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A Space to Call Their Own

The Epidemic of Anxiety I Hope You Find Me



Welcome to the March issue of Xpress Magazine, our second issue of the semester. We are thrilled to present another edition of thoughtful articles, creative works and— of course—beautiful designs. Our talented staff has been working long and hard to provide the best content possible. With what feels like endless hours of staring at our computer screens, revising text and redesigning spreads, we hope you love the final product just as much as we do!

In this issue, we hear from the voices behind the @sfsuhallwaycrushes Instagram page, discuss the increasing rate of anxiety and STIs among college students, address the equity gap Black students face with graduation rates, and explore the lives of students outside of their academic pursuits. As you read through these stories, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us and hopefully even find inspiration for your own voice.

As we look forward to the rest of the semester and what Xpress Magazine has in store, we want to keep highlighting our outstanding students here at SF State, while also writing about the topics and issues that matter most to them. We want to thank you as a staff for reading this issue of Xpress Magazine.

XPRESSMAGAZINE SPRING 2024 1 ON THE FRONT COVER A person dangles their feet off of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. PHOTO BY ANDREW FOGEL
Written dialogue on a bathroom wall; located on the third floor of the northwest side of the humanities building. (Andrew Fogel/Xpress Magazine)





2 XPRESSMAGAZINE SPRING 2024 CONTENTS STAFF 03 SPOTIFY PLAYLIST 04 A Space to Call Their Own 07 Are SF State Students Having Safe Sex? 09 I Hope You Find Me 11 The Epidemic of Anxiety
Gaps and Gowns Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Copy Editor Content Editor Visuals Editor Engagement Editor Designer Designer Staff Writers Photographer Giovanna Montoya
Fogel David Ye Div Lukic Tam Vu
Rainy Spring
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Scan code 5. Listen 6. Enjoy

A Space to Call Their Own

It has only been one year since the Latinx Queer Club has filled the void that many of its members recall feeling in previous semesters. Club president Adrián Reyes, a fourth-year double major in communications and Latino/a studies and a minor in race and resistance, was inspired to create the club after a random conversation they had with two of their peers in the Latinx Student Center.

The three discussed how they felt that SF State lacked LGBTQ+ outlets for Latine students, and how their struggles were not fully understood in the spaces that had already been established. Coincidentally, a student who had prior experience starting a club overheard their conversation and offered to help fill out the required paperwork. Reyes gladly accepted their offer and, within less than a month, the club was established.

Although there are a plethora of LGBTQ+ campus resources and student organizations at SF State, there was a lack of centralized outlets. Safe spaces catered to LGBTQ+ students of specific racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds were few and far between before the creation of the Latinx Queer Club.

In the last year, Reyes has worked with the club’s officers to provide a space for Latine students—as well as others who have shared similar cultural experiences—to safely and comfortably explore their identities. The Latinx Queer Club has also catalyzed the formation of other affinity groups on campus, such as Haüs BlàQue and the Asian American and Pacific Islander Queer + Trans Club.

“Being queer is an issue itself in society,” said Reyes. “But if you add the layer of cultural acceptance—not fitting into cultural norms, being disowned for religious reasons and things like that—it’s a whole added level to it that a lot of people won’t understand if they don’t live it.”

Reyes began recruiting officers and growing the club’s presence on campus. Throughout the year, they focused heavily on recruitment, tabling outside of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, where they acquired an influx of student sign-ups. It was an endeavor that showcased just how necessary the addition of the club was to many Latine students on campus.

Oliver Elias Tinoco, club secretary, explained how they were impacted by the responses they got from students who visited their booth.

“We also had a lot of students come up to us who said, ‘Oh, my God, my sibling is distracting my parent over there while I talk to you because they don’t know I’m out,’ ” said Tinoco. “We give students that kind of access to a community, or to a space that they don’t necessarily get to have when they’re not on campus.”

As the club grew, so did the ambition of its members. Club officers planned a trip to the Castro District—San Francisco’s historic LGBTQ+

One year after its creation, the Latinx Queer Club has acted as a catalyst, creating safe spaces on campus for LGBTQ+ students of different cultures

neighborhood—hosted meet-ups around the city, discussed the intersectional identities within Latine culture and created a quinceañera-inspired dance event aptly named “Queerceañera.”

