It is a fact that many minority groups did not always have the opportunities they have on campus now in the past. Though times have changed, this history can still affect these groups in the present. Having a presence on campus is one thing but having your voice be heard is another. As the University of Alabama continues to work towards creating a campus environment that is fair and comfortable for all, it is important to listen to the different groups on campus and hear them voice what they need. 

There are hundreds of different clubs and organizations across campus that represent students and their different identities, interests, hobbies and more. It would be impossible to talk to every one of these groups on campus, but it is important to listen to their voice when possible.

Marcella Martinez (right) at the Hispanic Latino Association’s (HLA) La Gozadera kickoff event for Hispanic Heritage month.

A student that is using their time on campus to create a space for their community to feel welcome in is Marcella Martinez. Martinez, is the Hispanic-Latino Association president and a senior at UA. She said organizations like HLA are important as they can create a community for students like them away from home. 

After the COVID-19 pandemic, HLA, which was already less active than previous years, went dormant. It was not until Martinez was approached by a former member who encouraged her to restart the organization that HLA was officially active again. Martinez said this was no easy task as she and the other members spent summer and fall of 2021 working to get it approved again by The Source, where official student organizations are registered at UA. 

Despite the difficult start, the reopening of HLA has brought many new members in. When it first reopened in January of 2022, it was composed of a small group of students. Martinez said it now has over 340 people that are involved.  

The goal of HLA is to bring together students that have similar backgrounds and cultures or students who are just interested in Hispanic-Latino culture. Martinez said she wants it to feel like a home away from home where you can meet people with similar backgrounds or interests as you. 

Marcella Martinez (right) at the Hispanic Latino Association’s (HLA) La Gozadera kickoff event for Hispanic Heritage month.

Ta’Kyla Bates, student ambassador for the Black Faculty and Staff association (BFSA).

Another student who is actively working to improve their community on campus is Ta’Kyla Bates. Bates said she serves as a student ambassador for UA’s Black Faculty and Staff Association as a way to give back to the Black community in Tuscaloosa through community service, and to improve the experience of Black UA students.

“We participate and do service at Jeremiah’s Garden, we do drives, things like that, but as an ambassador as a whole our main goal is to amplify Black voices on campus and create a space for Black faculty and staff and students to have this cohesive relationship,”  Bates said. 

Having a voice on campus as a Black student is important when attending a predominantly white institution, according to Bates. She said the concerns of these students can be heard when enough people are voicing them.

“As a Black student and as a Black woman I think having a voice on campus is very important and attending a PWI [predominately white institution], sometimes all you have is your voice because that is just how it works being Black at a PWI. If you speak up enough they will listen,” Bates said. 

There is more to BFSA’s role than just allowing Black staff and students to network with each other. Bates described the work the association does that many may not have known it was involved in. 

“There are things that are implemented in this university that BFSA have been ahead for. Like the changing of the name of the education building, BFSA was right there putting the Malone-Hood thing there, BFSA was a part of that,” Bates said. 

“So, there are a lot of different things that BFSA is a part of that people do not necessarily see, but I think it is helping Black students kind of see that [UA] can change and they have people backing them up to make that change.”

Jeremiah’s Community Garden in Tuscaloosa works to provide fresh food for those in need.

Photo of Jas Orr (they/them), president of the Queer Student Association (QSA)

Racial minority groups are not the only minority groups that can have an adverse college experience because of their identity. This also includes students that identify as LGBTQ+. That is why UA has a Queer Student Association (QSA), where students, like the association’s president, Jas Orr, show their commitment to the LGBTQ+ at UA by advocating for them. 

Orr said their role as president is to oversee all the activities and communication the club engages in. 

“This is everything from filling out necessary forms to make sure we have events to talking to university administration to make the voices of my membership heard. In a lot of ways, I am a figurehead for the organization, and my being visible makes my organization more visible,” Orr said.  

According to Orr, QSA serves as a space where LGBTQ+ students can feel they belong. They said the goal of the association is to allow students to celebrate their identities, but also be able to fight for their community at UA.

Those who are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community may not understand how much this part of one’s identity can affect their experiences. Orr said every part of their experience at UA and in general is affected by their identity. 

“It affects everything from the minutiae of my email not matching my chosen name, to the big things, like feeling inherently excluded from Greek life. My identity is inherently political and going to UA reminds me of that,” Orr said.

Additionally, they said that UA has hosted a guest speaker on campus every semester that they have been there that looks down on their identity and who they are. 

Orr said they believe LGBTQ+ students at UA have more of a voice now than they did in the past but there is still progress to be made, as they still see UA’s image as mainly hetereonormative and consider UA to still lack resources for many unseen groups like transgender studnets. 

“I’d love to see the LGBTQ+ community be visible. Often, we are forgotten, an afterthought, or even intentionally hidden, but we have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else does,” Orr said.

Minority students on campus do not just want to be seen, but heard as well. It is not enough to acknowledge their presence. Minority students need proper resources in order to have the greatest potential experience at UA that any other student can have. These minority students have created a voice to create change within their communities, they just need the rest of the campus to listen.

If you want to learn more about minority voices on campus, be sure to check out our Mosaic Mic’d up episode!