California State University- Los Angeles has sparked some controversy with its announcement that it is creating a new housing complex catered for African-American students on campus.
The complex, Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community, officially opened for fall 2016 and has 24 students living in the dorms. Since spring of 2016, the Black Scholars United club on CSULA’s campus have been pushing for housing catered to African-American students on campus.
“The learning communities’ purpose is to enhance residential living experience and promote academic excellence relevant to everyone,” said Robert Lopez, executive director for communications and public affairs at Cal State University, Los Angeles.
The decision has generated a certain amount of debate. Since being opened, certain publications have described the new housing complex as “segregated housing for black students.” Lopez disputed that claim, saying that the housing complex would be open to everyone.
“We don’t segregate,” said Lopez, “Housing is open for everyone and the Halisi housing is one of our four themed living communities”.
According to africanblackcoalition.org, the Black Student Union, wrote a detailed letter to the administrators of the university demanding a set of policies that would support the black student population on campus.
One of the demands argued for was housing delegated for black students that would provide a more affordable housing solution. Many of the demands cater to the financial and academic success of black students on campus.
“This housing, similar to ones on many other campuses, provides a place for black students to cohabitate with others who are of similar backgrounds and experiences,” said Nia Johnson, Cal State Los Angeles student and member of the Black Student Union, “The Halisi apartments are an undoubtedly welcoming environment for black students and overall it motivates black students to go to college.”
Sonoma State student Marisol Magana lived in a themed living community her freshman year and has positive feedback on the experience.
“I’m more comfortable living in a dorm with people similar to my background, however it’s important to branch out and mingle with other people,” said Magana, “After living with all Latinas freshman year, then living with a more diverse group of girls the next year, it gave me a perspective on why it is important to have themed living communities.”
Various university campuses across the nation offer African-American themed housing, which include University of California, Berkeley, Stanford and University of California, Los Angeles.
Sonoma State also has themed on-campus living, such as, gender-inclusive, first generation and sustainable living.
“This is a progressive decision made by CSULA that promotes positive culture on campus, however, the topic can be misconstrued if not communicated properly,” said Residential Life Coordinator Tramaine Austin-Dillion.
Austin-Dillion is the coordinator for one of Sonoma State’s themed living communities called U-Engage.
“These villages mainly offer housing to sophomore, junior, transfer, gender-inclusive and international housing,” said Austin-Dillion, “I’m curious to know how the curriculum created by the Residential Life department at CSULA will cater to the African-American themed living community.”