Free course offered covering black students’ challenges

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The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs is hosting Black Minds Matter, a free public course through San Diego State University, through mid-December.

The intent of the course is to increase awareness about the struggles black boys and men face in regard to the education system.

“The whole purpose is to have a national conversation about black boys and men and education,” said Roberto Garcia, the director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. “It’s all about their experiences in education and how we can better help them navigate the educational institutions they are in.”

Speakers have emphasized the need for empathy and understanding in tackling the problem of black students’ low graduation rates, a national problem that SVSU is not exempt from.

“As educators, we have the privilege of educating the children of our neighbors,” said Luke Wood, a distinguished professor of education at San Diego State University. “Teach them with love, discipline them with love, build personal relationships with love, as if they were your own.”

Each of the eight courses covers a different topic. Some of the topics include Linking Black Lives and Black Minds, Assumptions of Criminality, Campus Climates and Non-Cognitive Outcomes and Holistic Support for Black Male Learners.

In each of the courses, there is a speaker from a variety of disciplines – educators, researchers, lawyers and more.

The speakers are some of the top scholars in the world regarding black male achievement, including co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement Patrisse Cullors, attorney S. Lee Merritt and Pedro Noguera, a distinguished professor of education at UCLA.

Many of the topics are geared toward students that have not yet reached higher education, but Garcia said that it is beneficial to have that knowledge because it helps those working in higher education better understand the positions the students are in when they enter a university.

“The majority of people attending this are passionate about helping students, so it’s great to see them come together,” Garcia said. “It’s been great to see that our colleagues are so passionate about a topic.”

Garcia also said everyone has been respectful of other attendees opinions, even if it is something that they do not fully understand or agree on.

There has been an average of 25-35 participants per session. The participants range from students, staff and faculty. It is a diverse environment that greatly contributes to the flow of the conversation.

“The students are educating us,” Garcia said. “They are opening up and telling us their experiences, which allows us to work better with them. We can assume how they feel or what they think, but when we hear it from them, we know we need to do something about it.”

The courses have left a positive impact on the participants, as they keep coming back. Attendees’ passion is shown through their continuous attendance and their willingness to learn more about equality, inclusivity and helpfulness.

“Our Saginaw Valley environment is so respectful of one another,” Garcia said. “These are tough conversations, and everyone has been very non-confrontational; they’ve been very collegial. They’ve been willing to see that what they thought previously was wrong and accepting of the reasons why. There have been a lot of lightbulbs going off in the room.”

Even though the courses bounce off of each other, anyone is able to walk in to any of the sessions.

“Registration isn’t closed; we’ve been taking walk-ins. I won’t turn anyone away,” Garcia said. “The sessions both build on each other, and they don’t. You could walk in blindly and still be caught up.”