The club’s outreach officer and logo designer, Rogelio Cruz, hosted “Brujxs Circle,” a discussion event about the importance of reconnecting with ancestral practices. It provided Cruz with the opportunity to share their beliefs with a receptive and supportive group of students.

“It was just really cool and really special,” said Cruz. “Being a part of this club has created a really great community of [ethnically and racially diverse] queer folk.”

It was during these various events hosted last year that Mariana Del Toro found a community and was able to break out of her shell. Joining the club during the Fall 2023 semester, her goal was to just connect with other LGBTQ+ Latine students and embrace her identity. However, Reyes encouraged Del Toro to take on the position of club treasurer and, with the support of other club members, she felt comfortable enough to take on her first leadership role.

“Seeing queer Latinos [and] Latinas, it was kind of unheard of for me— it was a very lonely experience because I never thought I’d meet other people like me,” said Del Toro. “As a queer Latina person, that’s a specific experience.”

Del Toro also credits her partner, Kisakye Sebowa, with inspiring and empowering her to accept the role of club treasurer as Sebowa has also taken on a leadership role during the Fall 2023 semester.

Sebowa is the founder and current president of Haüs BlàQue, SF State’s first Black LGBTQ+ club. They were inspired to create the club around the same time as Reyes; however, they were unable to officially create the club until last August due to some unforeseen setbacks. Through the help and support of the Latinx Queer Club and other Black-oriented clubs on campus, Sebowa was eventually able to fulfill the requirements necessary to establish Haüs BlàQue.

“My girlfriend was contacting the Latinx Queer Club for me,” said Sebowa. “They let me table with them; I was hella in contact with them. Adrián, I love him to bits and pieces—he shared with me the constitution that he had.”

Sebowa also described how they are in a group chat—“the presidential suite,” as Sebowa called it—with Reyes and Amatullah Zapanta-Mir, founder of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Queer + Trans Club. Their goals are to provide the same assistance and support to officially establish the newest LGBTQ+ affinity club and to create a symbiotic relationship between the three organizations.


“I think there is so much beauty in specificity because you don’t realize how much specificity isn’t something that divides us,” said Sebowa. “It actually brings us all together. We need community. It’s so nice to hear stories from people who sound like you [and] look like you.”

Zapanta-Mir was also inspired to create the Asian American and Pacific Islander Queer + Trans Club after chatting with Reyes and Sebowa at a tabling event. Zapanta-Mir asked where they could find a similar organization that offers the same support and safety for students within their community, only to be informed that it didn’t exist. The message motivated them to start building their own safe space.

“We want to build community with the AAPI students on campus,” said Zapanta-Mir. “There is a lot of stigma within the community around being queer and being trans, so we want to create that safe space, that community, and also to get politically organized.”

Zapanta-Mir credits the two other affinity clubs for helping with all the necessary paperwork, providing a sense of community and supporting their goals. They hope that the club outlasts every club officer’s time at SF State, and plan on ensuring its longevity by working with the other two clubs to create a strong foundation that allows upcoming generations to adapt as time goes on, as well as retaining communication with the university’s administration.

For the future of Latinx Queer Club, Cruz feels confident in the future of the club following the end of the Spring 2024 semester. Having worked

Latinx Queer Club officers introduce themselves to members in the meeting room on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Name tags and markers lay at the entrance of a room on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Latinx Queer Club officers welcomed attendees as they entered and asked them to write their names and pronouns on the tags.

alongside Reyes since the club’s establishment, Cruz feels ready to pass on the torch.

This past February, a small group of students slowly trickled into the lounge on the second floor of SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center to attend the open house meeting for the Latinx Queer Club. As the group awaited the start of the meeting, they began to mingle.

Reyes shuffled back and forth between the lounge and the entrance to a reserved room on the floor, where the official meeting would be held. One moment, they would be standing next to the sign-in table, inviting attendees to write their names and pronouns on a name tag; the next, they would be in the common area, offering students a slice of pizza from Nizario’s and pointing out the multicolored donkey-shaped piñata labeled “security,” which was displayed next to the food. Eventually, Reyes and another club officer decided it was time to officially commence the meeting.

Tinoco stood at the front of the lounge, thanking everybody for joining. They directed the group of approximately 25 students to the reserved meeting space just behind the lounge. As attendees settled in, the club officers gathered next to a television screen at the head of the room and began introducing themselves. After presenting some slides, they discussed the club’s plan for the upcoming semester.

