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Reflections

This page contains personal reflections from each of the contributors of this archive project. Most of the reflections consider how diversity and multiculturalism has changed from the years they researched to present day, or what it means to act as an archive researcher and accurately convey information from a historical context unlike our own. The reflections are organized in a chronological fashion in order to display the progression of our class's understanding of the development of diversity and multiculturalism at Occidental College. 

1939 - 1952 and CODE

"A living archive devoted to diversity is a more durable tactic than a singularized push for equity. The archive’s histories do not pull from one generalized narrative, together they are fraught with contradictions and failures. For Oxy Visionaries these undercurrents are tethers and openings, inspiration for the next generation. Our articles of a Visionary history tessellate together as Oxy continues with the struggle for humanism. What is more, these collected histories have the ability to breathe and evolve as one episteme. Coming forth future Oxy Tigers can now eye reflections and refractions of themselves through the archive’s regenerative kaleidoscope." -Maggie Ferrer Caneng

“This class has helped me think about the expansiveness of history and the significance of every time and place.  I don’t often think about how Oxy was twenty, fifty or even one hundred years ago and this class provided me with this context.  It was very eye opening for me to see how many issues of diversity and equity at Occidental have been going on and continue through today.  Comparing the conversations about what was going on at Oxy thirty or fifty years ago and comparing them to now, it is sad to see that many issues have not been resolved.  The college brands itself as a unique and elite institution forwarded by a commitment to diversity and leadership.  This class helped me learn about Occidental’s action and policy in regards to issues of equity and diversity and to think about how an institution can uphold this creed.  More importantly, this class provided me valuable insight into the experiences and narratives of marginalized people and movements for equity and change which has allowed for my personal growth.  I hope this archive can be a place for people to learn about the history of equity and diversity at Occidental and to apply it to the larger world.  I hope a reader is moved by this archive to think critically about themselves and their place in the world and lead them to action in creating a more just world.”  -Douglas Pentland

"Having worked on this project I have developed a great understanding and appreciation for the focus it takes to accurately construct a living archive.  I realized that in archiving one must focus not only on what is happening in the institution now, but what happened in the past and how these issues will affect future students at Occidental. I found it important to make connection between issues previous students faced and how we are still trying to incite action on the same problems of diversity and equity. Consequently, as I am a senior I am aware that there is only so much I can do in the four years I spent at this institution and see archiving as an important tool to document events and movements at Oxy so that future students can learn from previous student activists." -Caroline Szweda

"It helped me think about my archival research in the context of what’s going on now at Oxy, instead of as this distant piece of history. I believe that the vestiges of an all-white Oxy are still clinging to the institution, and that is shadowing this project. If the purpose of this class is to critically engage the history of Oxy to the ends of improving its future, we must look at how that history played out for all students, and how legacies of successful ventures into diversity have fallen to the wayside. I don’t see another way to be an 'activist archivist.'" -Madeleine Ziomek

1962 - 1973

"So much of this shows how little has changed over the last 60 or so years that we are examining as a class. Now in 2014, Oxy is still having conversations to make these points heard. Oxy student activists are still convincing other students that racism still exists, that this is happening on our campus and are trying to convince the administration that changes for equity are good. Something I think is really key about the archive is its ability to give a more accurate depiction of the time. Often the 1960s  are idealized and held up as a beacon and example for organizing and direct action. After completing archival research and interviewing Jesus Treviño, it is clear that we cannot hold our actions to the expectations and norms of the 60s. In many ways, the 60s were a more racist time. There was also a national consciousness and identity-formation that allowed for a different kind for excitement in individuals and groups at Oxy. Presently, current Oxy students are lucky in perhaps not facing such explicit racism; however, the zeitgeist of the time allowing for developing identities and consciousness is no a less easily accessible tool. I think that this archive will deeply contribute to the institutional knowledge of diversity and equity at Oxy. Hopefully this resource will speed up the consciousness-development of incoming students so that they are able to learn from history and make more changes early  on in their Oxy experience." -Qiu Fogarty

 "For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the archival research was the Faculty Minutes, because I realized that the term “diversity” held different meanings by different people. For example, in one meeting on October 13, 1971 one teacher commented that “the faculty should rejoice that minority students are here” saying, “Why is it so bad being alienated?” This deeply surprised me. I had just finished a thorough examination of The Occidental Weekly, where I read about student groups, such as the Black Student Caucus (BSC). The articles detailed resistance to the lack of black student representation on campus. Thus, reading this statement took me by surprise because students and faculty were obviously not on the same page about diversity. I learned, and never realized this before, that not only was diversity not a top priority for all members at Occidental, but it was also heavily dependent upon what was going on outside Oxy." -Somer Greene

