Students at Oregon State University are working together to make a voice for themselves, and to share their culture and history with students.
Marquina Hofschneider, a junior in political science, has started a petition on campus to include Pacific Islander ethnic studies courses in the curriculum. The courses would be include the cultures and histories of Pacific Islanders, which includes many different unique cultures.
Currently, the ethnic studies curriculum focuses on the four major racialized minority groups in the United States, which include Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos.
According to Hofschneider, there are 533 students who identify as Pacific Islander at OSU, which is roughly 1.8 percent of the student population.
“For me, the petition is a way to tell the administration that we are here and we exist, and we also matter. Often times in the rhetoric of racism or race theory, the Pacific Islander is left out,” Hofschneider said. “We only talk about Pacific Islander in terms of athletes, we only talk about them in terms of Luaus. Where else do we see them?”
The Asian Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) has made initiatives to recognize Pacific Islanders, according to Hofschneider.
“When I was a freshman, I went to event at the APCC and I was the only Pacific Islander in the group,” Hofschneider said. “I felt really alone. With this petition, it’s really calling for the university to see that experience, my experience, of feeling alone and feeling undervalued at the university.”
Hofschneider wishes for students to have the chance to learn about history that is left out of the curriculum, for those born into the culture and those born outside of it.
“It’s really about cultural awareness, and how to help each other out, relieving each other of the struggles we all face,” Hofschneider said.
According to Danika Coulson, a senior in biology, identifies as Pacific Islander, specifically Fijian, one of the eight major cultural groups that are under the umbrella term of Pacific Islander.
“As the world continues to diversify and expand, it’s important to learn about other people’s’ cultures,” Coulson said. “Cultural competency is becoming a big aspect that a lot of different careers take into consideration,” Coulson said.
For Hofschneider, the petition means being seen. At a social justice retreat a few months ago, Hofschneider was able to express these feelings in a welcoming environment.
“For me, coming from an island where I was part of a majority, you were either a local or you weren’t,” Hofschneider said. “When I came to Oregon, I was learning about what a Pacific Islander means, and what a race means. I expressed that I didn’t feel recognized by the institution. I said I felt invisible.”
The retreat allowed anonymous notes to be given to those attending, and one of the notes that Hofschneider said simply “I see you.”
“I can still feel how appreciated, how valued I felt. I felt invisible and someone said they saw me,” Hofschneider said. “I wanted to say to all the Pacific Islanders; I see you, and I feel you.”