“We will be tabling at Admitted Students Day ‘cause I know that a lot of the lovely faces that I’m seeing right now, I met last year,” said Tinoco. “We will also be planning a farewell picnic, not only to [say] farewell to the spring

semester, but the officers that will no longer be here, on the board, next semester.”

One year after the establishment of the Latinx Queer Club, the officers are prepared to pass the torch to the next generation of students who will continue the work they started two semesters ago.

“It’s exciting to see that there are students that are interested in keeping this [organization] going,” said Cruz. “It was just such a beautiful thing that we created and to see that it has the possibility to continue next year is so cool.”

As the Latinx Queer Club’s open house neared its end, Reyes told the members that the club officers want to train any student who wants to take on responsibility. The other officers, sitting to the right of Reyes, chimed in one by one explaining the duties of each role; it was an attempt to touch on a wide variety of specialties that some of the future leaders in that room might be interested in honing.

A few seconds of silence passed and the open house meeting was adjourned. On cue, the members began to mingle once again. The sound of laughter and chatter permeated throughout the room. Some officers hosted a social deduction game called “Werewolf” as a way to build camaraderie with the club members.

Reyes used that time to shuffle throughout the meeting space and the rented room’s lobby area to put away the club’s decorations — packed in such a way that makes it easy to use for the club’s next event.


Are SF State Students Having Safe Sex?

STIs on the rise among college students

At the heart of college campuses nationwide, an epidemic is quietly preying on the lives of students like a thief in the night. A survey conducted by market research company Pollfish found that one in four college students carry the weight of an unanticipated burden—being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection.

STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, and are transmitted through sexual contact. There are eight pathogens linked to the most frequent and prevalent STI diagnoses, only four of which are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other four are viral infections that, as of right now, are incurable: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, human immunodeficiency virus and human papillomavirus.

While there are several preventative measures that both men and women can take to decrease the risk of contracting an STI, rates of diagnosis are only increasing. Even in 2008, women and men aged 15 to 24 accounted for 50%—9.8 million—of new STI cases, a study published by the American Venereal Disease Association found.


the director of the Centers for Disease Control’s STI prevention division, said in a press release, “The U.S. STI epidemic shows no signs of slowing. The reasons for the ongoing increases are multifaceted – and so are the solutions. For the first time in decades, we’re seeing promising new STI interventions on the horizon, but these alone will not solve this epidemic.”

One in four college students have an STI

Understanding the Trend

According to a self-reported survey of students by the National College Health Assessment from Spring 2021, SF State has an STD rate of roughly 4%. While this is lower than the national rate, the trend is still cause for alarm. The number of reported cases for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2022 combined exceeds 2.5 million, according to the CDC.

This increase is cause for concern. STIs create issues with sexual and reproductive health through stigmatization, infertility, cancers and pregnancy. The World Health Organization reports that more than 1 million STIs occur every day worldwide, and most of them are asymptomatic. Every year, there are 374 million new infections of curable STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.

These infections can be deadly. A study from 1993 found that STDs and reproductive tract infections caused 750,000 deaths and 75 million illnesses among women each year worldwide. Death rates associated with STDs are rising fastest in Africa, followed by Asia and Latin America.

Taylor Davies, M.A. (she/her/hers), the Sexual Health Education Coordinator at San Francisco State University, stands next to The Condom Cart. This mobile station rotates around campus and offers free safer sex supplies.

Why is this happening?

There are a few reasons for the increase in these infections: people might refrain from seeking treatment or even reporting their illness out of fear, disbelief or even embarrassment due to the stigma surrounding STIs. In some cultures, being sexually active is taboo or even frowned upon, so contracting an STI may be considered the ultimate shame.

“I also think there’s just still a lot of stigma around STIs that people might be unsure about sharing that information,” said Davies.

In some cases, embarrassment and stigma also correlates to reduced use of sexual health tools, such as condoms. As a result, the aversion to STI-preventative measures could lead certain demographics, such as Latino college students, to be disproportionately affected by STIs.

Another reason STI diagnoses might be increasing is due to a lack of awareness. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 36% of those surveyed knew that STIs had become more common in recent years. Without federal standardization, sex education within schools is limited, and the depth of such courses varies from state to state. This creates a discrepancy in sexual and reproductive knowledge by the time people reach adulthood.

Limited available testing is another contributing factor to the spike. According to Davies, testing resources and medical care were redirected to prioritize the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a significant delay in STI testing.

