UC Berkeley was ranked lowest out of all UC campuses in terms of equity — including representation and completion equity — according to a report released by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center in late September.
Isaiah Simmons, a graduate student at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, and Shaun Harper, founder and executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, co-authored the report, entitled “Black Students at Public Colleges and Universities: A 50-State Report Card.” Simmons said enrollment trends of Black students was of “mutual interest to both of us.”
Simmons and Harper assigned public universities throughout the country a letter and numerical grade based on four indicators of equity mentioned in the report: representation equity, gender equity, completion equity and Black student-to-Black faculty ratio.
UC Berkeley has an “equity index score” of 2.5 — the lowest out of all UC campuses, according to the report. The report also showed that the overall undergraduate graduation rate at UC Berkeley from 2013 to 2016 was nearly 16 percent higher than the campus graduation rate for Black undergraduates — a greater difference in graduation rates than at any other UC campus.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said this finding “should be a really huge red flag.”
“(The difference in graduation rates) is a reality check,” Khalfay said. “I know we usually think of Berkeley as a place that’s really diverse.”
ASUC Senator Amir Wright said though he found the results of the report to be appalling, he was not surprised by them. Wright recalled being the only Black student in a class and seeing the lack of Black representation throughout the student body and faculty every day.
“This report basically confirmed what we’ve been feeling and what we’ve been saying for years,” Wright said.
Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the campus includes Black-Latinx students and multiracial students of African descent as part of the Black student population, while the report does not. Gilmore said this difference in calculation explains why the campus indicates that Black students constitute 3.2 percent of the undergraduate population, whereas the report includes a lower percentage: 1.9 percent.
Despite these “methodology concerns,” Gilmore said the campus appreciates the report’s impact, and UC Berkeley is committed to attracting Black students through its African American Initiative. She added, however, that there is much more work to be done.
Simmons and Harper offer recommendations at the end of the report for addressing Black undergraduate student underrepresentation, which include graduating Black students at higher rates, ensuring gender equality in the enrollment process and hiring and retaining more Black faculty members.
Travis Bristol, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, said he supports the approach of recruiting more Black faculty, citing personal experience.
“I’ve had several people who reached out to me, … specifically Black students,” Bristol said. “(Black students) are attracted to schools where you have those types of faculty members.”
Wright emphasized the importance of securing funds to recruit and retain Black students and of ensuring they receive the support they need. Currently, he said, Black students “don’t see any resources for them on campus.”
The Black Student Union published a statement by a collection of Black student leaders on its Facebook page, in which they expressed their “inalienable right” to equal and just treatment on campus and called for institutional change.
“It doesn’t take a USC report to tell Black students something that we’ve already known, but it does provide validation that can move an entire community to demand better,” student leaders said in the statement. “Black students will not be passive in the continuous revelations of serious discrepancies and discrimination that has perpetuated on this campus and others.”