UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ discusses undergraduate diversity, interrupted by People’s Park advocates

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos discussed tactics to increase undergraduate diversity at a Campus Conversations event Wednesday, which was later interrupted by advocates in favor of saving People’s Park.

Students and faculty convened to hear Christ and Alivisatos discuss the campus’s Undergraduate Student Diversity Project, which Christ unveiled Dec. 6. The new project aims to build a more diverse campus community and increase student and faculty diversity —  goals that Christ promised she would prioritize moving forward.

“Our students want to see themselves in the faculty,” Alivisatos said at the event. “We need to offer that.”

In her opening statement, Christ said that since she has assumed the role of chancellor, campus diversity has remained one of her top priorities.

Earlier this year, a study found that UC Berkeley trails the rest of the UC system with respect to student diversity, Christ said. She added that only three percent of the UC Berkeley community is Black, 14 percent is Latinx and less than one percent identifies as Native American.

According to Christ, these numbers are “simply unacceptable,” especially since all the other undergraduate UC campuses are at or are approaching a 25 percent Latinx population.

Christ identified three specific areas to improve upon, including outreach, the current admissions process and support for students from underrepresented communities when they arrive to campus.

Though plans to increase undergraduate diversity have been developed, Christ said the challenge remains in the implementation of these ideas.

“We have to have the will to make sure our talk turns into real differences in initiatives in programs,” Christ said at the event. “It has to be part of the discourse of the campus.”

During the Q&A portion of the event, Christ and Alivisatos spoke to the campus’s progress in becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI. Qualifying for HSI status is one of the campus’s ten-year goals, according to Christ, who added that the campus population should be more representative of California’s population.

Christ and Alivisatos also addressed the need for increased faculty diversity during the event. Alivisatos discussed a pilot program run by the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, which has allowed the college to hire more Black and female faculty members. Alivisatos added that a similar program will be implemented in the College of Natural Resources.

Christ added that she would like to increase the diversity of those involved in campus leadership.

“Our leadership team needs to be diverse, Christ said during the event. “We have made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go.”

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DANIELA CERVANTES/STAFF

As the event was drawing to a close, former Berkeley City Council candidate Aidan Hill unexpectedly took the stage to advocate against construction at People’s Park, which Christ said she would like to replace with student housing.

After Hill’s interruption, the event was concluded by campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, who was moderating the discussion. As attendees filed out of the room, they encountered more protesters holding signs and voicing their support for People’s Park.

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that former Berkeley City Council candidate Aidan Hill’s interruption caused campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof to conclude the event. In fact, Hill’s interruption did not cause Mogulof to end the event, as the event was previously scheduled to end around that time.