“As a result of that, you had a number of underserved communities not being reached,” said Davies. “There’s been a continued underfunding at STI clinics.”

Lastly, it is not uncommon for STIs to be asymptomatic. This increases the probability of infection spreading unknowingly.

Services for Students on Campus

SF State’s Student Health Center conducted just over 19,000 STIrelated appointments and labs throughout 2023.

Chlamydia, HIV and trichomoniasis are the most commonly tested STIs on campus, according to Kaitlin Goins, administrative analyst at the Student Health Center.

Even in 2008, women and men aged 15 to 24 accounted for 50%—9.8 million—of new STI cases, a study published by the American Venereal Disease Association found.

Luckily, SF State provides many on-campus services to prevent the transmission of STIs. Two times a month, HPW distributes safer sex supplies through their condom cart. The cart can be seen around campus offering supplies such as condoms, lubricant and dental dams. Students can also order safer sex supplies from HPW’s website to be shipped to their home. Additionally, there is a free supply of these materials in the Cesar Chavez Student Center, as well as at the Student Health Center.

The university also offers free STI testing through the UCSF Alliance Health Project. Their van comes to campus at least once a month to offer free testing to students, who can also receive a rapid HIV test through this service.

”HIV is transmitted in the same ways the STDs are transmitted,” said Devin Posey, manager of sexual health services at the UCSF Alliance Health Project, via email. ”If one is sexually active, they might look into HIV prevention medications such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP.”

Through Family Pact, a provider of comprehensive family planning services to eligible California residents, many students are eligible for free general and emergency contraceptives, STI testing and infection treatment year-round. Appointments can be made at Student Health Services.

“It’s just good to get checked up every six months and make sure you [have a] good bill of health, whether you’ve been sexually active or not,” said Ibory Moore, a fourth-year SF State student who has utilized the testing van. “It’s always good, especially when you have the resources [...] A lot of these things cost now; they’re not as free anymore.”


I Hope You Find Me

In a new approach to finding love, dating apps and websites play a role similar to Cupid by facilitating connections between individuals seeking romantic relationships; @sfsuhallwaycrushes is here for those in need of some assistance

While riding the Muni with your headphones on, sitting in class and minding your own business or even just walking home from a long day of school, you might be oblivious to an admiring stranger waiting for you to look in their direction. The Instagram page @sfsuhallwaycrushes revolves around the lives of SF State students as they go about their days on campus while dealing with typical college student conflicts and relationship struggles.

In today’s digital age of social media and dating apps, spontaneous, real-life interpersonal

connections and relationships are few and far between. In a divergent approach to how past generations have traditionally gone about finding romance, online dating has become an easier way for people to meet; but that doesn’t necessarily imply or ensure sincerity and authenticity.

Ivy Chen, who has been teaching students about sex and relationships for nearly 22 years, believes that finding a relationship online could potentially be hit or miss. There is always the uncertainty that a virtual relationship could fall short and not lead to anything serious, and it might be more beneficial for someone to find a partner more organically.

“I feel like, especially with college students, a lot of people have traveled far from their home from where they grew up in,” said Chen. “There are a lot of people in general, but also a lot of young people in general—maybe single, maybe available—and there are a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of chances to meet somebody [virtually], but I just feel like the online dating is a way to meet somebody, and that is all I’m saying.’’

Apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge have taken over the dating scene, giving people the security of avoiding face-to-face rejection; social media provides a similar luxury. In the era of catfishing, carefully crafted narratives and fabricated online personas, social media has been utilized to create anonymous platforms where users can freely speak their minds.

Taking the place of Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” and ASKfm of the early 2010s, accounts dedicated to giving people an outlet to vent, confess or profess, have popped up all over campuses. From @csulbconfessions to @sdsu.confessions and our very own @sfsuconfessionspage, we see students actively utilizing these outlets. The latest account to gain traction on our campus is @sfsuhallwaycrushes—providing SF State students with a forum to anonymously confess their feelings or reach out to crushes they’ve developed in passing.

Light pink squares with dark purple text revealing racy admissions cover the @

sfsuhallwaycrushes Instagram page. Started on a whim in mid- to late-October 2023, @sfsuhallwaycrushes has since gained over 1,000 followers, with students flocking to the account in hopes of catching the attention of that special someone—or even looking to find themselves featured in a post.

