JEFFREY UMBRELL/THE OBSERVER
Although The Black Student Alliance (BSA) at Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC) was unable to reactivate its club status before the end of last semester, as originally desired by its past executive board members, the club has officially returned in full force this semester.
The club’s temporary hiatus began in February 2018.
Consisting of an entirely new e-board, BSA has worked over the summer to resolve some of its past issues to develop specific, proactive goals for the club during the 2018-19 school year.
The new e-board members are President Ahmari Alford, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’21, Vice President Jemina Molines, FCLC ’21, Treasurer Ian Sokolowski, FCLC ’20 and Secretary Chelsea Ashley, FCLC ’21.
BSA’s new advisor is LeighMarie Weber, the assistant of Multicultural Affairs. According to Alford, Weber has been overseeing e-board meetings and supporting them in their conversations about where they want to see the club go since the beginning of the semester. “She has been working with us very collaboratively even throughout the summer,” Alford said. “We’re working very close in tandem with the office.”
The previous BSA e-board wanted to make the club more present within the Fordham community, but stated in a meeting in February that they were not entirely sure how to successfully carry out that vision with the resources they were given. The current e-board, while building off their predecessors’ goals, is working on constructing and carrying out those of their own.
“We definitely agree we want to make it a more involved and dynamic club on campus,” Alford said. “However, I think our primary goal is to not only be a safe space, which is also very important for students on campus, but furthermore to be an important and useful resource to black students on campus.”
Although Alford knows Fordham does its best to offer different opportunities to students on campus, she feels that often students of color, specifically black students, are left out of that narrative. According to Fordham’s Spring Demographic Profile from 2018, half of the school’s undergraduate students are white. Alford hopes that BSA can become “a replacement for that lack of presence” for students of color on campus.
One of the main reasons for BSA’s hiatus was that its meetings had poor attendance. Although BSA has only begun holding weekly meetings two weeks ago, the e-board is optimistic about the turnout.
“Obviously getting club attendance can be difficult because everyone has different schedules,” Molines said. “There’s a sense of community [at Fordham], but students can just come here, go to class, and then go home, they don’t have to stay on campus if they don’t want to, but we are trying to actively attract new members to come and have people feel like they’re comfortable here and that they can use this club as a resource and a space.” Once BSA cultivates and solidifies this space, Molines hopes that new members will bring their friends to BSA meetings and events to further increase attendance.
Alford mentioned that BSA hopes to grow in attendance and attract a wider audience at meetings by introducing “dynamic and relevant” discussion topics at their meetings. During the meeting on Oct. 17, BSA held a talk called “I Miss the Old Kanye,” in which BSA members discussed celebrity Kanye West and his recent White House visit that has sparked media controversy. The meeting involved going through West’s controversial media history starting in 2005 through the present and then investigating and discussing West’s actions in the context of race.
“If we continue to give students a space they really wouldn’t otherwise have, an open and community-like space to discuss these topics, that’ll continue to further the membership. We hope to also put on events that could attract students who have never heard about the club,” Alford continued.
The e-board stated that their greatest initiative in increasing BSA’s visibility on campus is creating a newsletter, which is currently managed by Molines. She finds different academic professional and cultural opportunities for black students and students of color throughout the city. The e-board reviews her findings and she then compiles them into a newsletter. The newsletter will go out once a month and will ultimately give students a resource to explore those different opportunities.
The contents of the newsletter will vary from information about exhibitions at museums, internships and scholarships, all avenues through which students can facilitate self-growth, academic or professional growth. Alford also mentioned that BSA will work with other clubs during the year to initiate more student involvement and increase club presence on campus. They also hope to partner with ASILI: The Black Student Alliance at Rose Hill for some events.
BSA has already started working towards helping their members facilitate professional growth. The club is partnering with the Fordham Career Ambassadors (FCA), on Wednesday, Oct. 24, to hold a resume and interview workshop. Students will have the opportunity to help build their resume or tailor their resume a specific job or position they may be applying. They will also have the opportunity to ask any questions and even schedule a mock interview with an FCA on campus.
“Offering different opportunities for students who may not be able to come to club meetings but still be involved in a certain way is how we hope to grow and establish not only a large quantity membership but that’s one of quality and substance that regularly has great contributions to the club and the community,” Alford said.
BSA also aims to manifest an inclusive environment where all students are welcome. During the first meeting of the semester, some members were skeptical of Ian Sokolowski’s position as treasurer on the e-board, as he is a white male student. Sokolowski has attended BSA meetings since freshman year, and has “learned a lot” from being a member.
“I thought that if there was an opportunity to help keep the club alive, as it was falling apart last semester, I would very much like to do that because it taught me a lot and could hopefully maybe teach someone else in my position or teach other people other things,” Sokolowski said.
The rest of the e-board supports Sokolowski’s position on the e-board and dedication to BSA. “It’s a safe space for all students,” Molina said, in reference to the club.
“[It’s] not only a safe space but a learning space as well,” Alford continued. “I think that’s definitely good to have a person there [like Sokolowski] as a liason perhaps for that learning space.”
BSA holds meetings every Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. Besides the resume workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 24 and working joint events with ASILI, the club is working on developing their largest events during Black History Month.
“This is the new BSA and we are trying to look more forward instead of towards what the past e-board did and how the past BSA sort of turned out,” Ashley said.