SWANA Townhall

The Lebanese and Palestinian flags were displayed at a SWANA demonstration during an Associated Students town hall on Feb. 13, 2020. (Omar Sanchez / Daily Titan)

The Southwest Asian and North African, also known as SWANA, identity will now be an option on Cal State Apply after a long-standing push for representation from Cal State Fullerton students.

The proposal to add the identity on the application, presented to the Cal State Student Association in mid-February, had previously received the green light from the chancellor’s office. But SWANA students, along with Associated Students leaders, wanted to solidify the support in writing.

Mary Chammas, co-founder and president of SWANA at CSUF, said the resolution was passed April 10. She said that the new resolution will be implemented in fall 2022, and that it will hold its own category with a drop-down list of many SWANA countries.

SWANA students have had to identify themselves as white through Cal State Apply, but in recent years students and activists have urged the administration to recognize their ethnicity.

Chammas said she is happy for the support and involvement the movement has garnered which has caused it to grow exponentially in the last year.

“We’ve done all these things and it’s a team effort at the end of the day but, seeing all the support from different communities and different people really helped us with our end goal of getting recognition and support,” Chammas said.

Last spring, SWANA students took to an ASI town hall meeting and voiced their discontent with the university’s lack of a resource center for the community.

During the town hall, many members and allies of the SWANA community took turns expressing the lack of support they were receiving from the university. Former ASI President Aaron Aguilar said more conversations had to happen before anything could be guaranteed.

Students explained their concerns, and requested that ASI pass a resolution to implement more resources and a permanent resource center.

Chammas said SWANA students are everywhere on campus, but the administration was not able to see that because they were not partaking in students’ day-to-day life.

“I definitely saw the community, and there was no way to unite it,” Chammas said. “There was no resource center, there was no staff, there was no SWANA person to really go to or talk to about it.”

ASI began working alongside the SWANA community in spring 2020 after the town hall, which resulted in the passage of the first resolution, and allowed for more resources but limited their ability to have a resource center.

Their issue with the first resolution, however, was that they didn’t know how many SWANA students were actually on campus, so the new proposal will give them a better insight of CSUF’s demographic in order to establish a space, Chammas said.

Chammas said the demonstration was a product of the university’s lack of support after they had promised them an event that would celebrate the different SWANA cultures, but ended up not going through with it.

“The university wanted to put on an event for SWANA students, so we went dressed up in our cultural clothing, took pictures, you know did all these things for the university,” Chammas said. “Things fell through the cracks, they didn’t tell us that it wasn’t happening anymore, or they put it on the back burner, and so we kept asking, they kept ignoring.”

Chammas said they felt really frustrated and confused, and felt the town hall demonstration would be a better place to bring awareness to their movement.

SWANA students were able to gather support from Marcus Reveles and Skylar Soria, the ASI president and vice president, respectively, who said they are especially proud of their involvement in the movement.

Chammas said they have a lot of plans in store, including more events geared toward the SWANA community on campus, and hopes that in the next year they will be able to establish a Middle Eastern studies department at CSUF.

“We want to see what’s best for our community, and we want to see the people within the community succeed, and if it’s just these basic resources that no one’s going to give us, then obviously we’re going to fight for it,” Chammas said.

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