News and Commentary

State University Has Blacks-Only Student Retreat

California State University (CSU) at Fresno hosted a three-day retreat for black students only, in an effort to promote social justice and inclusion.

The pre-fall semester “Harambee! Retreat” took place from August 14 to August 17 at the University Courtyard dorms, where the student participated in free meals, workshops, activities, seminars, and other social events. The students also received career and academic counseling, and assistance with financial aid and housing for the upcoming year.

“THIS EVENT IS FOR INCOMING STUDENTS OF BLACK/AFRICAN HERITAGE,” the event’s Facebook description stated in all-caps lettering.

Shirley Melikian Armbruster, associate vice president of communications at CSU Fresno, told the College Fix’s Michael McGrady the event consisted of about new 40 students plus a dozen returning students, and cost the university an estimated $16,000. Armbruster said the final cost of the event has yet to be determined. CSU Fresno is a state-funded college.

“The retreat was a student success event to assist African-American students in their transition to university life and instill a sense of belonging at the institution, which has an approximately 4 percent African-American student population, and help boost retention and graduation rates of African-American students, which are slightly below other groups at Fresno State,” she said. “With this proactive approach, the goal was to provide experiences and activities to facilitate a smooth social and academic integration of African-American students into the campus community.”

The event was also endorsed by the university’s president Joseph Castro in a welcoming email addressed to the entire student body.

“A first ever retreat – appropriately titled Harambee, which means “Let’s pull together,” was held this week where new and continuing African American students, along with African-American faculty, staff and alumni, could exchange ideas of how to create a greater sense of belonging on campus,” Castro wrote to students, praising the event as one helpful in “connecting” black students “with their peers and the University”– by racially isolating them, of course.

Event co-host Davion Barker told The Daily Wire the retreat’s name was not connected to the death of a gorilla that was tragically murdered at a zoo this past summer.

“The Harambee Student Retreat is a transitional program to help African American students become accumulated to Fresno State,” he said. “Also Harambee is Swahili for ‘Pulling Together.'”

The student attendees at the event later posted videos and photos of their daily activities to Facebook, where other students and Facebook users offered their thoughts.

“You preach equality and exclude everyone else? Funny you need a 3 day retreat to get ready for school. I guess all other races showing up ready to on their first day aren’t victims of the white man’s privilege?” was one comment.

The retreat was sponsored through CSU Fresno’s Office of Black Student Success and the Cross Cultural and Gender Center.

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