UC Berkeley Pacific Islander community meets with campus administrator to address lack of resources

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Members of the Pacific Islander community on campus congregated with Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón Jr. for the first time Thursday to discuss a potential increase in Pacific Islander representation and resources.

In the meeting, Pacific Islander students expressed the hardships compounded by the campus’s lack of resources. Pacific Islanders currently do not have specific programs and resources devoted to their needs, according to Thomas Mangloña, a Pacific Islander community advocate within the Asian Pacific American Student Development center. Because of this, Mangloña said students are put under the umbrella of the wider Asian American communities.

Pacific Islander issues “fall between the cracks,” according to the list of demands brought by members of the Pacific Islander community. Mangloña said Pacific Islander students are often “invisibilized” and “marginalized.”

“(Pacific Islanders) are forced to find a home within other communities,” said sophomore Meilani Meleisea during the meeting.

Meleisea added that Pacific Islanders do not have a place to congregate on campus.

The list of demands presented to Dubón by the Pacific Islander community raised concerns about a lack of representation in the classroom and institution. They requested greater support for recruit and retention centers and a permanent staff member at the Centers for Educational Justice & Community Engagement, or EJCE, who would implement programs specifically designed to support the Pacific Islander community.

In response to these demands, Dubón announced at the meeting a proposal to hire a part-time Pacific Islander representative who would work through the EJCE center on campus.

“There needs to be progress and not just statements,” Dubón said. “Everything (the Pacific Islander community) says is so important. (We are) in continuing dialogue moving forward … to meet the needs of students.”

Dubón agreed to continue meeting with the Pacific Islander community to ensure that the campus was making progress. He also announced a funding campaign to construct a center on campus that would focus on the needs of all marginalized groups.

The uniqueness of the Pacific Islander community stems in part from a history of “colonization and militarization” and from the particular cultures of each island, Mangloña said.

Those attending the meeting expressed that campus resources are especially necessary for the Pacific Islander community because members can often fall into areas with violence and poor nutrition.

According to data from Cal Answers, 40 percent of undergraduate students identifying as Pacific Islander are first-generation college students, and 48 percent are Pell Grant recipients.

Mangloña said UC Berkeley falls behind other large public universities when it comes to providing resources for Pacific Islanders.

“The PI community has received a lot of lip service, but we want action,” Mangloña said. “It’s just about time.”

Contact Jarrett Visher at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Jarrett_Visher.