It’s Complicated: An Interview with Ramon Guzman
By: MATTHEW LAMAS
“How do you feel about the racial climate at Penn State?”
This question evoked an array of responses from Ramon Guzman, a senior majoring in education policy, ranging from his personal experiences at Penn State as a Latino man to his accomplishments as an individual and as a student.
As the executive director of the senior class gift campaign, Guzman shared that he was the first man of color to lead this project. He went on to explain that it’s not that students of color can’t succeed taking on these projects, but that there’s simply not enough of these students seeking the opportunity.
The reason? “Well, it’s complicated,” Guzman explains.
“It’s not that the minority community is a minority at all. What’s happening is that certain communities become minoritized.”
To further explain,Guzman stressed that we must empower various sectors of the student body to further build on themselves with involvement and leadership. More specifically, minority recruitment.
When looking at sheer numbers, Penn State lacks in the recruitment of diverse students. According to theUniversity Budget Office for the fall of 2014, just under 2,500 students who attend the University Park campus identify as Latino/Hispanic and just 1,802 identify as Black or African American.
So what about minority recruitment? Does this have an effect on how Penn State and students of color align themselves with the university? Guzman thinks yes.
He replied with an answer that struck at the core of what many believe to be a blanket solution of when it comes to assisting students of color. For example, Guzman expanded on his recognition of student groups, such as the Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team (SMART), a student – run admissions group with the focus on recruitment and retainment of underrepresented student populations at Penn State.
Guzman noted that while these student organizations such as SMART are conducting critical objectives for the success of the university, they are undervalued and lack resources.
“You can’t just give money to these groups and expect it to fix the problems that they experience,” Guzman said.
In essence, financing student groups isn’t the only way for the university to aid the organization in achieving their objective, but understanding their goal, recognizing them for their undertaking, and spreading their mission.
“Penn State has done a lot, but must be able to do more,” Guzman emphasized.
Along with aiding the success of these groups, Guzman believes that focusing on injustice must be a focal point for the university.
“When it comes to battling incidents of racial injustice, we must speak up with action,” Guzman explains.
Fortunately, there are many student leaders along with Ramon helping to change the narrative at Penn State. With student organizations such as the Social Justice Coalition, who provided water for residents in Flint, Michigan just a few weeks ago, there has already been considerable action for communities not just here in State College, but across the nation.
While students of color begin to become the majority on many college campuses, students of color everywhere, not just at Penn State, must be able to harness their personal uniqueness and use it to showcase their capabilities.
Whether it be taking on a degree in the Liberal Arts or in STEM, becoming involved in social justice advocacy groups or creating a unique educational route, students of color must mark their importance by being nothing less but exemplary.
Students of color within the Penn State student body must recognize their capability to enact change, promote awareness, and enable due diligence.
Photo Credit: State of State