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.