Tarleton strives for safety, diversity

BY Michaela Dennis/Contributing writer

Tarleton State University is building toward creating a diversified space for underrepresented populations. 

Emily Vanrirk is a nonbinary student development specialist for the Joe R. and Dr. Teresa Lozano Long Office of Diversity, Inclusion and International Programs (ODIIP). The purpose of their department is to create a welcoming environment on campus and provide an experience of belonging to students who are in the underrepresented population. 

Vanrirk is passionate about representing underrepresented students as an alumna of Tarleton State University.

They believe Tarleton has struggled in the past with inclusion because the institution has a resistance to change, which clashes with their traditional views. Despite struggles in the past, the ODIIP is here to help students feel accepted on campus. 

“We cannot treat everybody the same,” Varirk said. “We were taught things like color blindness, but it is not actually helpful to pretend that an enabled body person and a disabled person have the exact same experiences.” 

Assistant Director of Student Organization and Risk Management for Student Involvement and Family Relations Kei Lara Bermea oversees student organizations, parent relations and Tarleton events. Bermea encourages students to give feedback so Tarleton can improve on events for students. She wants students to know that the department is here for them and will cater to their requests. 

“I think students should feel empowered to claim their space on campus because this is their space,” Bermea said. “You have every right to be here just as the next person, so do not let people try and take that from you.” 

Malik Miles is a senior at Tarleton State University. Miles is the founder of the Black Student Union (BSU) and basileus of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated Gamma Kappa Gamma Chapter. 

In the beginning of Miles’ college career, he remembered that Tarleton struggled with creating a space that was welcoming for black students. He recalls having to work aggressively to get the BSU founded on campus and for recognition for Phi Beta Sigma. He acknowledges that Tarleton has done better with making black students feel more included in 2021. 

“Tarleton is trying to do a lot better from when I first got here, but there still is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Miles said. “There was a time Phi Beta Sigma would not have been on the homecoming calendar or tv screens in the student center.”

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