Chancellor Carol Christ announces project to increase campus diversity

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Chancellor Carol Christ announced Thursday the launch of UC Berkeley’s new Undergraduate Student Diversity Project, which aims to expand and advance diversity on campus.

The project’s immediate goals include increasing the enrollment of underrepresented, socioeconomically disadvantaged and first-generation college students, expanding diversity among undergraduate students, and qualifying as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2028. In the long run, the campus aims to identify and remedy barriers to full equity and inclusion for all students, according to the project outline.

In an email to students and faculty, Christ acknowledged roadblocks in the path toward increasing diversity, calling attention to the fact that there is a lower proportion of Black students on campus than there was in the 1990s, and that barely 1 percent of the student population identifies as Native American.

UC Berkeley was ranked lowest out of all the UC campuses in terms of equity, according to a report released by the University of Southern California in September. Christ added in her email that UC Berkeley has the lowest proportion of underrepresented minority students among the undergraduate UC campuses.

“At this point, (Christ) has made clear that the status quo needs to change,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

The campus will form small teams to examine current practices and identify potential areas of growth for diversity in three regions of focus — admissions outreach, the undergraduate admission process and the on-campus experience for underrepresented students, according to the project proposal. The teams will be composed of faculty and staff with knowledge in those given areas, Mogulof added.

ASUC Senator Amir Wright, who has previously pushed the campus to increase funding of recruitment and retention centers, or RCCs, to improve diversity outreach, said he is interested in addressing how the campus can make itself more attractive to underrepresented students. Wright proposed that the campus should focus on funding RCCs to attract these students. In the long term, however, Wright said the campus should bolster minority organizations and theme programs on campus because “those are the support systems students of color have once they get here.”

The proposal states that the small teams are expected to complete their work by the end of the spring 2019 semester, with the goal of implementing changes in fall 2020. Until then, the campus administration will focus on “quick win” ideas for issues, including yield — the percentage of accepted underrepresented students that choose to enroll  — that can be addressed soon enough to impact the incoming class in fall 2019, according to Mogulof.

“We need to make up for lost ground and lost time,” Mogulof said. “(Christ) wants work to proceed quickly, and the time has come for action.”

In her email, Christ said Proposition 209, which prohibits discrimination from public institutions on the basis of race, sex or ethnicity, may have affected the demographics of UC Berkeley’s student population.

Wright added that there are certain initiatives the campus cannot take to expand diversity because of Prop. 209. To address this issue, Wright said he introduced a bill to the ASUC Senate aimed at repealing the proposition. Though Prop. 209 does not allow public universities to preference students based on their race or ethnicity during the admissions process, Wright said the campus can take more action to recruit underrepresented students from high schools.

“I really hope we can see some concrete results come out of this,” Wright said. “We’ve seen decreasing numbers of students of color — I want to see more students that look like me come 2020.”

Contact Sabina Mahavni at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.