Zaire Carter, June 25, 2021

Dublin Core

Title

Zaire Carter, June 25, 2021

Description

Muhlenberg College senior Zaire Carter '22 reflects on his growth as a young activist and student using noteworthy campus events as examples. One of his capstone events, being elected as the first Black student body president, informs the wisdom of his observations and actions.

Date

2021-06-25

Format

video

Identifier

MCA_10

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Hailey Petrus

Interviewee

Zaire Carter

Duration

01:05:00

OHMS Object Text

5.4 June 25, 2021 Zaire Carter, June 25, 2021 MCA_10 01:05:00 MCA-D History of Diversity and Inclusion at Muhlenberg College Muhlenberg College: Trexler Library Oral History Repository Zaire Carter Hailey Petrus video/mpeg CarterZaire_20210625_video.mp4 1:|15(6)|45(17)|57(1)|69(15)|79(11)|90(10)|98(7)|112(7)|122(11)|129(12)|142(2)|151(2)|163(4)|170(14)|182(9)|193(1)|202(10)|213(10)|224(17)|235(6)|248(4)|261(9)|270(10)|282(2)|295(11)|305(12)|317(9)|329(11)|339(4)|349(12)|361(5)|371(3)|383(1)|391(14)|403(1)|416(9)|429(2)|441(13)|452(15)|463(1)|473(9)|489(6)|500(3)|509(10)|519(1)|529(1)|540(10)|550(2)|561(11)|573(6)|588(6)|600(8)|610(7)|620(1)|630(12)|643(4)|652(11)|664(3)|678(11)|691(1)|701(2)|709(8)|719(3)|727(6)|746(3) 0 https://youtu.be/N0iqRo7Qe7k YouTube video English 18 Introduction to project HAILEY PETRUS: OK. My name is Hailey Petrus, and I'm here with Zaire Carter to talk about your experiences at Muhlenberg College. Our goal is to collect oral histories of people's unique experiences during their years as a student, to preserve the information of future generations to access ; the oral histories are an integral part of our course: “The History of Diversity and Inclusion at Muhlenberg College.” We are meeting on Zoom on June 25th, 2021. Thank you so much for your willingness to speak with us today. To start, can you please state your full name and spell it for me? 119 Early Influences HP: I knew you were going to do that. OK, so OK. So we're just going to start from, I guess, kind of, you're going into your senior year...about three years ago, so how you became interested in and sought out even being a part of the college experience? What were your major influences and how did you know that you wanted to attend Muhlenberg? 224 Choosing Muhlenberg And honestly, Muhlenberg was the-- was the-- recommended to me by my theater, sort of, program director for the school that I went to. And he said I should check it out. And I did. And I liked what-- I liked what I saw. I had a really good audition, I sat in on a class, so it felt really good. And at the time it was between Muhlenberg and Pace University...Pace University. I was very excited to audition there and I did. And I had a wonderful, wonderful audition there. However, in terms of finances, when we looked at-- when we crunched the numbers and you receive the financial aid that you're going to get and you've got to make your call, Muhlenberg was just not only the better bet, but the safest bet because of their willingness to understand my financial situation and to help with that. And I think that's probably why a lot of students might even come to Muhlenberg in many ways, is-- and maybe this is a testament to how much they want you as the students, as, well, me too, I'm still a student. But also, you know, it really helps when you get your financial aid package and it's clear that they really want you. So, that's how I sort of became interested and that's how I really chose Muhlenberg. 434 First Year Experiences in White Spaces HP: OK, so with that, can you describe for me, kind of like what it was like entering Muhlenberg, so like the climate, what it was like for you, like when you first arrived on campus, basically, kind of like I guess your freshman year, your beginning. What was the climate like, how did it make you feel, things like that, like, what happened? ZC: Well so you know, I came in as an EL [Emerging Leader], so the first week was like, stupendous. I mean, it was great. We got to-- we had games every night. We did something. We hung out. We, you know, I met a lot of new people, folks who have graduated now. And we had a lot of fun that first week and we had our FYS classes, in which case it was just ELs. Right. And that was the only class that we had throughout that semester, that was, again, a class that we could come back to where it was just us. And that was really comforting to have. It wasn't a bit of a culture shock to me, as some-- as opposed to some of my other friends and ELs in terms of the predominantly white institution. There is something to say that you pretty much-- I have operated in predominantly white spaces before, and I think you get the hang of it after a while. There is a bit of a code switching that ensues and happens. But that's not how it happened for all of the ELs. 849 Memorable Extracurricular Activities HP: OK, so with that, since you've been here, what type of social and extracurricular activities have you joined at Muhlenberg and what are some of your more memorable moments over your last three years of whether they be good or bad that kind of have made up your experience so far? ZC: Yeah. So in terms of, like, the extracurricular stuff, I mean, the list can go on, but, you know, I'm an RA [Resident Advisor] and I'm going to be in HD [??] in the fall or I guess in August, so summer, whatever. You know, EL, you know, tour guide and tutor and Student Conduct Advisor and Men of Color Network president. And, you know, I joined ASA [??]and I joined Student Government. And I think I'm the president. I'm not entirely sure. And that was-- that was a bit of a flag stop. So that obviously was a part of student government when I got here and I stuck with it. And, you know, currently the president of the student body and I'm pretty involved in admissions work and also helping the theater department with, sort of, recruitment efforts and things like that, you know, doing the Sedehi Diversity project as an ensemble member at first and then directing it. So being the director and ensemble member of that. 1118 Reflections on Sedehi Diversity Project (SDP) So kind of like with that, I feel like you have a kind of unique perspective on Muhlenberg and Muhlenberg's, I guess, racial climate in a way. So, I guess could you kind of talk a little bit about that, like what things you had to, like, put into SDP for those things that we had to watch, that you had to show the school and also, I guess, some of the struggles you had with that being on SGA or even you're in charge of like a lot of things, being an RA, being, being Zaire, on Muhlenberg's campus. ZC: It's quite a ride, I'll tell you, not as interesting as you might think, but in regards to SDP, I think as an ensemble member, it was just me, that was my really bigger first encounter with, right, because after the protest happened and we met with administration and we sort of created guidelines and plans and things to help some of the-- some of the demands that we have had. After that exposure, was SDP, in which case, as an ensemble member, I'm interviewing a lot of people. Right. And you have to for us to be interviewing folks. You're transcribing those interviews and using the interviews in the show, right, so you're going to use the verbatim words, you're going to put them in a show, you're going to put them in the show in a way that flows make sense, sends a message, has a theme, you know, yada, yada, yada. 1318 Insights from Student Protest Outside Life Sports Center, 2019 But when-- when we interviewed, we actually interviewed about what folks thought about the protest and it was clear that some of the first-years and sophomores were like, yeah, boom, stick it to them, you know, F-you, this and that. Let's show it. And to the credit of the folks, I'm not going to take credit for the planning of this event that went on, I wasn't a part of that. And I want to give credit to all of those folks, but they chose a spectacular day. I mean, they chose a prime-- I mean, it was intentional that they chose that specific day. And in terms of advocacy, it was-- and this is just me, this is me speaking as a political scientist. It was, I think, a pretty brilliant form of advocacy. But, but anyway, so-- so the underclassmen, like the first-years, sophomores, would be like, let's go. Let's stick it to them. And then some of the upperclassmen would be saying, like, I don't really see the point. I mean, I understand where they're coming from. But I don't think this is going to work. And their view was definitely more world-weary. It was more-- we had been around the block. We've been here for a while. I was in your shoes just two years ago or a year ago or three years ago. And I'm telling you, you're wasting your breath. Right. 1413 Clashing Views about Racism, Black Lives Matter So there was that sort of clash of ideology that was hard to grapple with, I think, in SDP, and what we really tried to do (and this is SDP ‘19 not ‘20, I don't get to ‘20, cause that's the one I directed) but we really tried to showcase and-- and make sure that we put a-- that we put those multiple different perspectives at the table when we talked about the protest in the show. Right. So we wanted-- so we got folks saying &quot ; it was great!&quot ; &quot ; I didn't really see a point of it.&quot ; &quot ; Why did it happen?&quot ; &quot ; We need to do this more.