In current climate, new vice chancellor of equity and inclusion must step up

CAMPUS ISSUES: Oscar Dubón, Jr. will need a clearer vision if he wants to succeed.

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Kelly Baird/Staff

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.”

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  • zzz

    “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 guys position of chancellor of equity and inclusion is a laugher, it would help the authors case if they could somehow point out that building construction is actually chancellor of equity and inclusion’s job.

    These two paragraphs remind me of when I did human resources and had to have talks with the poorly wired, I would tell them what the issue was, then they would defend themselves with some bizarre off topic complaint about something that had nothing to do with them.

    I can imagine these newspaper people out in the world

    HR “you need to show up to work on time”

    entitled college “there is no ADA compliant elevator”

    HR “that is not my job, you also work on the first floor, you don’t even need an elevator”

    entitled college “but the elevator is still broken and I hold you responsible, you can’t worn me about being late”

    HR “the two things are not associated, elevators are not my job”

    entitled college “in college they were, in college I decided what everyones job is”

  • California Defender

    “In the Trump era, blatant vocal bigotry is increasingly acceptable, and systemic oppression is ignored or exacerbated.”

    “advocate for marginalized students who are structurally silenced”

    I’ve tried to examine people who believe this to see the world through their eyes. I’ve stared into that abyss, but I feel less human for it and no closer to understanding this level of lunacy or malevolence.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      It seems fairly clear to me that Trump’s success has emboldened and empowered the lunatic fringe of the right wing to stand up and be counted. The second phrase, though, just reads to me like social-theory babble–words that imply something nefarious without being specific, words that speak as though the assumptions being made were already proven.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Why did Nasir last only 2 years in the job?

  • hoapres

    You mean we actually PAY someone for this nonsense. No wonder UC Berkeley is always out of money.

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