California State University LA’s new community

Students walk on UCLA campus

Lucy Nicholson

Students walk on UCLA campus

Controversy explodes over integration vs segregation

Over 50 years ago, the civil rights movement made monumental strides to try and resolve the inequalities that existed between races. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve the dream Martin Luther King had in 1963.

Fast forward to current day and race relations remain one of the most contentious social issues. Does it really make more sense to create racially themed communities instead of encouraging integration?

California State University Los Angeles just implemented a new housing option that’s gaining a lot of media attention recently. It’s called the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.

The new housing community is meant to bring together those students interested in issues surrounding the black community. At the current time, 24 students are living in the dorm space and they have a long wait list.

CSLUA’s Housing Services website describes the community as follows:

“The Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community is designed to enhance the residential experience by offering students the opportunity to connect with faculty and peers, and engage in programs that focus on academic success, cultural awareness, and civic engagement. This community of students is interested in Pan-African history, culture and current affairs.”

While most news outlets understood the community as being racially segregated, Cal State LA officials insisted that it’s not the case. Segregation is still illegal- the last time I checked. 

“This community is open to all students,” Cal State LA spokesman Robert Lopez reported to the Los Angeles Times.

“This living-learning community focuses on academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory.”

From an outside perspective, it’s easy to make the assumption that the racially themed housing is a form of segregation. The media has perpetuated that these communities go against the idea of racial integration and it’s damaging to the student body as a whole. Everyone deserves to have a place where they feel respected and at home.

From the perspective of a student, the racially themed housing can promote a sense of belonging with a group of students that have a similar culture.

Jonathon Thomas is a member of the Halisi Scholars community.  He spoke with CBS Los Angeles about his experience in the community.

“You can go and be yourself and not have to worry about explaining how you’re doing because of your skin color,” Thomas emphasized.

The most important thing to remember about racially themed housing is that it does not exclude other races, nor does it have the intention of excluding its community members from the larger population at the university.

Racially themed housing gives minority students a chance to embrace their cultural identity. Allowing the community to be open to all students gives students of other races the chance to learn more about a different culture.

Racially themed housing is not the only type of themed housing available at Cal State LA Themed housing offers students the chance to get together with like-minded peers. Students congregating together to support each other has always been beneficial for their education.

The university’s website describes themed housing as the following:

“A themed living community is a group of people living together in a common housing area who share common academic goals and interests.  Residents in these communities participate in academically and intellectually engaging learning activities designed specifically for them.”

Cal State LA offers three other types of themed housing: First Year Residential Experience, Resident Scholars Housing and Gender Neutral Inclusive Housing.

These themed communities are not made to separate students from the larger student body, but rather  it aims to help students feel a sense of belonging within the community.

The Halisi Scholars community at Cal State LA isn’t the first racially themed housing that’s been implemented at a university. Racially themed housing is popping up at several schools across the U.S.

UC Berkley offers Native American, Asian American and African American-themed housing communities. Stanford offers Latino, Native American, Asian American and black culture focused communities.

Cornell College in Iowa offered housing in the 2015-16 academic year that confronts “problems and concerns of black students.”

Liz Kacher is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]