Black Student Union reaches agreement with campus to form resource center

Ariel Hayat/File

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The Black Student Union, or BSU, has reached an agreement with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to create a resource center for Black students on campus that will open in September.

Under the agreement, which was signed by Dirks and Black Student Union chair Elias Hinit on July 19, the Fannie Lou Hamer Resource Center will be located in rooms D3, D4 and DF of the Hearst Field Annex for the next five years. The agreement also stipulates the chancellor will designate $82,885 to renovate and furnish the building.

The agreement comes after 15 months of mobilizing by the Black Student Union and the Afrikan Black Coalition to ensure Black students’ “academic, social, cultural, and political” needs at UC Berkeley are met. In March 2015, the BSU sent a list of demands to Dirks to help improve the experiences of Black students on campus, including proposals to create a resource center for students and hire two full-time Black admissions staff members.

“Make no mistake; this center was not an easy win by any means,” said Gabrielle Shuman, chair of the Black Student Union from 2014 to 2015, in a statement. “Black students and staff have been fighting battles for a space like this for decades. We sacrificed a great deal of time, sleep, studying, and even class attendance to make sure we could catch every calculated curveball thrown at us during this process.”

In December 2014, effigies of Black figures in the image of a lynching were hung on Sather Gate and other locations on campus, which a Bay Area collective of artists later claimed responsibility for. This event prompted dialogue between the BSU and Dirks at a February meeting, where the BSU called attention to improve the campus climate for Black students.

Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion and former chair of the campus African American studies department Na’ilah Nasir, who worked closely with the BSU in its efforts to create the center, said that Black students at UC Berkeley experience discrimination and exclusion on a daily basis. She added that Black students constitute less than 3 percent of the student population on campus.

“Our students are walking into classes where they are often the only Black students in the class,” Nasir said. “And so, having a space where they can come and be a community with each other is really important.”

According to Nasir, previous locations considered for the center included a room in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union basement, which was ultimately considered an inadequate space because of its lack of privacy.

For Black students, the center will function as a place where they can host events, organize study sessions and foster relationships with other Black students and staff members.  

“Black people, no matter our location, need a space of our own in order to heal, create, build and decompress,” said Cori McGowens, 2015-16 chair of the Black Student Union, in a statement. “This campus has a wide array of Black leaders who will be able to utilize this space to continue to do the work of our people.”

Cassandra Vogel is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cass_vogxz.

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  • AJ

    If some of the comments in this thread are any indication of the experience that students of color encounter at Berkeley I can understand why someone would need a safe/brave space. This thread alone is full of microagressions,stereotypes, and unfortunately misinformation about academic success for any student. The good news is information and classes are avaliable so that you can be informed, educated, and have your minds open.
    I challenge those who are on this thread to have an open dialogue with other students on their campus who may have opposing opinions maybe you will learn from one another. Difficult dialogues are encouraged on college campuses so take advantage of that, it’seems hard to been seen and heard from behind the keyboard so join the conversation and engage with the students who have different experiences from your own.

  • Duda Day

    Next demand will be UCB pays all entering Black freshman reparations for slavery. Wait. I think that was on their list!!!

  • garyfouse

    Now I understand why Dirks needs an escape hatch.

  • lspanker

    If only members of the Cal Berkeley BSU spent half as much time studying as they do protesting, they wouldn’t have such abysmal graduation rates to the point where they have to write op-eds bemoaning that fact:

  • garyfouse

    Wow. Put on Black Power shirts, look menacing, make demands, and that weenie of a chancellor, Dirks, caves right in. Black students need a place to heal? From what-being treated like handicapped children who can’t make it through college without resource centers, separate dorms and who knows, maybe separate water fountains too? This is embarrassing for all concerned.

    • lspanker

      I came to the conclusion a long time ago that some of these people are not bright enough to realize they should be embarrassed…

      • garyfouse

        I don’t agree. Just like too many of their white fellow students they have been led to believe that They are victims and that America is instrinsically evil.

