By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
The Black Student Alliance is an organization at Texas State University focused on welcoming and supporting incoming black students. The organization has contributed to the growing diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus and is dedicated to monitoring and spreading knowledge on a variety of issues.
I was able to interview Vice President Vanessa Thibodeaux to discuss the Black Student Alliance and how it has been impacted by the coronavirus and movements like Black Lives Matter. She provided her own insight on how to make Texas State a better community for students of color.
Andrea Mau: Who are the Black Student Alliance and what do they do at Texas State?
Vanessa Thibodeaux: Black Student Alliance is an organization to be a space for black students that are coming to Texas State. Space for them to find friends and find other people that are like them in a predominately white school.
It is a place to talk about pressing issues in society, on campus, and issues that are happening within the black community. So, it’s a free space for panel discussions, but it’s not limited to just African American students. It is open for any student that would want to join.
We’re also there to branch out black students to other organizations within the African American organizations, [be]cause when I joined I didn’t even know half of the other organizations.
There’s Women of Color, Black Men United— There’s so many organizations. That’s why we’re like, “Hey if you didn’t know, they’re hosting this!” I would say we’re there for the spreading of knowledge for other organizations.
AM: What is your role within the organization?
VT: I’m the vice president so I coincide with the president and we have an executive board. We look over what the executive board does [and] create our bigger events of the year. For our meetings, we come up with topics to talk about.
We also work hand-in-hand with some of the SDI (Student Diversity and Inclusion) advisories, and we have a weekly meeting to make sure everything’s in check for our organization itself and for our events that we plan to hold. I’m like the helper of the president to make sure everything’s in line for our organization and make it run smoothly.
AM: What are your goals for the 2020 fall semester?
VT: We’re trying to make everything as safe as possible. We don’t really know how it’s gonna play out because of the pandemic, but we’re still trying to hold our bigger events [and] host our meetings. We’re going to try to not surpass the 50% capacity.
We still wanted students who are on campus [to] have something to look forward to— that sense of community on campus. It’s gonna be different meeting people now, so we really want to have this place, especially for African American students, to come and find people living the same life as them or not— just learn different things.
AM: You’ve sort of answered this already, but have those plans changed since the coronavirus and how?
VT: Most definitely. We were supposed to have a retreat for our executive board members. We wanted to do that in person so we could meet, catch up and start planning for this fall semester. We were like, “No, we’re gonna have to do this online.”
We’re trying to work with Zoom because we do a back to school bash thing at the beginning [of the semester] where we hold a whole bunch of different organizations and you can learn about it. So, we’re trying to figure out how to adapt that to videos, make threads on Twitter or change it completely and have it on Zoom.
We’re just trying to figure out how to adapt since we always want to meet in person because that’s the frontline of communication. Like how are we gonna make it still attractive to people? We’re trying to adapt, but we still hope for the in-person communication so you still get that connection.
AM: What is your organization’s response to the Black Lives Matter cause and how are you supporting students that are a part of the cause?
VT: With the Black Lives Matter movement we are 100% with it. We’re taking steps to help students— not just students of African descent— get more information about what you can do to help the black community in general.
We want to give as much information— as much support— as we can. We’re gonna talk about more topics according to that so if people want to come to our meetings they can understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is actually standing for, not just what you hear off of social media.
We wanna get more information out so you can make your own decision on supporting.
AM: On our own campus, there was the May 2019 quad protest against the Texas Nomads SAR, a white supremacist group. Four students of color were arrested and are now facing extensive legal fees.
One of the students, Claudia Gasponi, confirmed that she lost her job on campus because of her participation and arrest. The Pan African Action Committee on campus has started a fundraiser to help the arrested students with their legal fees.
What is your organization’s response to how the university handled this case, and how are you planning to combat or prevent this kind of unfair treatment to students of color on campus in the future?
VT: I know the Black Student Alliance is working hand-in-hand with some advisors during this time. We’ve been giving them what our experiences have been on campus. Other organizations as well give them more knowledge of how we see that the campus isn’t really giving us a lot of help, outlets, or understanding.
So, we’ve been working hand-in-hand with advisors that have been talking to other higher-ups in a way to make sure that our needs are being met because we’re still a part of this campus community that they so say holds high diversity.
So, we’re making sure they take care of their diverse students. We’re putting in a lot of communication aspects as to how they can help us and how they should have handled or could handle situations in the future.
AM: If a student wanted to get involved with the Black Student Alliance what would be the best way to learn more or join the organization?
VT: If you look through the organizations at Texas State you should be able to find us. I would say just follow us, keep up with what we post because it will be changing now since COVID-19. We’ll have stuff up to join us through Twitter or Instagram. Reach out to our social media person and we’ll get it all in line.
If we do have meetings in person they’ll be on Tuesday. We’re still playing on the times [be]cause we have to figure out what room we can get. You’ll send us your fees if you wanna become a member and it’d just be quick and easy.
AM: How can we as a community at Texas State better support your organization and students of color?
VT: I just feel like the more knowledge you have the more understanding you are. Everybody is coming from a different background no matter what you think or perceive.
There’s nothing wrong [with] asking questions if you ask them not the wrong way. If you don’t understand, ask instead of assuming something or having this false perception. You can help more if you are wanting to learn about what’s going on.
Featured image by KTSW Multimedia.