UC African Black Coalition Honors Gains, Tackles Setbacks

The event featured a wide array of workshops, scholarly presentations and prominent speakers to include the top official of the UC, Mark Yudof. Yudof who appeared via a video link fielded pointed and sometimes emotionally charged questions about recent racial incidents at UC campuses and a lack of action on increasing the number of underrepresented students, faculty and staff at UC.

The students voiced support for strategies to increase diversity throughout the UC system, including a drive to raise more scholarship donations for underrepresented minorities, more effective diversity programs and a review of admission processes to expand the use of holistic review of applicants.

Yudof said, “I want a system that more effectively considers multiple factors beyond test scores and GPA. I want one that has a larger pool of applicants that will be considered.”

He said campus climate is about a sense of belonging. “It is about a sense that you are welcome, that you are supported and that you are a safe, respectful and welcoming climate.”

Students told Yudof that there have been numerous studies on faculty and staff diversity issues in the past but they have seen little or no progress. Now they want more than recommendations and studies, they said.

“The kind of toxic, status quo environment that exists on some UC campuses is reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. There is a sense among some of us that we’re advancing one step and falling back two,” lamented sophomore James Rufus Howard.

Attendees gathered in the university Hub for workshops and discussions that both celebrated gains in diversity and academic achievement and warned of complacency and stagnation among African Black students and the UC administration.

“We are proud to acknowledge and honor our gains – of which there have been many – but at the same time we are concerned about the future in light of racial problems on some UC campuses, said a member of the UC Black Student Union. “We intend to raise issues regarding campus climate and graduation success because we are confident that an inclusive campus climate fosters inclusion, higher retention rates, student development , and academic empowerment,” said a workshop presenter.

Berkeley Law dean, Christopher Edley, Jr. who played a pivotal role in shaping Clinton’s “mend it, don’t end it” policy on affirmative action programs during the 1990s, is advising UC President Yudof on a range of crucial issues to include addressing recent racist acts on UC campuses and expanding access in a post 209 era. He says the ban on considering race in college admissions isn’t the crux of the problem. The real wrench that’s been tossed into what he dubs the state’s “opportunity engine,” he believes, is the failure of its educational system at every level.

“If I could repeal one ballot measure,” he says, “it would be Proposition 13,” the 1978 property- tax initiative that slashed revenues for the state’s public schools. Even if Prop. 209 were overturned, he explains, “we would still have enormous diversity challenges because the K-12 system is so broken.”

UC’s interest in such issues “is not unlike our interest in 1940 in mobilizing our intellectual capital to beat the Nazis in building an atomic bomb,” he says. “Education is the issue of the day in terms of our social and economic future, and the challenges are substantively daunting, which means leading institutions need to lead.”

From a parochial standpoint, Edley says, a healthy community college system is needed to prepare many of tomorrow’s leaders — currently ill-served in grades K-12 — to succeed at Berkeley and other UC campuses. “The stakes are huge. And right now, there’s cause not just for concern, but for alarm. Fixing the education pipeline is “an essential recipe for upward mobility,”

Keynote speaker Edward Bush, a college administrator and scholar urged students to remember their ancestors, the 12 million Africans who were shipped to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Of these an estimated 645,000 people were brought to what is now the United States.

“However harsh, their dreams must have included the future, and that’s you. They paid the price. You are the hopes and dreams of those who came before you. It is an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility,” he said.

Chancellor Timothy P. White, Vice Chancellor Jim Sandoval and Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge welcomed attendees to the UC’s most diverse campus and urged participants to create positive change for the future.
“We wanted an event that would stimulate, provoke, and encourage the development of informed community oriented leaders and provide tools with workshops that would help students navigate the current tumultuous times and beyond,” said Kenneth Simons, conference organizer and director of African Student Programs at UCR.

“This conference unlike some others resisted the temptation to celebrate the status quo. The discussions have been candid and informative,” said Danna Semuels of San Francisco whose daughter attends UC Davis.

“This was about mapping the “new education” of the future by recovering what is useful and dispensing with what is not,” said Claremont retired educator Wesley Cooper “and by fashioning a new pedagogy out of the innovative ways of thinking, doing and creating measurable results. We must, in the words of then presidential candidate Barack Obama, recognize “the fierce urgency of now.”

This event was co-sponsored by The Black Voice Foundation Opportunity of a Lifetime program.

Source: Black Voice News