African-American Students of the University of California Ask for Changes

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- About 600 students from the nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California gathered at UC Riverside for the annual conference of the African Black Coalition, a student group advocating for the success and empowerment of black students on UC campuses.

Today, on the second day of the conference, the students had a chance to question the top official of the University of California, Mark Yudof, about issues of diversity. Yudof appeared via a video link, and fielded pointed questions from the students about whether he would commit specific financial resources to support more classes, programs and financial aide for students of color.

“Campus climate is about a sense of belonging,” said Yudof, who spent 40 years as a civil rights attorney. “It is about a sense that you are welcome, that you are supported and that you are safe. That is your right as students, to a safe, respectful and welcoming campus climate.”

He offered his personal commitment to increase diversity among the students, staff and faculty, to offer more diversity training for police officers and others on the campuses, to use surveys to measure campus climate, to urge chancellors to make diversity offices effective. He also committed to continue a dialogue with these specific students later this month at his office in Oakland.

To a request that he create African American Studies programs on each campus, Yudof pointed out that the authority for specific classes belongs to the faculty on each campus. He also said that working to address problems of societal racism would not be quick or easy. “I admire your commitment, and I admire your passion.”

“Many things are done at a campus level but I can be here to push, to prod, to urge, and to verbally beat people over the head if it doesn’t get done in a reasonable period of time,” he said.

To a request that he lower fees students, he said that a group was looking at ways to ease the financial burden for low-income families. He pointed to the current Blue and Gold Opportunity, which covers UC fees entirely for families earning less than $70,000 per year.

Other speakers Saturday included Christopher Edley, Jr., dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, and college administrator and scholar, Edward Bush.

Bush asked students to remember their ancestors, many of whom came to the U.S. on slave ships. "Their dreams must have included the future, and that's you. They paid the price. You are the hopes and dreams of all that came before you. It is an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility."

This seventh annual conference was organized by a committee of students at the University of California, Riverside, the fifth most diverse public research university in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. The students had help from the African Student Programs office, as well as support from the Chancellor’s office.

Workshop topics during the three day conference ranged from career development to international politics, goal-setting, student activism, health issues and how to increase the diversity of graduate schools. Students also held poetry jams, talent shows and other social events.

This year’s conference theme is "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World."

UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White, Vice Chancellor Jim Sandoval and Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge helped welcome attendees.

Chancellor White acknowledged the frustration about the state's fiscal crisis was creating difficult issues, and making the UC system less affordable. But he challenged the students to leave a legacy. "Improve for all who follow you the halls of learning, for your siblings and your children."

Source: UCR Black Alumni