Viewing Arcata from above on Feb. 9. | Photo by Poppy Cartledge

Arcata’s fourth annual State of the City presentation

COVID-19, Equity Arcata and Polytechnic Self-Study

At this year’s State of the City Arcata, presenters reflected on the current state of Arcata and what the future of the city will look like after 2020’s year of challenges.

The presentation featured several representatives from the city of Arcata, Equity Arcata and Humboldt State University. Each presenter reflected on the outcomes that stemmed from the past year and what it meant for the community going forward.

“I’m going to share some perspectives that we learned in 2020,” said Karen Deemer, Arcata city manager.

Deemer highlighted the importance of the spirit that was seen throughout the community as the pandemic hit during March of last year. As businesses closed and some chose to stay open, the Arcata community made a concerted effort to buy locally.

As the pandemic was disrupting the norms of society and affecting businesses, it was also highlighting deeper societal problems within Arcata.

Christian Boyd, the racial equity intern for the city of Arcata, and Janaee Sykes, the student intern for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on campus, represented Equity Arcata. They spoke about the importance of resources for BIPOC within the Arcata community.

“COVID-19 brought racial disparities seen throughout the nation to the forefront of society,” Boyd said.

Sykes said from the death of George Floyd to racist videos on campus and then the racial tension that surrounded the election, many Arcata residents reported feeling uncomfortable within the community.

Equity Arcata was established in 2017 after community members met with student focus groups to hear out their issues and create solution-based strategies.

Sykes said that after the murder of David Josiah Lawson in April 2017, it amounted to a breaking point for the Arcata community and the county. The tragedy opened many eyes to the deep-rooted issues of racism and discriminatory acts against BIPOC in the community.

“Arcata Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with Equity Arcata and working to make Arcata a more prosperous and welcoming place for all the community,” Molly Steele, executive director of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, said as Equity Arcata closed their portion of the event.

HSU President Tom Jackson and Jenn Capps, the provost and vice president of academic affairs at HSU, spoke about the current state of the university, as well as plans for the future, specifically on becoming a polytechnic school.

“We have been operating in emergency mode as a university,” Jackson said. “We are really trying to work on building infrastructure first then building for the future.”

This includes planning for the fall semester and what that looks like amid vaccination distribution. Jackson emphasized that although the collective notion is that everything should be okay in the fall, science and technology are telling us to remain cautious.

The university is trying to plan the best fall semester that it can, but it is very reliant on keeping the community and students safe.

As for what the university’s plans are for the long term, Capps presented the projected timeline of the polytechnic self-study that will be conducted throughout this next year.

“A lot of what is a polytechnic is already HSU,” Capps said.

There are already two polytechnics that have been designated in the CSU system, but none that already exist in the Northern part of California. HSU would represent the region as a polytechnic through a collaborative approach with Humboldt County, the campus community, and the CSU Chancellor’s Office.

Consultation of the Polytechnic Self-Study is expected to start at the beginning of March and continue throughout the summer. The expected due date for the completion of the self-study is Sept. 1.

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