Safe space open to students through Brown Bag Series


Grecia Sanchez , Staff Reporter

Emily Martinez, senior psychology major and intern for inclusion and advocacy at the Student Engagement and Leadership Center, is in charge of the Brown Bag Series, a handful of different topic discussions for engaging students toward different view points around the community.

“We’ve had one on privilege and oppression and other (topics) have been immigration, the N word, cultural appropriation,” Martinez said. “It’s just to engage the community, the students and staff and faculty into having these difficult discussions because we need to be having those—we think that’s important.”

Martinez said the main purpose of the BBS, which started three years ago, is to learn about the topic, develop the skill set needed for discussion with peers, and to help in the constructive conversation for students to become better community members.

“Creating this safe space for them to be having this dialog is very important because usually our students, unless they are in liberal arts, usually they won’t really be having these types of talks and discussions around these social issues,” Martinez said.

BBS was first called the Brown Bag Lunch Series because the discussions would take place at lunch time and  SELC would provide lunch to attendees.

“The brown bag is kind of like a symbol for lunch. But now we’ve changed it from lunch time to actually being at 3 p.m., so now we just call it the brown bag series, we took out the lunch part,” Martinez said. “We are still providing like snacks and stuff, but not like a full meal.”

The dynamics of the discussions, according to Martinez, are up to the speaker. She said the conversations just flow because there is not a structure to it and that the whole point is to have a conversation.

“Once we pick our topic, we reach out to any staff, faculty or community members that are able to talk on this topic and to kind of lead this conversation and facilitate the discussion,” Martinez said. “Sometimes the speaker would be more interactive, sometimes we kind of talk or some others have activities, others will bring handouts, so it really depends on the speaker.”

Martinez said one of the biggest problems that students face when trying to make it to the events is schedule conflicts. She said there are some students that really want to attend, but they have class or other responsibilities.

“Last year, the student-athletes were required to attend two workshops per semester or something like that,” Martinez said. “So we had like a really big influx of student athletes and we had about 40 people at the conversation when on regular basis it’s 15 to 20 pushing to 25.”

Martinez said students are not obligated to talk at all. She said there has been students who sit and listen and others that just love to talk.

“The very last question is ‘what other topic would you like to discuss?’ and then from there we tend to choose the one that pops up the most, (it is about) what students really want to talk about so we listen to them,” Martinez said.

Martinez also said topics are chosen by what she sees is happening in the community or suggestions from her supervisor, Andy Moreno.

BBS will have two more discussions before the semester ends on April 4 and April 18 on feminism and machismo, respectively. Both events will be at 3 p.m. at the Union West, room 111.