&quot ; Right, so we wanted all of that so that it gave folks a sort of...a really bird's-eye view, sort of surface level perspective of that there were different sort of takeaways from the protests. So that was my first encounter with dealing with race and ethnicity in a way that, you know, students had felt discriminated against or unfairly treated or things like that. And that was a real honor to be a part of. 1673 Revelations from SDP during a Pandemic But that was, again, another introduction, or not really, that was just me getting a little deeper into the waters. And I had done SDP, I'd spoken to students a little bit about this and then, you know, I'm in SDP ‘20 with this unprecedented show that's happening during a global pandemic. It's because it was really weird, because when the world was seeming to try to close itself down and stop traffic and stop all of this, socially the world was amping up in ways that I couldn't imagine. And you saw this huge outpour of folks, you know, Black Lives Matter. And then the black square thing happened and it's like, all of all of this and that dissipates, though, it doesn't stay here the whole time, so SDP was another introduction to that, and so we wanted to ensure that in ‘20 that we were ensuring number one, yeah, we can talk about Covid, but we didn't want Covid to dominate the story completely. But we couldn't ignore it and we could ignore what was happening with Black Lives Matter either. And so we included it in the show. And for the first time, we actually included, you know, like graphics and videos and news clips of what was happening in the world at the time. And I think that was probably one of the best parts of SDP, is that it is so-- it is so able to take the heartbeat of what students are thinking and what they're feeling on campus. And it's a great introduction if you want to see things from outside your lens. So, it was always a great opportunity to be a part of that, and so we really wanted to include everything we possibly could. 2055 Reflections on Student Government Association's (SGA) History with Engagement And then in regards to SGA, oh, boy, SGA, and I'll be quick about this because I took up a lot of time on that first part of the answer, but SGA, I think, fundamentally is changing. And I'm doing my very best to change it. And I'm not taking-- I'm not taking no for an answer on some of this stuff. And I think some of the biggest challenges that SGA has always had is they are too by- the-book. They're too distant, they're too far, far-- well I just said distant. They're not representative of the student body. They are-- they really speak in abstractions when we talk about the student body. Right. And for example, you know, I think that, that's been one of its major issues is that it tries historically, I felt that. [HP sneezes] Bless you. Bless you again. That SGA has tried to make decisions on behalf of the student body without really ever knowing the student body, without ever being with them and talking with them and being a part of that experience. I've always said, you know, if you want to be the student body president, you have to have a relationship with students. And this couldn't have just started yesterday. It has to be a pretty long standing relationship with folks. You've got to have connections with the community. You've got to, you've got to be a student with them to reach out and talk to them. And it's in the name: Student Body President. So, if you're not one with the student body or care for their input or opinion, well, then you shouldn't be president. 2204 Engaging with Student Body before SGA Election What did I do? I went out and I just talked to folks and we got nearly what I think it was like nearly two hundred or maybe nearly two fifty, if not so, probably a little over two hundred, you know, students in the course of, you know, four hours. So, even that was just me imagining if all of SGA could mobilize in such a way. Right! So, um, that was my main, that was sort of always the main point of, stop speaking about students and abstractions right outside the door. Why don't we go talk to them? Why don't we go take their temperature? Why don't we say “hi”? Why don't we ask them about what they would want? How can we even, like how dare we presume to make decisions upon them without asking their input? Which is why I've always said that I'm not going to make any huge sweeping decisions without consulting students first. Right. Because how can I? What mandate do I have for that? I don't have one. 2327 Thoughts from First Black SGA President So I'm hoping that, and this is sort of, you know, I'm hoping that folks-- with the historic nature of my election, but as well as the historic nature of the General Assembly, I'm looking at the numbers now. And I can confirm this later. But we have-- we have a very diverse General Assembly this year, and I'm very excited to see that. I'm very, very excited to see in there younger folks, first-years and second-years, you know.And that's great to see because I am only going to be here for one more year, so someone else has got to take up the mantle, you know someone, someone has to continue some of the work that we're going to do. Right. So. I'm hoping and I'm working very hard, you know, on getting SGA to really turn the corner here, and I think, if I say so, with the historic nature of my election, I hope folks see me and they say I hope they say, “OK, maybe this is a place where I can go, where Zaire might help us.” And this is a place for students to voice their concerns and to have-- to have space with each other. So we're working on it. 2482 Reflections on Retention of Black Faculty &amp ; Students HP: For people of color. And the reason why it stuck out to me [is] because that is something that I've heard from students about the college in general and something that I've heard from faculty of color. Muhlenberg is really good at getting people and extremely bad at keeping them. So with that being said, even though I can tell, I'm not going to assume. Do you agree or disagree? And if so, I guess you can kind of explain why would you-- kind of already have? And also, if there are any things that you think, like, Muhlenberg could put in place or help to kind of, like, fix those things? 2768 Supporting Zero Tolerance For Everyone But I think that Muhlenberg could do a better job bringing folks in and making sure that they are intentional and they are actually sticking to their word when they say they're going to do things. And so that means that if you have a professor who is saying racist, homophobic, transphobic, whatever kind of phobic things, well, I don't care if they're tenured or not. You hold hearings, you talk to the Board of Trustees, you talk to whoever you need to talk to to ensure that that person is either booted or, you know, that some sort of consequence or punishment. Because what I've seen or at least what I've heard, what I've heard is that there is none. There is none for any professor who says some sort of something out of pocket and it's well-- and you wonder why folks are leaving. If you don't value them, if you don't trust them, if you don't give them the tools and resources that they need in order to keep themselves in order to support others, but also keep themselves sort of sane and on the path, what do you think they're going to do, they're going to go somewhere that does, they're going to go somewhere that is serious, that cracks down on some of this shit, doesn't tolerate it. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for some of this bullshit, but there isn't. It's-- oh, well, we've got to investigate it and see what comes out of that. So I don't know, I would have to, I-- honestly, and in the nicest of terms, I don't have much intelligence to speak on that issue, but I would love to see the numbers and I'm sure the numbers would be quite revealing. 2891 Arguments Against Incrementalism &amp ; Bureaucrat-ese HP: Yeah, I definitely agree a lot of the work that I'm kind of doing is kind of like comparing, I guess, the demands over the years to try to see how much progression we've actually had and kind of how much Muhlenberg has agreed to and promised to follow through and or not followed through on. So, for example, things like the BSA house that we're getting, that was a demand that was made fifty years ago by Diane Williams, who [we] renamed the House after-- in the Association of Black Collegiates. That was then approved fifty years ago, but never happened. So with that, I wanted to ask you, what are some of, if you can remember, of course, from the from you guys' protest, what were some of the demands that you proposed? I guess, kind of like, what was the follow-through on that? And with these interviews, I'm trying to, I guess, compose another list of demands with the students that I interview. So if there is anything, even if this is some of the same ones, because they weren't met before. And yeah, I'm kind of just going to use all of that to come to, like, compare over the years with the ones from fifty years ago, the ones from the faculty letter in June 2020, kind of just line them up next to each other. 