When you hear the term “Statewide,” what do you think of?
Each year, Shippensburg University’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) hosts a weekend-long celebration of history and culture consisting of events like the annual fish fry and step show.
But Statewide is also tied to many stigmas, including partying and the idea that the events are only for black students, according to MSA member Ramses Ovalles.
Ovalles said these stereotypes are not only false, but take away from the actual meaning of the weekend and the work that goes into making the programming successful.
“We throw great, fun programming, so it’s kind of disappointing people don’t come out, and you have to wonder if it’s because we’re minority students,” he said.
Ovalles said the overall theme of the weekend is unifying the SU community through education and history. The message is the focal point of the UMOJA Conference, a discussion held each year during Statewide. This year’s event was called the BET Conference, which stood for “building, expecting, transforming.”
Statewide got its name because of the dozens of MSA alumni who return each year to attend these events, which are almost entirely student-run.
“They put in a lot of work,” Ovalles said, mentioning that a lot of his own friends were responsible for the planning of this year’s events.
MSA has heard that some students are afraid of Statewide weekend and choose that weekend to go home because they feel unsafe. Ovalles said he is unsure why students feel this way, because MSA goes to great lengths each year to make sure the events are safe.
This includes many conversations between MSA leadership and the campus and state police. Statewide events are held almost entirely on campus and follow the campus’s social policies, according to Ovalles.
“There’s no reason why people shouldn’t want to come to our shows,” he said.
Although many of MSA’s members belong to minority groups, this does not mean that others are not welcome to attend Statewide. Ovalles said he thinks of that weekend as similar to Bloomsburg University’s spring block party, or other universities’ St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
“SU is the only school without a spring fling,” Ovalles said.
Ovalles and other MSA members have worked hard in past years to invite non-members to the weekend’s events. Ovalles said he handed out tickets to an event last year that students would normally have had to pay for, but only about five students chose to use them.
MSA’s hope for the future is that students outside of the organization get over their perceptions of Statewide to give the events a chance.
“We see Statewide as our spring homecoming,” Ovalles said. “It could be a huge thing.”