University library to celebrate diversity

This semester, Sonoma State University has introduced an initiative to emphasize and acknowledge the importance of diversity among students, faculty and staff. As part of that effort, the Sonoma State library is honoring Hispanic/Latino heritage month with a display recognizing Hispanic and Latino faculty, students and staff.

The display is located on the second floor of the library and will be on public viewing for the duration of Hispanic/Latino heritage month, which is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. 

The display showcases books by Latino or Hispanic authors, Hispanic or Latino characters or individuals and includes written testimonials from students and faculty who shared stories of their heritage and experiences.

“The University Library has begun a special focus this semester, funded in the form of a Schulz fellowship, on creating a more inclusive space that reflects the diversity of our campus,” said Schulz Diversity Fellow and Librarian Marjorie Lear, who was responsible for the creation of the display.

The university’s effort seeks to recognize and highlight the diverse faculty and student body at Sonoma State. Information from the Office of Academic Affairs, compiled by Dr. Elisa Velasquez-Andrade, current chair and professor of the department of psychology, shows that of the over 500 members of Sonoma State’s faculty, more than 400 of them are Caucasian, with less than 100 faculty members of all racial or ethnic minorities combined.

“With a new president and administration, Sonoma State can take advantage of a meaningful institutional change. We need to align priorities to fully achieve our Sonoma State mission and diversity vision to educate our students to succeed in a global and diverse society,” said Velasquez-Andrade.

The new display in the library for Hispanic/Latino heritage month, posted on Sept. 6, is the first example of the effort that was implemented this semester to showcase Sonoma State’s diverse faculty, staff and student body.

“We were delighted to learn that Alianza for Equity had formed recently to invite Sonoma State staff, faculty and students to come together and address issues of equity and diversity on campus,” said Lear.

Alianza for Equity is a group of Sonoma State faculty, staff and students who address concerns related to racial and ethnic inequality and diversity affecting Sonoma State’s campus and the community as a whole. 

Lear asked members of the group to share their stories in order to include them in the display.

Lear also had help with making the display from Velasquez-Andrade’s multicultural psychology students. The students reviewed all of the stories that Lear gathered and found the common themes among the stories. Then they sought relevant texts from the library, including “Bless Me Ultima”, a commonly assigned book for high school students, and a biography of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor and included them in the display.

Velasquez-Andrade described the display as a collaboration between the group Alianza for Equality and students in her mulitcultural psychology class as part of the required service-learning component of the class. 

The display also features an invitation to two Pan y Café events will be held in the library during Hispanic/Latino heritage month. 

The two events, which promise discussion and food, are set to take place in Schulz 2019 on Sept. 28 and Oct. 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Those involved with the display and the university’s effort to showcase, along withhonoring diversity among students, faculty and staff shared their happiness with the display and their optimism for how diversity will be celebrated on campus this semester.

“Our Sonoma State Library diversity initiative is an excellent model to start honoring racial, ethnic and cultural diverse populations on campus,” said Velasquez-Andrade. “Visitors have the opportunity to enhance their awareness and knowledge about Latinos on campus and the diversity within this group.”