"I think this is significant because it demonstrates how much is missing from the college’s archive on multiculturalism, diversity, and equity.  However this gap in the archive is helpful to understanding Occidental’s position on race and equity during the 1960s.  The fact that it was even a discussion as to whether or not Occidental had racial issues of its own in the midst of radical movements on racial injustice demonstrates a culture of indifference, apathy, and even amnesia on campus.  Occidental had already considered itself an integrated, progressive, and equitable college long before the institution even began its rhetoric on equity and excellence almost thirty years later. This is significant because it represents how easy it is for institutions as well as people decide the job has already been done on racial injustice, when there is clearly still much more work do. This is a lesson that should be remembered for those who choose to look at this archive who are also concerned with issues related to equity and diversity." -Myaisha Hayes

"Unaccustomed to this field of work, I initially found the archival research very overwhelming.  It demanded familiarization of the language (format of the text) and a general understanding of current local and global issues at the time.  As an example, articles in the “Occidental Weeklies” were often written with the assumption that readers had prior understanding of the topic at hand.  The controversies spoken around Occidental were often assumed to be common knowledge, passed on through word of mouth.  For this reason, a large part of my work as an archivist revolved around piecing together conversations to form a multi-dimensional understanding of the time period.  While this idea sounds relatively obvious, it was not.  Documented conversations among faculty and students became more significant when contextualized.  This forced me to ask myself questions:  Were the statements of student X or professor Y profoundly different from others at the time?  How significant were they?  What led faculty to discuss topic Z so frequently?  Did the opinions of the faculty and students influence one another?  How?  What is student X’s and professor Y’s background?  Have they had a position/stance on a particular issue prior to this article?" -Christopher Hino  

1980 - 1990

"I am very excited to see where this archive goes in the future. I have been very passionate about creating diverse and equitable spaces for students at a school that states their commitment to it. The administration tends to be the voice of the school, but I believe this archive gives more power and voice to the students and faculty whose voices are not always heard or “valid” enough for change. My experience reading through the many articles in the Weekly felt very empowering just from understanding that so many like me had gone through similar tensions and experiences because they were different from the majority. The many efforts from students have really made a difference at Oxy and it is important to keep the administration straight with their commitment and pride." -Mika Cribbs

"My experience doing the archival research portion of the project was a good experience. I would say it was a good experience because I had never done this type of research/work before. At the beginning I felt excited as well as nervous to do this archival work. However, as time passed I began to feel less nervous and more excited. I began to feel excited due to the kinds of information I was finding. However, I feel like I went through a roller coaster of emotions. At times I felt angry or perplexed and at other times I felt sad or gloomy. The most interesting aspect of the archival research was looking through past Oxy Weekly Newspapers. I think this was the most interesting aspect of the archival research because it allowed me to go back to the 80s-90s and read about some of the issues that were happening on campus." -Cecilia Miranda 

"In conducting the archival research, it was rather difficult for me to maintain distance relative to my contemporary position. Everything I came across was immediately referenced to something I had experienced, or known about Oxy currently. However, through the process I realized this was unavoidable and an inherent quality of the work we were doing. Instead, I resolved to name that comparison, note it, and make a concerted effort to analyze the present material from a most distant point. I tried my best to contextualize extremely upsetting artifacts, like instances of usage of the n-word. However, in contextualizing those eras as “less tolerant”, it was odd to again parallel that with my current experience. While navigating these blatantly racist things in the archives, it occurred to me it isn’t a far cry from today. Actors have recently put on blackface and defended their behavior, and there is still a “debate” around the use of the n-word, especially with the popularity of hip-hop and rap. In a way, I also had to check feelings of sadness and pessimism. If there is a clear parallel from my contemporary standpoint to things that were occurring in the 80s, is there really a timeline of progress that I can track?" -Nancy Nguyen

"My picture of Oxy has been continuously tainted by the many experiences that my peers and I either have experienced or have heard about during the two years that I have been a student here. When I arrived at this institution, I was just so excited to attend a school that was so aesthetically beautiful, had seemingly sweet people, and was in a great city, like Los Angeles. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person or a place by examining it’s past and comparing it to it’s current standing. That being said, I’m honestly disappointed. I’m disappointed in the poor decisions that were made by this institution. I’m disappointed in the materials that were allowed to be published in campus publications. Regardless of whether or not the administration directly published these materials or not, they are still a reflection of the college as a whole. I’m disappointed in the way that this school handled and continues to handle the issues of diversity and equity. I’m disappointed that nothing has changed throughout the years. The same problems of inequity that were being talked about back then, in the 1980’s, are still being discussed today." -Obiageli Okpalanma 

