In October, Utah State University President Noelle Cockett gave an address naming diversity and inclusion as priorities for the year. She also said involvement at many of the universities’ multicultural and non-traditional lounges at the Taggert Student Center is ever-increasing.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Utah’s psychology department showed a correlation between discrimination for minority and multiracial students impacting the students’ sense of identity and worth. According to Cedale Armstrong, a senior from Montezuma Creek, having special spaces on campus for these students — like the MSS Lounge at the TSC — are essential for minority students.
“I’ve been able to identify spots on campus where I know if I go there, I’ll be one of few people who look like me,” Armstrong said. “But if I go somewhere here in the TSC, I know that there are people here who look like me and have the same experiences, and so I can just relax and be myself, as opposed to having to be a spokesperson for brown people in classes.”
United by similar experiences of insensitivity and racism, Armstrong said these spaces allow individuals to be “normal college students” and form lasting friendships, even after graduation.
“Upperclassmen that were there, they became your friends,” he said. “They graduate, then they move on, and eventually, you hang around the area to where you went from the underclassmen to like the seniors and from there, it’s kind of like you’re passing the torch and making sure the culture that’s in there, and that space, that it keeps going for the next generation of students.”
According to reports from the Utah System of Higher Learning, the graduation rates for minority students in Utah’s higher learning institutions is increasing, as of the 2017-2018 school year. Despite this, minorities were less than 25% of those who received degrees from public universities, and under 20% at private institutions in Utah.