SWANA Townhall

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

For the first time in the California State University’s history, the Southwest Asian and North African, also known as SWANA, identity may finally become an option on Cal State Apply, as Associated Students, Cal State Fullerton’s student government, prepares to draft a resolution for the addition this spring.

ASI is currently working with SWANA community members to write and propose the resolution at a Cal State Student Association meeting, a recommendation board to the CSU chancellor’s office and the board of trustees that will decide if the change will be implemented systemwide, ASI President Marcus Reveles said.

If this resolution is passed, the inclusion of the SWANA identity on Cal State Apply could take another year to appear on CSU applications and forms.

SWANA students at Cal State Fullerton have spoken about the lack of campus representation and resources for students who identify as SWANA — an identity that encompasses countries including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and other places in the region.

Seleena Mukbel, ASI board of directors vice-chair and a leading voice for SWANA students at CSUF, said that adding this identity to CSU applications would allow the university to properly track the number of SWANA students on campus, and help quantify how much funding is needed for those students statewide.

“We're just classified under the white category and it has the parentheses ‘or Middle-Eastern origin,’ so hopefully we want to have our own just so it can help us in the future when we get more resources, funding and just recognition so we're not invisible,” Mukbel said.

With the recent creation of the SWANA funding council, SWANA students have said they hope that this addition to the CSU’s applications could provide the additional data needed to get the ball rolling.

“We've had a lot of problems in the past with not being able to have help with events, not having staff supporting us or staff designated for the SWANA community because of that lack of data,” Mukbel said.

This latest proposal also comes after years of advocacy from SWANA students on campus and an ASI resolution passed last spring that promised to hold the university accountable for providing support for SWANA students and including a SWANA identity box to check off on all CSUF forms and surveys.

“Any survey that gets sent out from Student Life and Leadership or any office on campus, there is a SWANA option,” said Mary Chammas, president of CSUF’s SWANA organization.

Although SWANA students have been successful in their advocacy on campus so far, they are preparing for the possible obstacles to come when implementing this identity beyond the campus level.

Reveles said because the CSSA contains student leaders from every CSU campus, some members may place focus on other marginalized communities within their own institutions.

Because the SWANA category does not exist on the U.S. Federal Census, many students fear that the CSU may not find it necessary to add it altogether, Mukbel said.

Despite these circumstances, ASI members said they are hopeful that the resolution will be passed next spring, Reveles said.

“I think that this is a good cause, I don't see why people would be opposed to it and I think if we convince people to see what we see, I think the cards are going to play in our favor,” Reveles said.

ASI and the SWANA community plan to continue working on this resolution and rally support within the CSSA to get other campuses up to speed on how to implement these changes to Cal State Apply.

“We don't want to make it feel like it's just SWANA advocating for this,” Reveles said. “We want to make it feel like it's something that all students would support, the equity and inclusion of SWANA in census and identification paperwork.”

An earlier photo caption incorrectly identified the Palestinian flag as the Jordanian flag. The Daily Titan apologizes for this error. 

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