After hearing the buzz about @sfsuhallwaycrushes and seeing the account pop up in his recommended followees, Declan requested to follow the page. From looking for friends and romantic relationships to divulging dirty, juicy secrets, the account has caught the attention of SF State students and faculty alike.

“I’ll be in the elevators seeing people swipe on the posts,” said Declan, a first-year computer science major living in the dorms at SF State. “It’s a really common thing to see people on the page.”

Joshua Jones-Trammell, a second-year broadcast and electronic communication arts major at SF State, heard about @sfsuhallwaycrushes through his friends. Since he has never been in a relationship, he thought this could be an interesting way to put himself out there and meet as many new people as he could. Jones-Trammell doesn’t know if he will meet his special someone from the submission, but that did not stop him from taking a leap of faith and shooting his shot. With his back against a wall, he decided to ask his friends their opinions.

“It was an interesting experience, getting myself out there through this unconventional means of dating,” said Jones-Trammell. “Just posting some pink card online—it’s just interesting.”

For those who choose to submit their crushes to @sfsuhallwaycrushes, it’s a place to connect with the one that got away. But for the admins of the account, it can be stressful to keep up with the influx of submissions they receive as the page gains more traction.

Upon request for an interview, @sfsuhallwaycrushes asked to keep communication strictly within Instagram direct messages. The voices behind the account will be referred to as their Instagram handle throughout the remainder of the story for the purpose of anonymity and source protection.


How many people run the account, and what are your majors?

There are five people who run the account: a second- and first-year computer science major; a first-year fashion major; a first-year psychology major and a second-year environmental science major.

Were you all friends before starting the account?

Yeah, some of us were friends since last year, and some of us just met at the beginning of fall semester, but we were all kind of mutual friends and we just grouped together.

Why did you guys decide to start the account?

We were bored and one of us was just like, “What if?” And we were like, “What if?” And we just said, “Fuck it, we ball,” so we did it.

When did you start the page?

I think [it was in] early October. We gained popularity pretty fast.

On average, how many submissions do you get a day?

We typically get around 50-60 submissions each day.

What kind of submissions do you get the most?

We typically get submissions trying to find people’s [Instagram handles], but lately people have been hella horny. I’m pretty sure that most of them are jokes, but there are definitely a few picks that are [for real].

Has there been any instances where the confessions are too inappropriate or concerning to post?

Oh yeah, for sure. We’ve been more lenient this semester cuz they’ve been pretty funny and most of our audience also think they’re funny, but if it’s anything harmful or that can make ppl uncomfortable we just don’t post it. We also have asked people for permission if they had a submission about them that might be weird and there have been instances where people have asked to delete a post and we immediately take it down.

How long does it take you to go through all the submissions?

Like maybe an hour; two hours max.

Does that include making the post?

Yeah, pretty much it’s all one process. We look through the Google form and make posts as we go through it.

Do you know any success stories that have come from someone shooting their shot through the confessions?

Yeah, a few people have [directly messaged] us saying they started talking to someone or dating through our account. It’s actually really cute.

Does it ever feel difficult running a page that is so demanding while also doing your school work?

Sometimes, especially when schoolwork is piling up. I think lately, since it’s the beginning of the semester, it is a lot easier to post continuously but there was a time last semester when we would only post every other day.

What have been some of the craziest confessions you have gotten so far?

Honestly, a few of the ones about the skaters get really crazy��We recently got one about pegging and in the past, we received something that went along the lines of “I always see you riding that board, how about you ride something else instead.” I think a few of the really long ones we got recently are pretty crazy, especially the ones in the letter format – they have two posts that they said are their favorite and the craziest

Have you faced challenges or negative consequences as a result of running the confessions page?

I think it’s mainly just keeping our identity secret from our friends. There have been times when we’ve had close calls and there was a point where one of our friends actually found out. Other than that, our comments section can get heated sometimes. It’s not often, but when it does happen we try to stay away from it, and sometimes we delete out-of-pocket comments. That’s also why we pick and choose the submissions we post: because we don’t want our account to

make anyone feel uncomfortable, or to spread any negativity.

Does everyone who runs the account have a job or a role? Or does everyone do everything together?

It’s kind of a mixture of both. We have a main person posting submissions and a few different [people] post our stories and notes as well as reply to DMs.

Can you walk me through the process of making a post?