1990 - 1999

"This archival project has made me think about this institution on a structural, people-oriented level that is constantly changing, rather than a static space that influences its members. With regards to diversity and multiculturalism, it is clear that the 1990s served as the peak of Oxy's student diversity by numbers, and as a result campus resources like the Multicultural Hall, M.S.I., and multicultural workshops were instituted. While we are unable to fully understand another individual's background, sensitivity and openmindedness can be improved, which Oxy attempted to do. I believe that these interviews and research will make future researchers realize how easily they can impact the Oxy community if they have the motivation for it. We are all actors in this space- we create our environment just as much as it shapes us." -Kristie Borg

"The interview subject herself, Akilah Lyons-Moore, was particularly interesting to me before I even met her because I had read so many of her own opinion pieces. She was one of the people caught up in a battle of words and opinion pieces with an interesting white male racist character. After finally meeting her, I found her insight and care to be simply wonderful. Akilah is an extremely experienced activist who got her skills and first experience here at Oxy with a similar student group to CODE. She told me countless stories of what actions they would plan and the politics and strategy sessions from her years at the college."              -Kenji Hammon 

"The opportunity to create a digital archive has revealed to me the great importance of preserving history to record progress. One of the most interesting aspects of this project for me was to observe the clear similarities between efforts I examines during the 90s and today. It is interesting, although saddening, to be able to compare the 1995 student organized sit-ins to the sit-ins organized during my first year here at Oxy. It is my hope that this archive will allow future students to observe past efforts to better organize their own initiatives. This archive is important and I'm happy that the project will be a resource for future studies, coalitions, and organizations. "    - Alex LaRosa

2000 - 2014

"This course has offered me an exceptional opportunity to gain a better understanding of the process of conducting archival research and of Occidental itself.  Scanning over documents in the student newspaper, course counts, faculty meeting minutes, and anything in Occidental’s Special Collection’s materials related to diversity on campus from 2000-20002, I began to conceptualize a ‘post-Slaughter’ era.  Diversity and multiculturalism were buzzwords that the faculty, students and administration were eager to use.  I see this as a direct effect of the work President John Slaughter did in the 1990’s in redirecting the college’s missions and purpose towards one of diversity and equity.  Yet, as administrational changes took place, the college seemed to move away from actions that supported this mission and only kept the rhetoric.  The school held on the to rhetoric of a multicultural education but failed to enact changes necessary in creating it."  -Mischa DiBattiste

"Taking part in the Culture and Community course has presented me a unique opportunity to gain a unique perspective on the events occurring on campus over the last several years. Going back through Oxy Weekly articles, it was easy to become distracted by articles written by my friends, or re-immersed in the issues of the time. My favorite part about this project was having the opportunity to interview Professors Freer and Reddy. I was able to see in both the interviews how passionate these professors are about their students, and about issues of diversity and equity. Speaking to them (I had never taken a class with either), I am very proud to call myself a member of an institution who does have such fantastic faculty members. I hope that, as Oxy turns back toward its mission of diversity and equity, more faculty members like Professors Reddy and Freer are hired."          -Hana Kaneshige 

"It was astonishing how just ten years can make a difference in language and ideology—and in some ways no difference at all. During my interview with Elisha Roberts (‘05), I could not help but compare what she said about her experience in 2003-2006 to the action happening on campus currently. One of the most vivid memories I have of the interview was about one of the reasons for her own involvement—she stated that she and her classmates envisioned themselves as standing up for issues of diversity and equity so that future Oxy students would not have to go through the same thing in 10 years. Now, in 2014, it is nearly 10 years down the road, and we are still engaged in the same types of discussions about a surface level of diversity at the campus, and little real action being taken to accept and support students and faculty of color."  -Dani Lyons

"Occidental is a place of conversations. I believe that these conversations have existed and been facilitated (or ignored) in many different ways, but in my time period of study 2000-2014, they were always underway. The letters to the editors of the Occidental Weekly served as a space for students to textually engage with one another, there were numerous advertisements and reports detailing protests and designated weeks of awareness for a variety of political, social and cultural causes, demonstrating to me that Occidental College is a place where conversation about the world surrounding the college is practiced and valued by the students and faculty. I have no doubt that my experiences visiting Occidental as well as the schools advertisements while I applied demonstrated this fact to me. What I have learned from my time as a student as well as from the added detail of this archival research is that the reciprocality of these types of conversations between students and some faculty is not equally met between those groups and the school’s administration." -August Polstein