3093 Argument for Transparency Another thing that we wanted to work on was having I think it was some sort of database. And I can't for the life of me remember. But, you know, who would know, uh, [unclear] would know. But for the life of me, it was like a database. And I don't remember if it was like a historical record of incidents or things and how they were handled. But it was a database of something I just don't remember. But I think we wanted to give students access. It was meant to be transparency. That's what it was about, because one of the arguments that we had was you say you're investigating it and we hear nothing. Right. So I think it was a way to, to check in with where investigations are in progress, to check in, like in a way that wouldn’t expose, you know, the folks involved in a particular incident, but just enough information to know that this was being handled. I think that, that might have been about transparency. And so I don't know where that's at now in terms of completion or getting data or things like that. But they wanted, they wanted a few different databases, actually, I remember, and I can't remember what every single one of them had or what they were supposed to accomplish or do. But yeah. 3179 Rationale for Increased Funding for Office of Multicultural Life In terms of new demands. I mean, I would say, I would say something that I know I would love to see is if OML had a fully functioning staff. I think that obviously. I would love to, you know, we just got this seven point five million dollar building that we're building and and listen, I'm excited about it. I think it's cool, like yippee. I won't be here when it goes up. But, you know, I was at the groundbreaking of that ceremony and I researched it and I was like, well, this is a pretty cool building. This is going to be pretty neat. Wow. I'm excited. But I think, you know, OML needs to be, I don't know, what's the word, like sixty times bigger? I think it needs to have a fully functioning staff of folks of, not just students, but of staff members who are there to help, to support, you know, to support Robin or whoever [is] the director of OML. I would love to see that happen. And that's something that I know folks have been trying to get for a long time and look just-- and I understand that the money that the alumnus gave us has to go to, you know, whatever it is that they want. Right. So it has to be the building. 3518 Thoughts about the Future for Students of Color HP: It's nothing crazy. Just what do you see for the future students of color at Muhlenberg? And if you could say anything to them, leave any parting words or, you're not leaving, I guess, any advice or anything like that? ZC: The future... I think the future is a lot-- again, take this with a grain of salt, I am an optimist. The future is a lot brighter. I think it's going to get better. I think some of the challenges that you may face, past years have faced, and I would say don't-- that can be daunting, but don't let it, you know, stray you from your purpose or your goal of trying to create change. And don't be afraid. I would say don't be afraid to, you know, think. Don't be afraid to speak your mind on some of these things. In some cases, you may feel that you are the minority or you are the only person in the room who's bringing this to the table. That perspective is truly needed. So make sure that they-- you keep doing that and keep pushing on that. 3752 Closing Challenges So I'm looking at you, Hailey, to do better than, you know, let's say Robin or I. You know, it's funny, Rob and I were talking and we were like, yeah, we've got one more year. You know, we're looking towards, towards you and we're looking towards Kelsie and we're looking towards, you know, Britney and all of-- and younger folks and Gio, you know, Josiah, and all of you and Matt and Ty and all of you to really pick up the torch because we can't stay here forever. So, you know, in a way, you know, it's going, nowhere, I've got a year left, so I still do a little bit of work here before I go, but rest assured that someone is going to have to pick it up. And you know, if not you, then who? Right. MovingImage Muhlenberg College senior Zaire Carter '22 reflects on his growth as a young activist and student using noteworthy campus events as examples. One of his capstone events, being elected as the first Black student body president, informs the wisdom of his observations and actions. ZAIRE CARTERJUNE 25, 2021 ZAIRE CARTER: Let&#039 ; s get my water bottle over-- I can still hear you when I take off my headphones, so don&#039 ; t worry. HAILEY PETRUS: OK. My name is Hailey Petrus, and I&#039 ; m here with Zaire Carter to talk about your experiences at Muhlenberg College. Our goal is to collect oral histories of people&#039 ; s unique experiences during their years as a student, to preserve the information of future generations to access ; the oral histories are an integral part of our course: &quot ; The History of Diversity and Inclusion at Muhlenberg College.&quot ; We are meeting on Zoom on June 25th, 2021. Thank you so much for your willingness to speak with us today. To start, can you please state your full name and spell it for me? ZC: Zaire Carter, that&#039 ; s Z-A-I-R-E, Carter, C-A-R-T-E-R. HP: Will you please share the year you plan to graduate from Muhlenberg? ZC: 2022. HP: OK, do you consent to this interview today? ZC: I do. HP: Do you consent to having this interview transcribed, digitized, and made publicly available online and searchable formats? ZC: I do. HP: Do you consent to having this interview be stored in the archives of Muhlenberg College? ZC: I do. HP: Do you consent to Muhlenberg College and researchers using your interview for educational purposes and other formats, including films, articles, websites, presentations and other formats? ZC: I do. HP: Do you understand that you&#039 ; re not receiving any monetary compensation for your time today and you&#039 ; re not required to participate from your college? ZC: I don&#039 ; t. I&#039 ; m sorry. I&#039 ; m--I&#039 ; m joking. I&#039 ; m joking! I do, I do. HP: I knew you were going to do that. OK, so OK. So we&#039 ; re just going to start from, I guess, kind of, you&#039 ; re going into your senior year...about three years ago, so how you became interested in and sought out even being a part of the college experience? What were your major influences and how did you know that you wanted to attend Muhlenberg? ZC: That was like, three questions. OK, so let&#039 ; s try to unpack some of this a little bit here. So I think I became-- first of all, there was no discussion in my house about not going to college. It was very clear that I was, I needed to go to college and we needed to figure out an affordable way to make it happen. That wouldn&#039 ; t leave my mom sort of in the-- neck deep in debt and taking out loans, which actually, I guess me, neck deep because I&#039 ; ll clearly be, you know, taking on the loans and things like that. So an affordable way was always the pathway forward. And then you have to remember, I&#039 ; m a theater major. So you go through the theater, the typical stressful theater, a high school theater student audition process, in which case you&#039 ; re traveling to many schools all around, you know, sometimes all around the country. I didn&#039 ; t have the luxury to do that. So I stayed relatively close, you know, on the East Coast. Right. New York City, New York State, Pennsylvania, even some schools in New Jersey. But I stayed relatively close. And honestly, Muhlenberg was the-- was the-- recommended to me by my theater, sort of, program director for the school that I went to. And he said I should check it out. And I did. And I liked what-- I liked what I saw. I had a really good audition, I sat in on a class, so it felt really good. And at the time it was between Muhlenberg and Pace University...Pace University. I was very excited to audition there and I did. And I had a wonderful, wonderful audition there. However, in terms of finances, when we looked at-- when we crunched the numbers and you receive the financial aid that you&#039 ; re going to get and you&#039 ; ve got to make your call, Muhlenberg was just not only the better bet, but the safest bet because of their willingness to understand my financial situation and to help with that. And I think that&#039 ; s probably why a lot of students might even come to Muhlenberg in many ways, is-- and maybe this is a testament to how much they want you as the students, as, well, me too, I&#039 ; m still a student. But also, you know, it really helps when you get your financial aid package and it&#039 ; s clear that they really want you. So, that&#039 ; s how I sort of became interested and that&#039 ; s how I really chose Muhlenberg. And I do think it was honestly the right choice. I&#039 ; m not a huge-- Pace University is in Manhattan, right, so it&#039 ; s pretty-- and don&#039 ; t get me wrong, I&#039 ; m a busy person, but I don&#039 ; t know if I could live in the city, for an extended period of time, although I think I can try, but I think we made, I think we made the right choice in terms of theater and political science and wouldn&#039 ; t have been able to major in political science had I went to Pace University. I wouldn&#039 ; t have been able to sort of get the small school feel that I was sort of hoping for. And I wouldn&#039 ; t have had the ability to take different classes that although I may have relatively no interest in it, still good sort of background knowledge to get. So I think Muhlenberg was the right choice for me at the time, and I stand back, three years ago, I think we made the right choice and, you know, the opportunities that I and students have been given, I think have been pretty remarkable. I think the students themselves are rather bright and intelligent and smart, and they&#039 ; re rather driven and so, that was very refreshing. That was very, very, very refreshing and intimidating, I guess, as a first-year to see. Wondering where you fit in and all