Basically, we have a Google form and we just copy and paste the submissions onto the pink background we use. As we go through the submissions, we pick ones that we have comments on and use them as the front picture in order to correlate them to the caption.

Has anyone who is a part of hallway crushes ever submitted their own confession?

for sure just because we’re SFSUhalwaycrushes doesn’t mean we don’t have hallway crushes LMAO

Why do you think that people submit their crushes online rather than just going up to them in person?

I think it’s just a lot easier saying it anonymously online rather than in person. A lot of people are scared of rejection or being perceived as weird so they kind of just hide behind a screen.

“I think that fantasy aspect of it [having a crush] is really fun as well, but if they actually want to turn it into a real relationship at some point they are going to have to confront them, but maybe there is this wish that somehow putting it out there will mean that the other person will hear about it and take action.“ said Chen.


The E p idemic o f

Anx yiet

The CFA-finalized Tentative Agreement seeks to improve mental health services on campus given the increase in mental health issues

Anxiety and depression are two formidable opponents plaguing the lives of many college students all over the country, leaving behind a trail of stressed and overwhelmed minds. As the pressure to excel is only intensifying, a distressing reality prevails: our campuses are battling a mental health crisis, and the available resources to combat it are significantly inadequate—especially here at SF State.

Last semester, SF State students conducted a walkout in response to the dismissal of faculty demands for higher wages, among many other important requests. One of the ongoing points of contention surrounds mental health resources on campus—or rather, the lack thereof.

“We have 23,000 students and nine counselors—three are part-time,”

Policy Research, overall rates of serious psychological distress among adults rose 41.6%—from 7.7% to 10.9%— from 2014 to 2018, with 18 to 24-yearolds being disproportionately affected. Studies attribute this distress to many factors, including relationships, academics, lack of resources and one’s environment.

The Spring 2022 summary of the American College Health AssociationNational College Health Assessment found that 35.7% of college students received mental health services. Of that, 42.8% received those services on campus. CSU campuses are currently extremely limited in resources; for every 1,900 students, there is only one mental health professional. Internal struggles such as anxiety and depression that go untreated can further develop into drug dependence, self-harm or even suicide.

said Karla Castillo, CFA Counselors Committee co-chair and tenured counselor at SF State’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “In the CFA Tentative Agreement, we are asking for one counselor for every 1,500 students.”

According to a September 2020 report by the UCLA Center for Health

The rate of suicide among college students is currently 17%.

“The timeframe for suicidality is associated with health problems like depression, and it waxes and wanes,” said Stephen Brock, psychology professor at Sacramento State. “Sometimes things are worse than others [...] and sometimes they’re so bad that you actually begin to think about acting on your thoughts.”

First-year student Mollie Dyer feels that students are stressed, especially right now, and are not being properly informed about the campus services that are available to them.

“I don’t know how to get an appointment or how long that takes,” said Dyer. “With school, the strike and the raise in tuition, it’s stressful.”

Marie Drennan, associate professor of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts and communications chair for the California Faculty Association, said that professors also link diminishing mental health to workload.

“Without adequate mental health support on campus, guess who the students come to when they’re in crisis,” Drennan said. “We want all that—we want our students to feel safe to come to us, to trust us—and we want to be there for our students, but we are not trained professionals.”

The problem has become so intense that some faculty members are staying in their offices as late as midnight trying to be available to students in need.

“Over the years, we get fewer and fewer counselors and more and more students in crisis […] it’s gotten so out of control.” said Drennan.

Diego Ramirez, another first-year student, has expressed similar grievances as Dyer.

“There is not that much public information out there,” said Ramirez. “It’s not well-known what’s available.”

Drennan emphasized that there is an obvious mental health crisis among SF State students. Students are feeling the brunt of the pain, but faculty is also hurting seeing that they can’t do much to help. Oftentimes, students reach out to faculty for support but unfortunately, they do not have the training to ade quately help solve their problems.

“As faculty, we are very, very con cerned about the crisis in mental health, so we decided that it was a very high pri ority in bargaining,” said Drennan. “We don’t bargain for things that just benefit us—but this does benefit us.”

Castillo highlights the urgency for more counselors given the dispropor tionate ratio. Last December, there were over 100 students on the waitlist to receive counseling appointments.

