Students Form New POC Identity-Based Group

Members of Oberlin’s identity organizations are collaborating to start a POC Coalition on campus. Students originally came up with this idea to create a safe space where students of color could discuss their experiences on campus, address campus issues, and build relationships with each other.

Although people of color have many opportunities to connect with peers who share the same identity in student organizations such as ABUSUA — Oberlin’s Black Student Union — and SASA — Oberlin’s South Asian Students Association — the POC Coalition will offer a space for all students of color to meet in one place. 

“We’re all in a predominantly white institution,” said College second-year and coalition member Nevaan Bawa. “I feel like the POC Coalition can just benefit us in supporting other POC organizations on campus.”

At coalition meetings in early March, students of color gathered to share their thoughts on their experiences at the College and discuss how the coalition can support POC and their goals across different clubs and organizations. By offering a gathering space for students from different backgrounds and identities, the coalition aims to help all students of color connect with each other and take those relationships into predominantly white spaces. 

“I want to help build a network for students,” said College second-year and coalition member Marissa Kuriakos when asked about her goals for the organization. “I think that’s so important. It’s really good to know about the other things that are happening, especially because a lot of POC also have intersectional identities. They aren’t just part of one club. So being able to have a bunch of different people together in one group setting is more helpful.”

Because the coalition is still in its early stages, coalition members have highlighted that some identity groups are underrepresented at meetings. Coalition members stress the importance of outreach to ensure that all identities are represented and heard within the space and hope that the POC Coalition can be a safe space for all students of color to connect with each other. 

“One of the things that we talked about after our meeting was outreach, because we noticed that there were not a lot of first-years and that there were not a lot of Black students,” Kuriakos said. “It was predominantly Asian diaspora students who attended the meeting. So we’re really trying to do outreach to make sure that people know what we are and that we exist. Hopefully, if we get first-years involved on the ground level, they’ll be able to continue the legacy.” 

Due to the disruptions to organizational continuity caused by COVID-19, some student organizations have struggled in preserving institutional memory and recruiting new members. Consequently, some younger students felt they did not know about many of the POC organizations on campus or how to join them. Another goal of the coalition is to build more awareness among members of the events and opportunities on campus. Members also stressed that students of color can join the coalition even if they are not already a member of another identity-based organization.

“You don’t have to be a part of an identity [organization] or a POC club. You just have to want to be in the coalition,” said College second-year and POC Coalition member Crystal Ramos.

POC Coalition members hope to increase the coalition’s membership and meeting attendance and start developing more goals to better the experiences of POC on campus. They also hope to host more events and opportunities for POC to get involved with the coalition.

“We just hope … people reading this [will] see it and be like, ‘Oh, this would be something great for my club or my organization to join,’” Bawa said. “And we would love to increase the mailing list and stuff like that.” 

To join the mailing list for the POC Coalition, students of color can email [email protected] Additionally, students can scan the QR code on green posters advertising the coalition around campus.