of that, but-- Yeah, I guess I would say that. HP: OK, so with that, can you describe for me, kind of like what it was like entering Muhlenberg, so like the climate, what it was like for you, like when you first arrived on campus, basically, kind of like I guess your freshman year, your beginning. What was the climate like, how did it make you feel, things like that, like, what happened? ZC: Well so you know, I came in as an EL [Emerging Leader], so the first week was like, stupendous. I mean, it was great. We got to-- we had games every night. We did something. We hung out. We, you know, I met a lot of new people, folks who have graduated now. And we had a lot of fun that first week and we had our FYS classes, in which case it was just ELs. Right. And that was the only class that we had throughout that semester, that was, again, a class that we could come back to where it was just us. And that was really comforting to have. It wasn&#039 ; t a bit of a culture shock to me, as some-- as opposed to some of my other friends and ELs in terms of the predominantly white institution. There is something to say that you pretty much-- I have operated in predominantly white spaces before, and I think you get the hang of it after a while. There is a bit of a code switching that ensues and happens. But that&#039 ; s not how it happened for all of the ELs. Some of them were really culture shocked coming from areas where, primarily a sort of dominant is-- is people that look like, you know, Black, Hispanic, Asian, you know, and where in some communities where white people are a minority, right. Where white people are the sort of small percentage in those areas. And coming here, they really were sort of culture shocked by all of the whiteness, I guess. By all of that, and that is-- that was a difficult transition for them to make and I saw that. And so that, that would happen throughout the year and then I think the climate was pretty OK, first semester, from what I remember, I think it was pretty OK for me, just trying to get through the classes and things like that. It was, it was a bit of an adjustment handling that workload. I was also in a Main Stage [theatre performance] at the time. So that was the first time I had been in, like, a college level production, in which case, you know, the schedule is like 7 to 11, six days a week. And that was a bit daunting. But it wasn&#039 ; t until, I believe, second semester when we had that enormous protest that happened out of-- right outside of the LSC [Life Sports Center] and that really sparked something. And that was on, oh, crap, it was on some Admissions-- I think it was like admitted students or something like that it was some, it was a big day for Muhlenberg College and there was a protest right outside the LSC, and I really, I don&#039 ; t have-- I can tell you it meant one thing and you could ask someone else and it meant something else to them. Some people were there because they were tired of the treatment that students, the Black and brown students, had been given, students of color had been given on campus. Some were there because they were linked or tied to a specific incident that happened around that time. And I&#039 ; m sure others were there for other reasons and I could go down the list, but the point that I&#039 ; m making is that it happened and I was-- and those students, a good handful, a handful, a half of us, I guess, met with college leadership and the administration in Multicultural Life [Center], and we sat down and we talked and that meeting had to go on for like three hours ; three-- three and a half hours. It was the longest meeting. And for the first time, I didn&#039 ; t say anything. And I like saying things, but I didn&#039 ; t say anything. And then I just sort of watched and observed, and it was really because I was a first year at the time, I really wasn&#039 ; t someone who could speak heavily on the cumulative effects of how Black and brown students or how students of color had been treated. I barely had a semester under my belt, actually, that&#039 ; s all I had under my belt, you know, so I was really observing the upperclassmen and what they were talking about, and it was an honor to be in that meeting. We sort of split up in some of the committees and we did some work with some of our group members working with certain things that we had wanted to get done. And it was-- so that was my first encounter with any kind of social justice or any kind of push for change administratively at Muhlenberg College. And that was my first introduction to seeing, I guess pretty boldly the, the-- that&#039 ; s not the word I&#039 ; m looking for-- seeing the frustration and the anger and the disappointment that, that students, Black and brown students specifically, truly felt on campus. And so when that happened, it was sort of like, OK, maybe I&#039 ; ve only been here for a semester and a half, so, I guess there&#039 ; s a little bit more learning to do about the history of Muhlenberg and how it has acted sort of historically in regards and how it&#039 ; s treated some of its marginalized students. But yeah, I was the first-year. HP: OK, so with that, since you&#039 ; ve been here, what type of social and extracurricular activities have you joined at Muhlenberg and what are some of your more memorable moments over your last three years of whether they be good or bad that kind of have made up your experience so far? ZC: Yeah. So in terms of, like, the extracurricular stuff, I mean, the list can go on, but, you know, I&#039 ; m an RA [Resident Advisor] and I&#039 ; m going to be in HD [??] in the fall or I guess in August, so summer, whatever. You know, EL, you know, tour guide and tutor and Student Conduct Advisor and Men of Color Network president. And, you know, I joined ASA [??]and I joined Student Government. And I think I&#039 ; m the president. I&#039 ; m not entirely sure. And that was-- that was a bit of a flag stop. So that obviously was a part of student government when I got here and I stuck with it. And, you know, currently the president of the student body and I&#039 ; m pretty involved in admissions work and also helping the theater department with, sort of, recruitment efforts and things like that, you know, doing the Sedehi Diversity project as an ensemble member at first and then directing it. So being the director and ensemble member of that. So, in terms of extracurriculars, the list could honestly continue for days, but, in terms of some of the more memorable moments, I would say, like that conversation I was talking about, that three hour conversation. That was a memorable moment for me in my first year. I&#039 ; m trying to pick up moments from each year. And then I think my second year, a memorable moment, oh my God, my sophomore year. Yeah, a memorable moment was honestly when we all got the email that we had to go home. That was [loud exhalation]. That was something else, that was like a lot to sort of grapple with. And then I would say this past year was definitely the election. That was a lot of, just a lot of fun with the campaign. And then, you know, that day and the days after that, you know, felt-- feeling so much love and support and energy from folks, including you. So that is always, that was always great. But I also loved the shows that I did. When I was there, first year, we did, I did--I did Brigadoon. But I also did 21 Jump Street. And then in the summer I had my first, it was the first time I was ever paid for theater was at Muhlenberg College. It was SMT, the Summer Music Theater. I got cast as Twigg in Bring It On, and so that was such a fun experience. And doing A Raisin in the Sun was such a memorable moment. So I&#039 ; ve got a few memorable things. I mean, directing SDP [Sedehi Diversity Project], that&#039 ; s a memorable-- so you&#039 ; ve got a lot of memorable things here. So with some of like the, you know, like some of the stress and anxiety and anxiousness that comes with being a Muhlenberg student, I think there are some rather-- rather powerful moments that are there because you have such a great support of friends and folks around you who are going to, to help you through some of these things. So. HP: Thank you. I know that you have a couple of very unique positions, so like you&#039 ; ve been the director of SDP, you&#039 ; re on SGA for many years and now you are the first Black president of our student government. So kind of like with that, I feel like you have a kind of unique perspective on Muhlenberg and Muhlenberg&#039 ; s, I guess, racial climate in a way. So, I guess could you kind of talk a little bit about that, like what things you had to, like, put into SDP for those things that we had to watch, that you had to show the school and also, I guess, some of the struggles you had with that being on SGA or even you&#039 ; re in charge of like a lot of things, being an RA, being, being Zaire, on Muhlenberg&#039 ; s campus. ZC: It&#039 ; s quite a ride, I&#039 ; ll tell you, not as interesting as you might think, but in regards to SDP, I think as an ensemble member, it was just me, that was my really bigger first encounter with, right, because after the protest happened and we met with administration and we sort of created guidelines and plans and things to help some of the-- some of the demands that we have had. After that exposure, was SDP, in which case, as an ensemble member, I&#039 ; m interviewing a lot of people. Right. And you have to for us to be interviewing folks. You&#039 ; re transcribing those interviews and using the interviews in the show, right, so you&#039 ; re going to use the verbatim words, you&#039 ; re going to put them in a show, you&#039 ; re going to put them in the show in a way that flows make sense, sends a message, has a theme, you know, yada, yada, yada. But in terms of interviewing, that was my first time sort of on the ground, I guess you would say, talking to students, faculty, staff, but really students about what they thought about Muhlenberg. And it was really great because I, I was, I interviewed a lot of upperclassmen. So folks who were either on the way out or who were coming up to their senior year, and they&#039 ; re more, I guess you could characterize it as cynical in a way, but they&#039 ; re more realistic and grounded approach to Muhlenberg, and I guess change at Muhlenberg in terms of, you know, race or ethnicity or, you know, specifically targeting Black and brown folks, you know, investigations around folks saying the N-word on, you know, on campus. Those are the things that were like, &quot ; I don&#039 ; t know how you guys are going to change those things.