        • lspanker

          Fair enough…

  • elrod

    The group projects an image of militancy and exclusion.

  • Mr. Chow

    Gave the chancellor a list of demands? These people are students and should be grateful to be at UCB. How about Dirks use their list as TP and tell them if they don’t like it, find another campus to get a top notch education?

  • Paul Anderson

    Congratulations. Is that the room you
    wanted? (Later you can reveal the secret of how the first person into a room can avoid being the only person in the room., unless it is built around them. Perhaps it should be .)

  • what a waste of tuition and taxpayer dollars

  • ShadrachSmith

    Find a resentment, rub it raw, get a mob at your back, and demand $ and power or you will burn the whole place down, like in Ferguson. That is the basic D strategy. This is a bit different.

    Some administrator wanted to earn their full Social Justice Warrior spurs with some attack on American Cultural Hegemony, so they found some students, told them what to say, and now he/she can put it on their resume.

  • Mark Talmont

    So some provocateurs stage an incident and this triggers a shake-down from the Chancellor. No wonder he decided he needed an escape hatch. Rewarding extortionate behavior is likely to produce even more of it.

    • lspanker

      The chancellor doesn’t need an escape hatch – he needs a spine.

  • Leonid Khoroshev

    “For Black students, the center will function as a place where they can host events, organize study sessions and foster relationships with other Black students and staff members. ” – Does this imply Berkeley has an environment which makes it harder for Black students compared to other students to “host events, organize study sessions, and foster relationships with students and staff”?
    Do Black students have a hard time successfully planning or organizing such things through the same systems with which every other student uses?
    Final question, would this new space be open/accessible to White students?

    • Dan Spitzer

      Of course it won’t be accessible to white students. Valiant leaders of the Civil Rights Movement fought long and hard for integration. But today’s BSU and BLM participants want special treatment and “space,” be it via affirmative action or so-called “resource centers.” Sadly, timorous administrators capitulate to these absurd demands which are costly and discriminatory to non-black students…

    • to quote black lives matter ”

      “White people to the back””

  • I guess the African American Student Development Center ( and Black Recruitment and Retention Center ( aren’t enough? I’m all for funding underprivileged/underrepresented student communities and accommodating (reasonable) unmet needs of specific populations, but why does this campus needs a _third_ separate ‘center’ for African American / Black Students? Why couldn’t have the existing two been expanded? It just seems highly inefficient — pure administrative bloat. That’s on top of the Multicultural Center, Cross-Cultural Student Development Program, Bridges Multicultural Resource Center, Academic Achievement Programs Center, and Educational Opportunity Program all of which focus on underrepresented ethnic/racial minorities.

    • lspanker

      Just part of the ongoing shakedown racket… college administrators hope to lessen some of their liberal white guilt by spending more taxpayer dollars.

    • Mikel Smith

      Good Evening Troll,
      None of your links wrk because they are false information. Obviously you don’t or have ever gone to Cal. The African American Student Development Office is a a small office space with a couch that’s maximum occupancy is like 8 people including the four people that work their as their office. Second the Black Recruitment and Retention center is NOT A CENTER!!, it’s a student organization that works diligently on top of their school and personal obligation rigorously outreaching and providing resources to prospective UCB high school and middle school students. They also only have an office space, there’s disrespectfully only hold 3 people max at any time. And many of the other “Center” are offices you listed designated for the individuals that work there.

      • lspanker

        They still laid a guilt trip on the administration to coerce them out of $83K that could be better spend somewhere else…

      • Lol my links don’t work because Disqus truncated them. You can still google them and get to the correct page. Just because I’ve never visited a diversity office does not mean I’m not a student here. As a white man, I’ve never had the need to.

        All of the offices/centers/etc take up space and have paid staff (even the student ones). Again, I would be all for moving AASD into a bigger space if they need it. Instead, they have created a separate campus unit and are trying to get separate staff for it. At the same time AASD is still keeping their old space which could be repurposed.

        People complain about administrative bloat, this is administrative bloat.