Black Student Union, campus administration continue conversation of demands

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In a letter sent April 10, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks responded to the campus Black Student Union’s demands to improve campus climate for black students.

The BSU released a list of demands directed toward Dirks in March in an effort to improve the experience of black students on campus. Dirks responded in a letter sent March 10 addressed to Gabrielle Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for the BSU. He said the campus will hire a coordinator and liaison for the Bridges Multicultural Resource Center — a coalition of student-led recruitment and retention centers — and increase support for black student-athletes.

Shuman met with campus administrators April 1 to share the BSU’s updated list of demands. Dirks said in his April letter that the campus will find a location to house a black student resource center, in conjunction with the campus’s African American Student Development office; work with University Health Services to hire at least two psychologists trained in providing counseling for black students; and hire a development adviser who will work primarily with black student-athletes.

“We are committed to what is in writing,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “We gave detailed responses to the demands that were presented, and we hope to move forward together and work collaboratively.”

Cori McGowens, a campus junior and BSU member, said the BSU is critical of several elements of Dirks’ response.

“A resource center was one promising response,” McGowens said. “The overall response was not very clear about implementation and failed to address (other) demands.”

In his April letter, Dirks said the campus is in the process of hiring a learning specialist specifically for men’s basketball, but BSU demanded similar assistance for all black athletes.

Dirks also said in the April letter that he will ask the vice chancellor of student affairs and the vice chancellor for equity and inclusion to form a task force made up of students, faculty and staff, with the intent of increasing the retention and recruitment of black students.

“(Black students have) different needs than other students, and their needs are not being met,” Shuman said, adding that Dirks is “sidestepping” their demands for additional professional admissions support.

Members of the BSU blocked Sather Gate on Saturday to draw attention to their demands and to the Black Lives Matter movement, which began in response to police killings of unarmed black men. Shuman said their actions would pressure Dirks to act, particularly on Cal Day, when many prospective UC Berkeley students tour campus with their families.

“We will keep speaking out until black lives are valued on this campus,” Shuman said. “Chancellor Dirks has the opportunity to take leadership in making that happen.”

Contact Emily Pedersen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @epedersendc.

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  • lspanker

    Those same black students don’t complain about “racism” when it benefits them in terms of AA/diversity admissions and special scholarships, do they?

  • Dan Spitzer

    I have to laugh ruefully for two reasons at both the BSU “demonstration” and this op-ed. First and foremost, my laughter is bittersweet when it comes to BSU declaring itself in opposition to racism. They must mean solely prejudice vs blacks, as the BSU is clearly a bigoted organization in and of itself. Remember, it was BSU, along with support by MSA and its SJP affiliate, which invited (or in the case of MSA/SJP supported the invitation) one of the planet’s most notorious anti-Semites and haters of Asians, Louis Farrakhan to speak on campus. And to no one’s surprise, Farrakhan did not disappoint, denigrating Jews and Asians in the foulest of terms.

    So if BSU seeks support to undermine what it says is institutional racism, it must stop its own
    overt bigotry. Alas, BSU has proven that race is no obstacle to prejudice in its invitation to Farrakhan. And it is correspondingly hard to support any group engaged in such hypocrisy. Moreover, BSU appears
    to have a short memory, as the participation of so many Jews in the civil rights movement helped prove pivotal in innumerable areas in which discrimination vs blacks had been manifest. Some thanks Jews have
    gotten for that as national polls show that African Americans are among the most anti-Semitic of all US ethnic groups.

    And then there is laughter for BSU’s appallingly thoughtless tactics. We live in a democracy where you
    must convince not just fellow African Americans of the righteousness ofyour cause. To block Sather Gate from parents and students will not winover any of these most needed supporters for change. And to scream, “We demand” to the Administration is also not a tactic wisely employed to alter the situation to BSU’s liking…

  • nearboston

    “…to convince people to recognize the inconvenience that black youth and people of color face on a daily basis” says Sierra Barton.”

    You mean lower admission standards, scholarships based on skin color, entire branches of the college dedicated to African American Studies???

    • TheOne BillyGunn

      What got me was the comment about black students having different needs than other students. What needs would those be?