“Part of that list were students who had already been contacted and said, ‘This is Nov. 25; at this point, you know

what? I’m interested in counseling but I’m not going to be able to meet with you this semester. Can I meet with you in January?’ ”

There are currently a few options for seeking mental health care on campus. One is via the Health Promotion & Wellness Center, where the nine counselors can be found. Students receive five free sessions per year. Students in need of medication also have the option to see a psychiatrist at the Student Health Center. The two often partner together to help students.

Rick Nizzardini, a Residential Life clinical counselor, has noticed that students who use services from CAPS exhibit strong feelings of anxiety, depression and academic stress.

“I started working here 19 years ago and the issues have shifted a lot. There is a much higher level of crisis now,” Nizzardini said. “Students experience

multiple mental health issues, including suicidality. There are many more diagnoses on the spectrum such as autism. These issues require a team of advisors.”

According to Nizzardini, some students just don’t know what is happening to them.

“Students show up with more limited capacity to understand their feelings,” Nizzardini said. “What leads students in crisis is a limited capacity to manage their feelings and communicate about them. This leads to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.”

CFA’s TA was ratified in mid-February, but it remains to be seen whether the union is on board with the agreed-upon terms.

“We are not happy about the aspirational language in the TA,” said Nizzardini. “There is a need for more direct counseling. We need more counseling.”

Gaps and Gowns

The CSU system reports all-time high graduation rates—but Black students are underrepresented

Throughout their childhood, Demorié Okoro was captivated by the countless stories recounted by their family members who had grown up in San Francisco. Coming into SF State as a freshman in 2019, Okoro was excited and wide-eyed to experience the city they’d heard so much of for themself. However, Okoro would eventually come to face unforeseen circumstances during their second year.

Suddenly estranged from their mother, Okoro found themself battling financial instability and homelessness. This left them to rely solely on loans and the Pell Grant—a federal aid program for undergraduate students—which ultimately wasn’t enough to cover both the cost of classes and on-campus housing. Without the proper financial support or aid, the SF State Housing Office eventually evicted Okoro from their dorm with nowhere to turn. What started out as an exciting new chapter in their life quickly turned into a brutal reality, leaving Okoro to consider whether they might benefit more from withdrawing

enrollment altogether.

The California State University graduation report on enrollment and retention for all 23 CSU campuses found that graduation rates rose to 63% for freshmen who enrolled in 2015 and graduated by 2021. This six-year period indicates the highest graduation rate within the last 15 years.

Despite the overall increase, data continues to reveal racial equity gaps in graduation rates. The CSU data shows that underrepresented minorities have a 57% graduation rate; however, this method of grouping racial and ethnic minorities doesn’t properly portray the reality of Black graduation rates. Black, Latino and Native American first-time students are grouped together in the “underrepresented minority” category, with Latinos making up 47.7% of enrollment across the CSU system, while Black students only account for 4%. Only 50% of Black students graduate within the six-year period compared to 63% of graduates overall. The 2021 data also revealed that since 2006, the gap between Black and white students has increased from 21.9% to 22.2%.

Strengthening support systems for Black students can be crucial to increasing enrollment and bridging the graduation rate gap. SF State’s Black Unity Center, established in 2017, provides several resources to Black students including mental health, financial and academic resources. Black students only accounted for 6.23% of the student enrollment for the Fall 2023 semester.

Dalyce Brown, the outreach, recruitment and retention specialist at the BUC, says that her approach to retention is building a homeaway-from-home environment where students can feel supported on campus.

“Retention is making sure that you’re comfortable; retention means making sure that you know the resources,” said Brown. “Retention to me, all around, is just: ‘Does a student feel confident and comfortable enough to finish here?’ ”

While Brown emphasized that there are a number of resources available on campus, students are still having a difficult time finding out about them.

Okoro was unaware of the additional financial aid available to them at SF State until they were far too deep into their financial struggles.

“I didn’t know about extra financial assistance […] I didn’t really know about scholarships until I was told about it from [Health Promotion & Wellness],” said Okoro.

SF State offers various basic services, including emergency housing, which can be accessed through Food+Shelter+Success. After being removed from student housing, the service connected Okoro with a nonprofit organization that not only found housing for them, but also paid their rent for a year while they got back on their feet.

“Before all that went down, I was getting great grades [and] I was on the Dean’s List; but once things started happening, it was just really hard to keep up,” said Okoro. “It really was disheartening, I basically lost faith in SF State.”

Okoro had to delay their graduation track and is now set to complete their degree in the spring of 2025.

