Students at a Southern California university moved into on-campus housing that included a new option — dormitories designated for students "interested in issues of concern to the black community."
Cal State's Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community, designated units within the nearly 200-unit campus residential apartments, was offered in time for the new school year after student reports of racially insensitive comments at the school east of downtown Los Angeles. The school's Black Student Union issued a call in November 2015 for changes, including the new living-learning community.
Twenty-four students are living in the dorm space, and the school said there is a wait list to get in. Applications are no longer being accepted for fall 2016.
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The plan drew reaction on social media and among others who called it segregation and "black-only" housing. That's not the case, school officials and students said.
"They see something that says black housing, and they automatically equate it with black only," said student Jonathan Thomas. "It can be for anybody."
The apartments at Cal State Los Angeles are among several themed living communities, which are designed for students with common academic goals and interests. Other themed communities include the first-year residential experience for new students, scholars housing for honors college students and gender-neutral inclusive housing, which also has a long wait list, according to the school.
"This is not segregated housing," said CSULA spokesman Jonathan Thomas. "This housing is open to all students. It focuses on programs that are inclusive and non-discriminatory."
Cal State LA is not alone in offering themed housing. UC Berkeley offers African American, Asian Pacific American, Native American, women in science ad engineering and others themed housing.
Stanford University has four themed dorms. UCLA has a diverse list of learning communities, including Afrikan Diaspora, Gender, Sexuality, and Society, Sustainable Living and the Visual and Performing Arts Collective.