In the Trump era, blatant vocal bigotry is increasingly acceptable, and systemic oppression is ignored or exacerbated. The vice chancellor of equity and inclusion shoulders an ever-growing responsibility to advocate effectively for marginalized communities on campus.
Oscar Dubón, Jr. is new to the position (he started in July) and must work fast to become well-versed in a vast array of issues from disability rights to food insecurity in order to make concrete changes that improve campus climate.
Fabrizio Mejia, assistant vice chancellor of student equity and success, said the catch-up process can be like “drinking from a fire hose.”
And Dubón has big shoes to fill. Former Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Na’ilah Nasir filled the role with an eloquence, openness and emotional intelligence rarely seen in administrators.
Dubón has a STEM background, which has its advantages: he has experience with the field’s deep diversity issues and has a quantitative mindset that puts an emphasis on data gathering and analysis. But what he may lack currently is the ability to articulate and derive bigger picture solutions from what the data show.
For example, when Wheeler Hall reopened this semester without an ADA-compliant elevator, it indicated a systemic problem: seemingly positive changes made on campus can often leave behind people with disabilities. But when The Daily Californian’s editorial board asked if this might be an issue that falls under the purview of his office, he demurred.
“I’m not responsible for the buildings,” he said, explaining his job entails raising concerns to others who are able to take action. “I cannot take action. Even if I wanted to, that’s not my responsibility.” But even if Dubón is limited in the scope of his power, the vice chancellor of equity and inclusion should speak with authority on an issue like ADA-accessibility problems. Instead, his commitment, understanding of who to contact to make changes, and follow-through seem deeply lacking.
The office Dubón leads is on the newer side. It was created in 2006 to boost UC Berkeley’s snail-like progress on diversity issues. The idea was that a high-level administrator would have the closer relationship — and thus the greater attention of — other high-power individuals to make structural changes to a system proved inadequate.
His office has already hosted presentations from organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he plans on establishing other workshops focused on what it means to express free speech through protest.
But this isn’t enough. More than three months in, Dubón still seems unclear on whether he aims to advocate for marginalized students who are structurally silenced, or represent the campus on the whole. This issue is most clear in his thoughts regarding the renaming of buildings like Barrows Hall that honor racist historical figures — an issue that has long been touted by many students of color as simple changes that could improve campus climate.
When addressing this subject, Dubón said he would have to take into account how the current building names affect “all students, staff and faculty and all members of our community.” But an issue like this disproportionately affects people of color on this campus. Despite his goals to uplift students of color, Dubón seemed to lack focus in pursuing a resolution.
Dubón certainly won’t succeed in his plans to advocate for marginalized students if he embraces the politicized view that there exists a silent majority he must represent to the same extent that he works to improve the campus for people of color and other historically underrepresented students.
To push the envelope on the campus’s diversity efforts, the vice chancellor of equity and inclusion’s vision, as Mejia puts it, should “always be at the borderline at somewhat impossible, or we’re not being bold enough.”
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.