Why are we seeing these numbers?

The CSU report did not include reasons for the decrease in Black student retention, but many students have their own speculations. Some theories include financial obstacles similar to Okoro’s, cultural insensitivity and a lack of Black faculty and staff. For the underrepresented student population, a sense of community and belonging may be hard to come by.

“I think that’s a big key,” said Brown. “If you don’t have community and you’re by yourself and you’re lonely, you ostracize yourself—you are not going to want to stay here.”

Students who have a difficult time accessing services that aid academic and basic needs are more at risk of dropping out of school. Brown said she tries her best to make herself visible at events so that

Demorié Okoro, a philosophy major with a minor in holistic health, talks to friends in Malcolm X Plaza. (Andrea Jiménez/ Xpress Magazine).

students can familiarize themselves with her and know that they can go to her when they are in need of help—before they “hit rock bottom.”

Kiarah Bey, a senior psychology major and Africana studies minor, has felt unsupported by staff and counselors in the past. Due to this experience, she tries to seek out Black faculty and staff who will understand

“To be honest, it’s uncomfy in some instances because like, why aren’t there more people that look like me in my classes?”

In more extreme circumstances, some students have suspected their race as a reason for receiving different, unpreferred treatment in the classroom. Studies suggest that implicit bias might be at play.

According to the American Psychological

her background; but finding them is hard to come by.

“There are not enough Black counselors,” said Bey. “I have to go through loops to get one ethnic studies counselor [who] is Black, and I shouldn’t have to do that.” According to the SF State fact page, Black faculty only make up 5% of faculty that are on tenure track.

Another student, Quiani Owens—a senior business marketing major—originally envisioned coming to the city and being surrounded by culture, including her own Black and Filipino culture. However, Owens was disappointed to find that she is usually only one of three Black students in her classes.

Association, there are also many factors outside of school that contribute to the achievement gap between Black and white students. However, a large portion stems from the implicit racial biases that unconsciously or subconsciously influence instructors’ behavior and attitudes toward their Black students.

While Victoria Aloe Bell has enjoyed her academic experience as senior communications major at SF State, she has also struggled at times to find her place as a mixed-race student. She often finds herself wondering whether she is being treated differently in classroom settings because of her race. Bell has also noticed that her non-Black counterparts have received extensions—or

even better grades on assignments—where she was denied those same accommodations despite explicitly seeking support and feedback.

“We’ll be working on a project throughout the entire semester and they’ll be giving me great grades; but then I submit the final assignment, and they give me an awful grade, expecting me to just take it,” said Bell. “But, when I push back, [...] they give me the grade I deserved in the first place. So I wonder for my other Black counterpart students who don’t have that fight in them at the time because of whatever reason—like, sometimes you just can’t prioritize fighting harder than what you already know you deserve.”

Due to the struggles that Owens and her peers have encountered as students in the CSU system, she is encouraging her younger sister to apply to historically Black colleges and universities, as opposed to the CSUs and UCs she has her sights on.

“It’s a sense of just being comfortable— not being on your toes every five seconds, not being harassed, not being fetishized,” said Owens.

What is the CSU doing about it?

The CSU system recognizes that there is a large disparity in the equity gaps across all campuses. After the release of the 2021 CSU report, the advisory committee for Graduation Initiative 2025 released a document implementing five equity goals and priorities aiming to prevent the further growth of equity gaps, which will be measured in 2025. The five goals are to re-engage and re-enroll underserved students; expand credit opportunities with summer session and intersession funds; ensure equitable access to a digital degree planner; eliminate administrative barriers to graduation; and promote equitable learning and reduce DFW rates.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced in February the launch of a new summer program that would partner with HBCUs to bring students into the city. SF State’s campus will host classroom spaces for students, the University of San Francisco will provide housing for students and UC San Francisco will be partnering with the schools to expand mental health mentoring, training and internships.

Lauren Dunn, a senior interior design major, says she is excited about the new partnership between the city and HBCUs.

“I kind of love it, but I am a little scared,” said Dunn. “It sounds really ambitious […] I just hope that the people who are on the sounding board are people who understand the experience instead of people who are just like, ‘Let’s do this to make San Francisco look good.’ ”

Victoria Aloe Bell, a senior communications major at SF State, poses for a portrait in her office at the Cesar Chavez Student Center. (Andrea Jiménez/ Xpress Magazine)
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