Students weigh in on APU’s “silent culture”

The Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) hosted a Fishbowl Conversations event on Feb. 11. The event was one of many in this year’s Diversity Values Series, intended to give people of diverse backgrounds a platform to voice concerns and offer personal insight into topics on diversity.

“It’s not about agreeing with everybody,” said Aaron Hinojosa, executive director of SCRD. “But it’s about respecting their perspectives, their narratives, their stories … I think that’s really the point in valuing diversity.”

The discussion was held in a Socratic seminar style where different people could “tag in” to speak as a panelist in place of another. Questions were asked by the proctor, Luis Figueroa, an undergraduate intern for SCRD, and from viewers on Instagram who watched the event live.

Many panelists voiced the concern that APU has become “too cautious” in regards to diversity within the past year to avoid trouble. They said this led to some students “falling through the cracks” and not receiving adequate help from the school.

Katarina Acevedo, women’s network coordinator for the Latin American Student Association (LASA), voiced irritation over APU’s lack of action to help minority students, whether from ethnic groups on campus or from the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m very, very over that narrative because that’s not enough,” Acevedo said. “Like, thank you for listening to us and praying about it, but since you are the powers that be, why don’t y’all do something about it?”

Josh Cantong, public relations officer for the Black Student Association (BSA), joined Acevedo in her thought, expressing frustration over the way APU handled the situation with Haven last year.

Haven was the name of APU’s first LGBTQ+ organization on campus. The group has existed for many years, but was only permitted on campus last semester after a series of meetings with administrative staff. However, controversy grew when many people claimed APU was “losing its evangelical values,” leading APU’s Board of Trustees to request that Haven change its name.

“I feel like APU has failed its student body by failing to support its LGBTQ+ students,” Cantong said. “APU has sacrificed the rights, the health, the dignity, the overall wellbeing [of] its students to appease donors who do not want to see a politicized people group be treated human.”

Cantong and Acevedo also shared their discontentment that the administration has not yet taken any action regarding a resolution passed by SGA last October, titled “Apology to the APU Community for the Harmful Rhetoric of a Student.” This resolution requested a professor to send a written apology to the APU community “regarding her depiction of a student in her letter to the board of trustees, which violates both faculty and employee handbooks.”  

Cantong said the silence from the administration to denounce the actions of the professor “is not forgotten, although we try to pretend it is.”

“APU has a very nice culture,” Cantong added. “APU has a very silent culture.”

Angela Pachanian, president of the Armenian Student Association (ASA), suggested one way APU could make a more long-lasting difference in its community would be to create a mandatory diversity course for all students. Acevedo concurred, saying she would like to see APU invest in more diversity-based speakers in chapel “outside of diversity week.”

SCRD plans on continuing the conversation around diversity by inviting students to visit their office and providing insights into their experiences whenever possible.

“We want to celebrate diversity through our similarities and differences,” Figueroa said. “And I know the topic of diversity … can be very difficult, so we want to open up … a forum … where everyone’s equal and everyone’s thoughts are valued.”