&quot ; And, you know, we tried and we pushed it a little bit forward and it didn&#039 ; t seem to go much, you know, anywhere. So their view, I think, was definitely more cynical. And I hope that&#039 ; s a fair characterization, if not, you know, yell at me. But I thought it was. And me being an optimist at heart, it was always sort of like, well, we&#039 ; ve got to stay in the game. We&#039 ; ve got to keep fighting. And we&#039 ; ve got to keep pushing. And we&#039 ; ve got to keep demanding more. And we&#039 ; ve got to keep saying that we&#039 ; re not going to tolerate this or we need this or whatever it is. And to see those two ideologies, because it&#039 ; s funny, the thing about the protest is that not everybody, you know, not everyone can go. But when-- when we interviewed, we actually interviewed about what folks thought about the protest and it was clear that some of the first-years and sophomores were like, yeah, boom, stick it to them, you know, F-you, this and that. Let&#039 ; s show it. And to the credit of the folks, I&#039 ; m not going to take credit for the planning of this event that went on, I wasn&#039 ; t a part of that. And I want to give credit to all of those folks, but they chose a spectacular day. I mean, they chose a prime-- I mean, it was intentional that they chose that specific day. And in terms of advocacy, it was-- and this is just me, this is me speaking as a political scientist. It was, I think, a pretty brilliant form of advocacy. But, but anyway, so-- so the underclassmen, like the first-years, sophomores, would be like, let&#039 ; s go. Let&#039 ; s stick it to them. And then some of the upperclassmen would be saying, like, I don&#039 ; t really see the point. I mean, I understand where they&#039 ; re coming from. But I don&#039 ; t think this is going to work. And their view was definitely more world-weary. It was more-- we had been around the block. We&#039 ; ve been here for a while. I was in your shoes just two years ago or a year ago or three years ago. And I&#039 ; m telling you, you&#039 ; re wasting your breath. Right. So there was that sort of clash of ideology that was hard to grapple with, I think, in SDP, and what we really tried to do (and this is SDP &#039 ; 19 not &#039 ; 20, I don&#039 ; t get to &#039 ; 20, cause that&#039 ; s the one I directed) but we really tried to showcase and-- and make sure that we put a-- that we put those multiple different perspectives at the table when we talked about the protest in the show. Right. So we wanted-- so we got folks saying &quot ; it was great!&quot ; &quot ; I didn&#039 ; t really see a point of it.&quot ; &quot ; Why did it happen?&quot ; &quot ; We need to do this more.&quot ; Right, so we wanted all of that so that it gave folks a sort of...a really bird&#039 ; s-eye view, sort of surface level perspective of that there were different sort of takeaways from the protests. So that was my first encounter with dealing with race and ethnicity in a way that, you know, students had felt discriminated against or unfairly treated or things like that. And that was a real honor to be a part of. And then flash forward to SDP &#039 ; 20, the one I directed in the fall, when we did the sort of virtual performance where we did over one hundred interviews and we-- everyone wanted to talk about Covid,and then you&#039 ; ve got the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. So everyone wanted to talk about the death of George Floyd and the death of Breonna Taylor and what Muhlenberg was doing or not doing, should I say. Right. And then the Blue Lives Matter masks incident happens in the Berg bookstore, which to Muhlenberg&#039 ; s credit, I was on that committee, they took them down right away. I will say I was on that committee with a few other folks. And some of the way-- the way that it was handled in some cases with follow up and sort of, you know-- let&#039 ; s just say this, I was in some of these meetings and folks said that they were going to do things and when reached out about if they were going to do them, at the last minute they just said they weren&#039 ; t going to do it. There was a huge lack of-- you know this right? There is a huge-- you know exactly what we&#039 ; re talking about, right? So I don&#039 ; t want to name names or anything, but that was disheartening to me that, you know, you&#039 ; re told to follow the proper channels. You&#039 ; re told to bug people. You&#039 ; re told to keep sending the emails and keep bugging us and hold our feet to the fire. And then when we do, we still get nothing, right? We get &quot ; Sorry, I was swamped&quot ; and it&#039 ; s like, I don&#039 ; t-- and this isn&#039 ; t to say that it was squarely on one person I actually don&#039 ; t blame-- I&#039 ; ll just say her name-- I don&#039 ; t blame Dean Gulati wholeheartedly, I truly think that-- you know who exactly-- I think that she should have taken some initiative and reached out and stepped up in some major ways and this isn&#039 ; t to force her to do anything, but I really think she should have reached out maybe two-and-a-half, three months sooner. But, anyway, I think, sort of, Dean Gulati kind of just &quot ; got stuck&quot ; with delivering the bad news, as well with Robin [Riley-Casey]. Not that I think she&#039 ; s completely absolved and she did-- she did acknowledge her-- her failure to reach back out and to answer the emails, and I&#039 ; m grateful for that, but I really think it was more on the other individual, but anyway, I&#039 ; m getting into context and specific situations that are between us and this is going to be used for archival purposes, no one&#039 ; s going to know what the hell I&#039 ; m talking about. But that was, again, another introduction, or not really, that was just me getting a little deeper into the waters. And I had done SDP, I&#039 ; d spoken to students a little bit about this and then, you know, I&#039 ; m in SDP &#039 ; 20 with this unprecedented show that&#039 ; s happening during a global pandemic. It&#039 ; s because it was really weird, because when the world was seeming to try to close itself down and stop traffic and stop all of this, socially the world was amping up in ways that I couldn&#039 ; t imagine. And you saw this huge outpour of folks, you know, Black Lives Matter. And then the black square thing happened and it&#039 ; s like, all of all of this and that dissipates, though, it doesn&#039 ; t stay here the whole time, so SDP was another introduction to that, and so we wanted to ensure that in &#039 ; 20 that we were ensuring number one, yeah, we can talk about Covid, but we didn&#039 ; t want Covid to dominate the story completely. But we couldn&#039 ; t ignore it and we could ignore what was happening with Black Lives Matter either. And so we included it in the show. And for the first time, we actually included, you know, like graphics and videos and news clips of what was happening in the world at the time. And I think that was probably one of the best parts of SDP, is that it is so-- it is so able to take the heartbeat of what students are thinking and what they&#039 ; re feeling on campus. And it&#039 ; s a great introduction if you want to see things from outside your lens. So, it was always a great opportunity to be a part of that, and so we really wanted to include everything we possibly could. And, you know, I remember receiving an email from someone ; I won&#039 ; t name their names, but they were telling me that after they had seen SDP, they didn&#039 ; t think it hit its mark.They didn&#039 ; t think it did a good job of showcasing, you know, new things and that, you know, a lot of the things that they had heard in the show that they had heard before in previous SDPs, and I remember going off, I was so pissed. I was so pissed because I was like, well, you know, first of all, the very nature of SDP is like-- to say that it didn&#039 ; t hit its mark, it is absolutely ridiculous. The very existence of this show is hitting its mark, right, the very idea that we can do a show like this that brings a diversity of folks together to do a show is already hitting its mark because we&#039 ; re already showcasing voices that usually aren&#039 ; t heard or part of the conversation. So to say that it didn&#039 ; t hit its mark is completely ludicrous and you should get educated on that. But number two, saying that-- this person was saying that &quot ; we didn&#039 ; t feel that there was anything new.