Study finds lack of students, ethnic diversity on city commissions

Adelyn Baxter/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley students, Berkeley City Council members and commissioners met on the steps of City Hall Monday evening to discuss the findings of the Student Diversity Study conducted by members of the ASUC.

The study, conducted by ASUC Senator Sydney Fang and members of her staff, outlines the disproportionate ratio of ethnic representation on city commissions, which they say undermines Berkeley’s purported values and includes an action plan for how to address these disparities.

“We must ensure that African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders and students get the seats at the table they deserve,” Fang said at the press conference.

Each council member has 34 appointments to city commissions — of which there are 44 total — which focus on topics such as housing, zoning, medical cannabis or environment and then make recommendations to the City Council based on discussion in their monthly meetings.

According to the study, representation on city commissions is 59 percent white, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 percent Latino, 7 percent African American, 3 percent other or biracial and 20 percent vacant. The study authors said these numbers do not accurately reflect the ethnic makeup of Berkeley, which is 55 percent white, 19 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 11 percent Latino, 10 percent African American and 5 percent other or biracial.

“We have a diverse variety of people who apply to the commissions. The issue is that somehow the people appointed don’t reflect that diversity,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

The study also found that, although students constitute 20 to 25 percent of the city’s population, they only make up 11 percent of commission appointments. Fang has been a member of the city’s health commission since March.

Arreguin expressed his support for the study and his desire to see more students take an active role in city government. Arreguin served on multiple commissions while he was a student at UC Berkeley, experience that he said motivated his future interests.

“Commissions are training grounds for public office,” Arreguin said.

Alice Lin, a co-author of the study, said the study was a continuation of a 2005 study of ethnic diversity on city commissions, which Arreguin said actually resulted in more diverse appointments.

The action plan includes educating the public and council members on the study’s findings while using outreach to recruit neighborhood and student leaders to recruit more applicants to diversify the commissions. It also demands that the city better publicize commission vacancies.

The authors of the study encouraged council members to consider students when filling the 58 vacancies that currently exist on city commissions.

“The fact that they have an action plan distinguishes them from previous efforts,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who noted that past plans had focused more on highlighting the disparities than outlining solutions for them.

Adelyn Baxter is the lead city government reporter.

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  • Mustapha

    It’s rather obvious that Jews are far, far over represented. Isn’t there something that can be done about that? 

    • reztips

      It’s obvious Mustapha that there are far too many Muslims on the planet. Can’t something be done about that?

    •  Het spijt me, Mustapha, but if I’m not mistaken, you’re the anti-semitic apologist for militant Islam who posts on a number of Dutch language websites, niet waar? People like you are the reason at Geert Wilders and his party want to restrict immigration in the Netherlands – and for good reason. Your heartache over what you see as the pro-zionist policies of the US and the EU apparently doesn’t stop you and your ilk from emigration from your third world paradise and becoming sponges off the taxpayers of developed western countries. Why don’t you haul your ass back to Bumf*ckistan and see how much freedom of speech you enjoy back where you came from?

    • (edited – see previous post)

    • GoldenBear

      I’d agree if you extract the word “Jews” from your comment and plug in another term:

      It’s rather obvious that “idiots” are far, far over represented. Isn’t there something that can be done about that?

      Idiots such as yourself provide us with a lifetime full of laughter.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I don’t think the report shows their is a diversity issue, but an issue with getting people to participate on the commissions.  20% vacancy is pretty high.  I think it is unfair to racially profile the commissions to the point where the racial percentages of the population precisely match the racial percentages of the commissions.

  • 1776

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one
    day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their
    skin, but by the content of their character.” MLK

  • Calipenguin

    Sydney Fang needs some remedial math.  She uses “20% vacant” as a category, thus artificially decreasing the statistical representation of minorities.  For those of us fed up with City Hall cronyism “50% vacant” would be a better number.  And why should students be a separate category for racial score-keeping?  What if Berkeley creates categories for “professors”, “housewives”, and “incense burners” as well?

  • guest

    What exactly are the specific benefits of this mandated diversity. This article makes it sound as if these commissioners are in a racially divided free for all for city resources. I personally think it is very possible for a white (black, asian, etc) commissioner to enact measures which benefit black (white, asian, etc) people.

    This is nothing but another racial powergrab. If the commissioners are doing their job well who really gives a dam what race they are. How about we all start judging people by the content of their characters and not the color of their skin.

    • Guess

      I complete agree with you. Also the data does not show significant overrepresentation of white or underrepresentation of minorities, except for Asians but this might be because most of them are students, and there could be other factors besides race that prevents them from participating in local government. Fang just loves to play the race card! 

      • libsrclowns

        Just following Obama’s lead:

          More “do as I say”……from Obama…..LOL

        The Obama campaign’s Chicago headquarters has it all—

        Yet the “army of twenty-somethings” campaign manager Jim Messina has assembled in the president’s hometown is almost uniformly white, according to photos contained in a detailed BuzzFeed report Monday.

        Further examination of the Obama’s campaign’s Tumblr site over the past month reveals very few black individuals—apart from the Clown and his wife, Michelle—in the pictures posted in the feed.

        The revelation is potentially embarrassing for the first African-American president and the party he leads but it is totally consistent with Obama BS ing his sheeple.

        Remember in  August 2011, when Clownie signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to develop plans for improving workforce diversity…..LOL LOL LOL….just kidding sheeple…

        The apparent lack of racial diversity at the Obama campaign headquarters comes at a time when the national black unemployment rate is nearly double the rate for whites.

        You see, the rules are for the little people, not the CLOWN

        • [Yet the “army of twenty-somethings” campaign manager Jim Messina has
          assembled in the president’s hometown is almost uniformly white,
          according to photos contained in a detailed BuzzFeed report Monday.]

          It could very well be possible that the working-class black people who were expected to automatically toe the line and re-elect Obama may not be as enthusiastic to do so, given that by all metrics (unemployment, poverty level, etc.) blacks in America are as a group doing worse than they have in decades. No wonder Obama and the Dems are trying to whip up a race war over the Treyvon shooting. When push comes to shove, Obama’s core support groups is composed of the white twenty-something liberal arts and humanities majors whose best prospects are careers in an expanded federal government looking for compliant warm bodies to advance the nanny state agenda.

          You can certainly understand why this group of marginally employable political hipsters looks forward to a country where the majority of people are dependent one way or another on government for their survival. Not only does it give them a feeling of power to cover their own personal inadequacies, but it beats having to find a job in the private sector, where what little is available (both due to the current economic climate and their lack of useful job skills) doesn’t measure up to their collective sense of entitlement.