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.