&quot ; And I was like, first of all, I guess Covid was a part of-- was a part of all the other SDPs? But like, but anyway, this idea for, I think they called it &quot ; new content,&quot ; and I got so upset because I was like, I&#039 ; m sorry, this isn&#039 ; t a Game Stop. This isn&#039 ; t a shoe store. We don&#039 ; t drop new content. We&#039 ; re not a SoundCloud. What do you mean new content? You want-- you want new forms of discrimination. Is that what you want? Is that, I&#039 ; m sorry, but-- and this is why I got so upset, and this is why I think this person really didn&#039 ; t grasp, and they were really speaking from a space, we say it all the time, they were really, truly speaking from a space of privilege, is-- I am hearing stories from people. And number one, if some of these experiences are still happening, like-- if, let&#039 ; s say five years ago or let&#039 ; s say an SDP 2015, they were talking about, you know, students, white students saying the N-word on campus. And let&#039 ; s say that has gone through 2016, &#039 ; 17, &#039 ; 18, &#039 ; 19, &#039 ; 20. If that&#039 ; s still happening, maybe that should tell you something about what isn&#039 ; t changing. Right, because you&#039 ; re interviewing, for the most part, you&#039 ; re interviewing some of-- you&#039 ; re going to interview new folks. Right? You&#039 ; re going to get a new pool of folks to interview. A new class comes in. You&#039 ; re going to reach out to different folks. You&#039 ; re going to-- you&#039 ; re going to constantly expand. And so if you&#039 ; re upset that some of the things that you&#039 ; re hearing are the same as you heard last year, well, maybe that should tell you something about what hasn&#039 ; t been done. Right. So that is, that was again, some frustration on my part that I&#039 ; m sort of projecting onto you. I don&#039 ; t mean to, but that is again, right, it shows that, all right, there&#039 ; s definitely discrepancy. Folks who say that this white privilege thing doesn&#039 ; t exist, it totally does. It totally does. And to say that it doesn&#039 ; t is clearly, I think, saying it&#039 ; s... you&#039 ; re coming from a lens of not understanding and never will you walk a day in the life of, say, a Black man or a Black woman, but you clearly don&#039 ; t grasp it. But, so that was my, like, sort of bigger introduction, especially during a time when the social-- there was like a large, enormous amount of social unrest. So that was gripping and gripping in a way that I wanted to tackle it and do it right, but really intimidating me in a way of I didn&#039 ; t want to do it wrong and I didn&#039 ; t want-- I wanted the show to succeed and I wanted the voices that we had interviewed to be in the spotlight. So that was that. And then in regards to SGA, oh, boy, SGA, and I&#039 ; ll be quick about this because I took up a lot of time on that first part of the answer, but SGA, I think, fundamentally is changing. And I&#039 ; m doing my very best to change it. And I&#039 ; m not taking-- I&#039 ; m not taking no for an answer on some of this stuff. And I think some of the biggest challenges that SGA has always had is they are too by- the-book. They&#039 ; re too distant, they&#039 ; re too far, far-- well I just said distant. They&#039 ; re not representative of the student body. They are-- they really speak in abstractions when we talk about the student body. Right. And for example, you know, I think that, that&#039 ; s been one of its major issues is that it tries historically, I felt that. [HP sneezes] Bless you. Bless you again. That SGA has tried to make decisions on behalf of the student body without really ever knowing the student body, without ever being with them and talking with them and being a part of that experience. I&#039 ; ve always said, you know, if you want to be the student body president, you have to have a relationship with students. And this couldn&#039 ; t have just started yesterday. It has to be a pretty long standing relationship with folks. You&#039 ; ve got to have connections with the community. You&#039 ; ve got to, you&#039 ; ve got to be a student with them to reach out and talk to them. And it&#039 ; s in the name: Student Body President. So, if you&#039 ; re not one with the student body or care for their input or opinion, well, then you shouldn&#039 ; t be president. And so I think what SGA has done historically is speak about the student body in abstractions and tries to make decisions, tries to make decisions for the student body without truly consulting them, like they&#039 ; ll say, &quot ; well, I think students would want this and I think students would want this.&quot ; It&#039 ; s like, well, why are we wondering, you know, why are we speculating? Why are we theorizing about what students would want when we can go out and ask? You know, and that was one of the main-- that was one of my main points when I was advocating for this new election change, where it was no longer internal elections. It was all sort of external to the students. Right? What did I do? I went out and I just talked to folks and we got nearly what I think it was like nearly two hundred or maybe nearly two fifty, if not so, probably a little over two hundred, you know, students in the course of, you know, four hours. So, even that was just me imagining if all of SGA could mobilize in such a way. Right! So, um, that was my main, that was sort of always the main point of, stop speaking about students and abstractions right outside the door. Why don&#039 ; t we go talk to them? Why don&#039 ; t we go take their temperature? Why don&#039 ; t we say &quot ; hi&quot ; ? Why don&#039 ; t we ask them about what they would want? How can we even, like how dare we presume to make decisions upon them without asking their input? Which is why I&#039 ; ve always said that I&#039 ; m not going to make any huge sweeping decisions without consulting students first. Right. Because how can I? What mandate do I have for that? I don&#039 ; t have one. So I think SGA, that was a huge issue, I thought with SGA, and then additionally with the lack of representation. I mean, it&#039 ; s a predominantly white body and that&#039 ; s no secret. And so what would happen is, at least when I was, you know, a first-year here, I joined SGA and I know why it&#039 ; s a predominantly white body. It&#039 ; s because historically SGA hasn&#039 ; t centered those voices, hasn&#039 ; t reached out to, you know, students of color particularly well. And then when students of color do join, right, they either feel like they&#039 ; re not doing any good work or their voice doesn&#039 ; t really-- doesn&#039 ; t really matter. So they leave. When I first joined, I remember upperclassmen telling me, you know, they don&#039 ; t care about us and they don&#039 ; t do anything. They have so much power and they keep it to themselves, so, what I was hearing is that students of color are joining, but they&#039 ; re leaving, so the retention is terrible. So that&#039 ; s another issue that they have. So I&#039 ; m hoping that, and this is sort of, you know, I&#039 ; m hoping that folks-- with the historic nature of my election, but as well as the historic nature of the General Assembly, I&#039 ; m looking at the numbers now. And I can confirm this later. But we have-- we have a very diverse General Assembly this year, and I&#039 ; m very excited to see that. I&#039 ; m very, very excited to see in there younger folks, first-years and second-years, you know.And that&#039 ; s great to see because I am only going to be here for one more year, so someone else has got to take up the mantle, you know someone, someone has to continue some of the work that we&#039 ; re going to do. Right. So. I&#039 ; m hoping and I&#039 ; m working very hard, you know, on getting SGA to really turn the corner here, and I think, if I say so, with the historic nature of my election, I hope folks see me and they say I hope they say, &quot ; OK, maybe this is a place where I can go, where Zaire might help us.&quot ; And this is a place for students to voice their concerns and to have-- to have space with each other. So we&#039 ; re working on it. We&#039 ; re going to get everybody trained on DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion], IGD [intergroup dialogue] training. I made folks that promise and we&#039 ; re going to get it done this August. We&#039 ; re going to focus on the laundry situation. Right. We&#039 ; re going to-- we&#039 ; re going to focus on getting closer to the student body, having more events and things like that, making sure that we&#039 ; re spending all of our money on students, and things that they want, so I&#039 ; m excited. We&#039 ; ve already done a lot of work this summer and we have a meeting this Sunday, so more to come on that, but that gives you, I hope, a brief overlay of of sort of my-- my true encounter with Muhlenberg in terms of race and ethnicity or just it&#039 ; s the history of it a little bit. HP: Um, you said something very, well, you said a lot of things, the one that really stuck out to me was what you said about SGA, basically kind of like the retention rate. ZC: Yeah. HP: For people of color. And the reason why it stuck out to me [is] because that is something that I&#039 ; ve heard from students about the college in general and something that I&#039 ; ve heard from faculty of color. Muhlenberg is really good at getting people and extremely bad at keeping them. So with that being said, even though I can tell, I&#039 ; m not going to