Administration announces creation of Chicana/o and Latina/o Task Force on Tuesday

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The campus administration announced the creation of the UC Berkeley Chicana/o and Latina/o Task Force on Tuesday, inviting individuals across the campus community to nominate potential members.

According to an email sent out to the campus community by Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Na’ilah Nasir, the task force will provide recommendations to campus administrators on how to best address the various needs of the Chicana/o and Latina/o communities on the Berkeley campus. The task force is expected to deliver its recommendations later this year as the administration provides staffing and analytical support.

“This has been, in some ways, a long time coming,” Nasir said, noting that the creation of the task force follows the administration’s reception of feedback from Chicana/o and Latina/o students, staff and alumni detailing concerns regarding issues of underrepresentation and campus climate.

The convening of the task force represents the latest in a series of the administration’s responses to a campus climate deemed unwelcoming by historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. A 2013 Campus Climate Survey found that 42 percent of black individuals and 34 percent of Chicana/o and Latina/o individuals on campus reported some form of exclusion, intimidation, bullying or isolation.

“Being a Latino student on campus has been difficult for me,” said ASUC Senator Boomer Vicente. “Many of us feel excluded and don’t feel supported by the larger campus community.”

Recounting conversations with fellow members of the campus’s Chicana/o and Latina/o communities, Vicente spoke of two major issues that need to be addressed: the absence of Chicana/o and Latina/o representation in the campus administration and a failure to allot space to Chicana/o and Latina/o community organizations.

According to Lizette Valenzuela, a spokesperson for the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center, the center — which once occupied a large room in Eshleman Hall — has now been allotted half a cubicle in the building’s basement.

“What does that tell you about how much the campus respects what we do?” Vicente said, adding that the center’s recruiting efforts should have been undertaken by the campus.

Despite such issues, Vicente is nonetheless encouraged by the creation of the task force and believes that it could be the first of many steps needed to ensure that the Chicana/o and Latina/o communities thrive on campus.

“I just hope it’s not very bureaucratic,” he said. “In the past, when communities do come together, the chancellor tends to put it aside, and it doesn’t remain a priority.”

ASUC Senator Cuahuctemoc Salinas was similarly excited by the creation of the task force, but he stressed the importance of ensuring intersectional equity.

“As a Latino student, my queer identity and undocumented status often gets lost within the community,” he said, adding that a critical function of the task force will be to ensure that Chicana/o and Latina/o students support one another’s multifaceted identities.

Nasir acknowledged the need for concerted deliberation on a range of issues including diversity, recruitment and retention, adding that she hopes the task force will provide a platform for individuals with a “real interest and knowledge of these communities” to offer their input to the administration along a formal channel.

“We’re looking forward to putting together a strong, thoughtful community,” she said.

Nominations for the task force are due Tuesday.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ishaansriv.