Black Student Union to remain active despite low attendance

Naidine Conde, president of Black Student Union (BSU), told The Panther that “it is not our job as students to pinpoint the problems of diversity” on Chapman’s campus. Photo by Cassidy Keola

Despite low meeting attendance and student involvement this semester, Chapman’s Black Student Union (BSU) will likely remain active for the next academic year.

“There are problems within the foundation of the school from an administrative perspective,” said Naidine Conde, president of BSU. “It is not our job as students to pinpoint the problems of diversity on campus; it all starts with the school.”

BSU met April 1 for a closed meeting to discuss the future of the organization.

“Attendance is so low that there probably won’t be a BSU next year if not enough people are willing to help keep it going,” read a March 31 email sent to BSU members that was provided to The Panther. “For any of y’all thinking this is an April fools (sic) joke, it’s not, but we wish it was.”

The future of the club, Conde said, was dependent on how many students came to the meeting that night.

“If not enough people came, that was going to be it for BSU,” she said. “As a senior, there will always be that fear of the unknown, but I am hopeful after this evening.”

Although spring semester can bring a lull in student involvement for BSU due to students’ academic and social commitments, Conde said, the lack of a consistent adviser has been a challenge for the club.

“There is not a strong presence of black faculty on campus, there is a gap in that demographic,” she said, noting that while the club has had an adviser in the past, it has been operating without one since spring 2018. About 1.4 percent of Chapman’s faculty is black.

An adviser would help facilitate administrative discussions, a role that BSU executive board members are now filling themselves. Administrators like Dean of Students Jerry Price work to fix problems that arise within BSU, Conde said, but the limited numbers of black students on campus is a consistent challenge.

“Students’ needs change with the time; it’s an opportunity for BSU to reflect,” Price said. “At the same time, it offers us in administration a chance to think about if there are other things we can be doing to support black students in their transition through Chapman.”

Price acknowledged that Chapman’s lack of black faculty is an “obvious setback.”

“We do have experience of working with black students that is applicable, even if we can’t identify in the same way,” he said. “I would like to talk with (BSU). I don’t want them to think that everything related to supporting or orienting black students into Chapman falls on BSU.”

Conde told The Panther that the numbers have to be considered, as there are about 100 black students at Chapman.

“We don’t have a lot of numbers to start with, but the numbers will not get better without a club like this.”

Some members of BSU did not comment after the meeting.

Black undergraduate students make up less than 2 percent of the student body at Chapman, while Loyola Marymount University, a private school similar in size to Chapman, has a black undergraduate population of 6.3 percent.

The closed meeting had more underclassmen present than upperclassmen, Conde said, a ratio that she believes is promising.

“There are freshman stepping up, there are sophomores and juniors who are getting more involved,” she said. “People are rallying for personal reasons, but also so that BSU continues to be here for other students.”