assume. Do you agree or disagree? And if so, I guess you can kind of explain why would you-- kind of already have? And also, if there are any things that you think, like, Muhlenberg could put in place or help to kind of, like, fix those things? ZC: Yeah, I completely agree. I don&#039 ; t know the specific figures on how many students of color leave after the first semester or the first year, what have you. But I do know that there is, at least on the terms of the faculty side of faculty and staff side, that professors will come in, they&#039 ; ll get these professors and they&#039 ; ll stay for two or three years and then they&#039 ; ll head out. You know, my FYS professor, Dr. Sanchez, she left and she&#039 ; s-- and it was very clear that, you know, she sort of told us if she got an opportunity elsewhere, but also she wasn&#039 ; t a huge fan of the institution of the administration. She wasn&#039 ; t a fan of some of the things that they were doing. And so, it&#039 ; s clear that they, it&#039 ; s difficult for them to keep faculty and staff of color here and-- and in terms of ways that they could, I guess, alleviate some, they have to, I don&#039 ; t know, develop systems or something to to alleviate some of their stress and the pressure that they&#039 ; re under and making sure that they&#039 ; re they&#039 ; re also sort of well kept and supported, because if you think that the number of students of color on campus is small, well, look at the numbers of, you know, faculty and staff of color, that number is way smaller. And imagine that, that community of folks that comes and goes, really. Kudos to-- I&#039 ; m so glad that Brooke Vick is here. She is-- she&#039 ; s phenomenal, she&#039 ; s only been here three years and same as me, we came in together, Dr. Vick and I. Kudos to Robin [Riley-Casey] for staying here for as long as she has. I don&#039 ; t know how long Dr. Kucik has been here, but, but I don&#039 ; t know if it&#039 ; s been too long. Has it? I&#039 ; m not entirely sure, but I don&#039 ; t think it&#039 ; s more than five years. Right. So these are relatively-- folks who are relatively-- thank God that Tina from financial aid stays here. I don&#039 ; t know what the hell we&#039 ; d do without her. Right. But these are just a few, a few folks. And they are almost in some ways, I believe, unspoken rules as they are, you know, tasked with supporting their students no matter if you&#039 ; re in financial aid or Robin and OML. Right. But they are tasked with really supporting our students of color and especially Black and brown students. And that is a lot of stress and pressure to be under. And so you have to compensate people for the work that they&#039 ; re doing. They do, I mean, and I guess this gets to a bigger issue of, you know, educators and professors need to get paid more, and tenured. Well, don&#039 ; t even get me started on tenure, but it&#039 ; s whatever, anyway. Point that I&#039 ; m trying to make is that I think there needs to be some sort of system that compensates and encourages faculty of color to stay here because they aren&#039 ; t being incentivized enough. And clearly they are being valued enough by our community. We can keep saying and keep saying and keep saying it. But for the work that they&#039 ; re doing, I would imagine that the compensation is, the work far outweighs compensation. And I guess that&#039 ; s something that happens in a lot of jobs, especially if you&#039 ; re an educator. But I think that Muhlenberg could do a better job bringing folks in and making sure that they are intentional and they are actually sticking to their word when they say they&#039 ; re going to do things. And so that means that if you have a professor who is saying racist, homophobic, transphobic, whatever kind of phobic things, well, I don&#039 ; t care if they&#039 ; re tenured or not. You hold hearings, you talk to the Board of Trustees, you talk to whoever you need to talk to to ensure that that person is either booted or, you know, that some sort of consequence or punishment. Because what I&#039 ; ve seen or at least what I&#039 ; ve heard, what I&#039 ; ve heard is that there is none. There is none for any professor who says some sort of something out of pocket and it&#039 ; s well-- and you wonder why folks are leaving. If you don&#039 ; t value them, if you don&#039 ; t trust them, if you don&#039 ; t give them the tools and resources that they need in order to keep themselves in order to support others, but also keep themselves sort of sane and on the path, what do you think they&#039 ; re going to do, they&#039 ; re going to go somewhere that does, they&#039 ; re going to go somewhere that is serious, that cracks down on some of this shit, doesn&#039 ; t tolerate it. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for some of this bullshit, but there isn&#039 ; t. It&#039 ; s-- oh, well, we&#039 ; ve got to investigate it and see what comes out of that. So I don&#039 ; t know, I would have to, I-- honestly, and in the nicest of terms, I don&#039 ; t have much intelligence to speak on that issue, but I would love to see the numbers and I&#039 ; m sure the numbers would be quite revealing. HP: Yeah, I definitely agree a lot of the work that I&#039 ; m kind of doing is kind of like comparing, I guess, the demands over the years to try to see how much progression we&#039 ; ve actually had and kind of how much Muhlenberg has agreed to and promised to follow through and or not followed through on. So, for example, things like the BSA house that we&#039 ; re getting, that was a demand that was made fifty years ago by Diane Williams, who [we] renamed the House after-- in the Association of Black Collegiates. That was then approved fifty years ago, but never happened. So with that, I wanted to ask you, what are some of, if you can remember, of course, from the from you guys&#039 ; protest, what were some of the demands that you proposed? I guess, kind of like, what was the follow-through on that? And with these interviews, I&#039 ; m trying to, I guess, compose another list of demands with the students that I interview. So if there is anything, even if this is some of the same ones, because they weren&#039 ; t met before. And yeah, I&#039 ; m kind of just going to use all of that to come to, like, compare over the years with the ones from fifty years ago, the ones from the faculty letter in June 2020, kind of just line them up next to each other. ZC: Yeah, I think that, I think, by the way, that the research and the data that you&#039 ; re compiling is going to be so essential because it-- change-- you know, everyone says change happens slowly and sort of incrementalism. And I understand incrementalism, the incrementalism argument. However, I don&#039 ; t think that change needs to happen all that slowly sometimes. I think it can, I think it needs a squirk in the ass sometimes. And that&#039 ; s what Muhlenberg sometimes needs. Now, in terms of a list of demands, God, I&#039 ; ve got to tell you, I don&#039 ; t remember everything, but I remember some things that we were talking about and that I had worked on. I remember working on language and policy. So one of the things that we wanted was for the language not to be so nuanced with some of these policies in regards to specifically the N-word. But that was something that we were really focusing on, because when you read the policy, it was like we don&#039 ; t tolerate this and that. And it was like, all right, so you&#039 ; re saying a bunch of words, but you&#039 ; re really saying nothing at all. Right? What-- all you&#039 ; re saying is you&#039 ; re sort of beating around the bush so that if anything happens, you don&#039 ; t have to, you know, be sort of, I guess, really held accountable to your own standards. So one of the things that we wanted to do was add specificity to the policies regarding sort of hate speech and then the N-word and things like that, so that, we wanted to be clear about what would happen if a student were to say this word in the context of trying to discriminate against someone or trying to, you know, trying or weaponizing it to try to put someone down, right? So that is something that I-- that was what, sort of, I was working on. Another thing that we wanted to work on was having I think it was some sort of database. And I can&#039 ; t for the life of me remember. But, you know, who would know, uh, [unclear] would know. But for the life of me, it was like a database. And I don&#039 ; t remember if it was like a historical record of incidents or things and how they were handled. But it was a database of something I just don&#039 ; t remember. But I think we wanted to give students access. It was meant to be transparency. That&#039 ; s what it was about, because one of the arguments that we had was you say you&#039 ; re investigating it and we hear nothing. Right. So I think it was a way to, to check in with where investigations are in progress, to check in, like in a way that wouldn&#039 ; t expose, you know, the folks involved in a particular incident, but just enough information to know that this was being handled. I think that, that might have been about transparency. And so I don&#039 ; t know where that&#039 ; s at now in terms of completion or getting data or things like that. But they wanted, they wanted a few different databases, actually, I remember, and I can&#039 ; t remember what every single one of them had or what they were supposed to accomplish or do. But yeah. In terms of new demands. I mean, I would say, I would say