. Everything that comes out is checking a box. Kudos to you for being an investigative reporter. Sincerely hope that when you can see all these people face to face and confront them on their actions that justice will be served or at least transparent and out in the open. Until then, focus on you and your education and well being. Wish I could give a hug to all HSU students ❤️

  10. Nope Nope Saturday, February 13, 2021

    What’s this about?

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