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'The institution wasn't built with us in mind': SoCal students talk race, discrimination on campus

Timothy Woods, a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, joins in a protest on Thursday, November 12, 2015.
Timothy Woods, a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, joins in a protest on Thursday, November 12, 2015.
Jacob Margolis/KPCC

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Nearly 400 students have moved into administrative offices at Occidental College to protest the "unfair" treatment of minority students.

This follows rallies and hunger strikes at nearby Claremont McKenna College last week, which prompted the resignation of the Dean of Students, Mary Spellman after she had sent an email that was seen as racially insensitive.

There has been some pushback against the student protests at Claremont: a letter circulating Tuesday said that it was "inappropriate"  to force the dean from her position.

But students of color at campuses across Southern California say campus racism continues to be a major problem. Take Two spoke to students from three institutions to hear their concerns.

No communication

Makiah Green recently graduated from USC, where she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies. She now operates My PWI, a Twitter-based forum where students of color can share their campus experiences. She says that the concerns of black students aren’t being heard by campus decision makers.

“The problem is that these institutions were not built with us in mind," Green says. "When administrators are making decisions in the boardroom they are not considering the needs and the concerns of students of color and minorities in general.”

Green says USC's efforts to address this problem have been ineffective.

“You have people in the middle who are like, diversity hires, but often times these officials don’t have decision-making power to actually implement the changes that the students are demanding, and so that’s why we’re going for the presidents -- because they're the ones that can actually change things,” Green says.

We are Mizzou

Janay Williams is a senior at UCLA and chair of the African Student Union. She tells Take Two’s A Martinez that black students on campus face many of the same injustices that led students to protest at the University of Missouri. 

“Mizzou is UCLA and UCLA is Mizzou,” Williams says. “We are all the same. We’re all just black students attending these institutions that are supposed to be there to help us grow [and] unfortunately we are targets of racist attacks and microaggressions and all of these things that are going on on our campuses.”

In response to critics

Dominique Curtis is the president of the Pan African Student Association for the Claremont Colleges. She helped organize last week’s demonstrations. When asked how she would respond to critics who might suggest she just "suck it up," Curtis said the problems have become too big to ignore.

“These colleges are just micro versions of what’s going on in the real world,” Curtis says.”So even if I get over it and get through college, I’m still going to have to have a job where I’m going to meet these issues. I’m still going to have a community where I meet these issues. I think this became very evident last year with the Black Lives Matter protests. This stuff carries over and -- for my mental health -- I can’t just suck it up because these things build up until you see what’s happening now, where students just [had] enough and they can’t take it anymore.”

Press the blue play button above to hear the roundtable discussion.