something that I know I would love to see is if OML had a fully functioning staff. I think that obviously. I would love to, you know, we just got this seven point five million dollar building that we&#039 ; re building and and listen, I&#039 ; m excited about it. I think it&#039 ; s cool, like yippee. I won&#039 ; t be here when it goes up. But, you know, I was at the groundbreaking of that ceremony and I researched it and I was like, well, this is a pretty cool building. This is going to be pretty neat. Wow. I&#039 ; m excited. But I think, you know, OML needs to be, I don&#039 ; t know, what&#039 ; s the word, like sixty times bigger? I think it needs to have a fully functioning staff of folks of, not just students, but of staff members who are there to help, to support, you know, to support Robin or whoever [is] the director of OML. I would love to see that happen. And that&#039 ; s something that I know folks have been trying to get for a long time and look just-- and I understand that the money that the alumnus gave us has to go to, you know, whatever it is that they want. Right. So it has to be the building. But I&#039 ; m just saying that I would love to see OML, you know, get, I don&#039 ; t know, if a fraternity house is bigger than the Office of Multicultural Life, it makes me-- and this isn&#039 ; t anything about like I&#039 ; m not trying to combat Greek life, I&#039 ; ve got friends who are in Greek life and I love them to death and they&#039 ; re great, but it&#039 ; s something to be said, you know. OML is right next to a fraternity house. Right. And this isn&#039 ; t anything about the folks in that fraternity. I&#039 ; m not generalizing. I&#039 ; m not saying that they&#039 ; re bad folks. But there is something to be said that this house is huge. I&#039 ; ve never, I think I&#039 ; ve been at it once, I think. God, I don&#039 ; t remember, but it&#039 ; s like, fraternity house is this huge house and has all these things in it and stuff like that, and then you&#039 ; ve got OML, which still is a, is a nice house, but it&#039 ; s supposed to be housing all of the marginalized identities and all of these things. And it&#039 ; s supposed to be in charge of all of this programming and things like that. And it&#039 ; s still open for all students to come in, by the way. Right. It&#039 ; s still open for every student on Muhlenberg&#039 ; s campus to come in and, yet, it&#039 ; s still, you know, like, I don&#039 ; t know, and it&#039 ; s just a house and I guess its size and like, this isn&#039 ; t a huge deal, but that&#039 ; s just something that always comes to mind for me. It kind of shows where your priorities are going to. But I&#039 ; m glad that now priorities are now shifting. I don&#039 ; t know why it&#039 ; s taken so much time. Well, I know why, but, I think folks really, I don&#039 ; t know, I, my hope is that Muhlenberg really wanted to do this all along and now they&#039 ; ve done it, but part of me sees that, yeah, the social unrest was nuts. And if you didn&#039 ; t do it, you would be flying from here to Tuesday. So I, you know, Muhlen-- OML has been asking for more funding for years, years before I was here ; I was talking to upperclassmen who had been here before me and they were. So, yeah, we&#039 ; ve been asking for more funding for years. For years. And now it&#039 ; s just starting to happen, which part of that it&#039 ; s like, yes, like yippee, [and] part of it&#039 ; s like why the hell did it take so long? So. I would love to see that done, and I&#039 ; d like to see-- I&#039 ; d like to see more, depending on, you know, I think the theater department is also undergoing some pretty monumental changes. And so the first time we have a season, I&#039 ; ll be really interested to see what kind of shows they&#039 ; re putting out. So I&#039 ; m-- I would like, I hope, you know, in terms of demands, I think there needs to be diversity, equity, and inclusion training all across the board in every single department. Right. Academic or not. Right. Athletics or not. Right. It needs-- it really needs to happen. And that, that was something I would, I would love to see done. And I know part of it is like, you know, making it mandatory in this and that. But I think at this point you should just make it mandatory. And it should be a staple of the work that we do. HP: OK, and my last question is . . um... ZC: Oh, boy, your last question, whatever could that be? HP: It&#039 ; s nothing crazy. Just what do you see for the future students of color at Muhlenberg? And if you could say anything to them, leave any parting words or, you&#039 ; re not leaving, I guess, any advice or anything like that? ZC: The future... I think the future is a lot-- again, take this with a grain of salt, I am an optimist. The future is a lot brighter. I think it&#039 ; s going to get better. I think some of the challenges that you may face, past years have faced, and I would say don&#039 ; t-- that can be daunting, but don&#039 ; t let it, you know, stray you from your purpose or your goal of trying to create change. And don&#039 ; t be afraid. I would say don&#039 ; t be afraid to, you know, think. Don&#039 ; t be afraid to speak your mind on some of these things. In some cases, you may feel that you are the minority or you are the only person in the room who&#039 ; s bringing this to the table. That perspective is truly needed. So make sure that they-- you keep doing that and keep pushing on that. And some of the things that we&#039 ; ve accomplished, you know, in my class year--and we still have another year--have accomplished is, take what we&#039 ; ve done and go further with it, go farther. Don&#039 ; t let me be the first Black student body president, you know, make them, make the next one, be two. Let&#039 ; s, let&#039 ; s continue making some history in some pretty good ways. And maybe we&#039 ; ll reach, maybe we&#039 ; ll reach a point where Black and brown student body presidents are norm, not a, not a historical event. Right. But it is something that doesn&#039 ; t need to, that doesn&#039 ; t need to be sort of drawn so much attention to because it happens so often. And I would say also, you know, remember who your folks are in your community, who from-- who your friends are, but the future is a lot brighter, I think, than it was. And although the world seems to be getting crazier and crazier and, no doubt about it, it definitely is, but make sure that, you know, you&#039 ; ve got four years here, right? You&#039 ; ve got four years that are going to be filled with so much stress, so much anxiousness, socially, academically, you know, all of these things are going to happen. Just make sure when you leave here, you have left having done something, and you can leave here saying, that&#039 ; s what I did. I made my mark in this way, right? And, that is inspiration enough. For other folks to take up the mantle and take up the torch and run further and dream farther than you ever could. That&#039 ; s fine. And that&#039 ; s good. That&#039 ; s what we should be doing. So, make sure that you leave here knowing you&#039 ; ve done something, because it truly is essential. I know change happens slowly, but it can happen a lot faster if, you know, folks continue to do better than the previous class that came before them. So I&#039 ; m looking at you, Hailey, to do better than, you know, let&#039 ; s say Robin or I. You know, it&#039 ; s funny, Rob and I were talking and we were like, yeah, we&#039 ; ve got one more year. You know, we&#039 ; re looking towards, towards you and we&#039 ; re looking towards Kelsie and we&#039 ; re looking towards, you know, Britney and all of-- and younger folks and Gio, you know, Josiah, and all of you and Matt and Ty and all of you to really pick up the torch because we can&#039 ; t stay here forever. So, you know, in a way, you know, it&#039 ; s going, nowhere, I&#039 ; ve got a year left, so I still do a little bit of work here before I go, but rest assured that someone is going to have to pick it up. And you know, if not you, then who? Right. So don&#039 ; t sit by on the sidelines and wait for somebody else to do it. You know, take it up and run with it and see how far you get. You&#039 ; ll get a lot further than you think. So, you know. Make sure you keep going, you know. It&#039 ; s very rare that things come together and our life is good and everything&#039 ; s great, so make sure, you know, you keep going because you won&#039 ; t get to the next great moment if you don&#039 ; t keep going. Right. So, throughout the turmoil, throughout the stress, the anxiety, the pressure, the weight of what feels like the world on your shoulders, keep going because there are some great moments that lie ahead. HP: Well, thank you so much. ZC: Absolutely. HP: Always a pleasure. ZC: OK, make, try to make me sound like I know what I&#039 ; m talking about. OK? HP: Can you [inaudible]. ZC: Just do me a favor, OK? Make sure you know what I&#039 ; m talking about. HP: Of course. Copyright for this oral history recording is held by the interview subject. video This oral history is made available with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). The public can access and share the interview for educational, research, and other noncommercial purposes as long as they identify the original source. 0

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“Zaire Carter, June 25, 2021,” Muhlenberg College Oral History Repository, accessed November 29, 2022, https://trexlerworks.muhlenberg.edu/mc_oralhistory/items/show/85.