I remember the day I saw the email notification that there had been “An Update to (my) UC Berkeley Application.” When my laptop loaded the bright confetti raining down the letter, I burst into tears. The world became surreal for those few seconds, as I processed my acceptance into one of the top public universities in the world.
After my excitement simmered down, however, I remembered that this was not the first college acceptance I had cried over.
Two weeks earlier, I had received an acceptance letter from UCLA and, along with it, another email from the LGBTQIA+ community at UCLA inviting me to its fifth annual Pride Admit Weekend. I cried even harder at the second email and at the idea of being welcomed with open arms by not only the campus, but also the whole queer community at UCLA.
Don’t get me wrong: I was ecstatic over my UC Berkeley acceptance. This was my dream school. But, a part of me hoped that I would have received another email from UC Berkeley akin to UCLA’s Pride email, reminding me that not only was I meant to be at UC Berkeley but also that I belonged there.
I had emphasized in both my essays and UC application — through ticking the “genderqueer” and “bisexual” boxes — that I was queer, albeit quietly. In my white-dominated school in Texas, I didn’t even feel comfortable being Korean American, let alone anything other than cisgender and heterosexual.
What was the point of telling UC Berkeley that I was queer, however, if the administration wasn’t going to utilize the sensitive information I had given them to help me?
Make no mistake: This is not a critique of the queer/trans+, or QT+, student organizations at UC Berkeley that have worked tirelessly to advocate for space and resources for years. Once I stepped on campus, I made a conscious effort to seek out queer, rainbow flag-flying clubs on Sproul Plaza and attend their weekly meetings.
After two years of being at UC Berkeley, I’m so grateful to have fulfilled my high school self’s wildest dreams of living my authentically queer life and making QT+ friends. I’ve gone to QT Pie, QT+ Prom, the Queer Art and Fashion Show and other events sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Queer Alliance Resource Center, or QARC. I even had the privilege of helping plan the 2019 Queer and Asian Conference.
The UC Berkeley administration, however, does not do enough to amplify the voices of these fierce, hardworking, down-to-earth advocates — especially those who are Black, Brown or Indigenous — or to highlight the resources that it has secured to incoming students, especially those who are new to the area. It is the administration’s job to prioritize the recruitment and retention of minority students. But because of the administration’s lackluster efforts, student groups such as bridges and QARC have had to step in and do this work for years.
My only connection to UC Berkeley before I officially entered was through administrative emails. Most discussed fulfilling financial and academic requirements by submitting payments and AP test scores, with one including links to the main class of 2022 Facebook group. These emails did not include links to groups specific to QT+ communities or any information about on-campus centers such as the Gender Equity Resource, or GenEq, Center and the Multicultural Community Center.
In fact, I did not get any queer-specific emails until I stepped foot on campus and physically put my contact information on sign-up sheets. I was lucky enough to have the financial means to fly out to Berkeley and attend Cal Day, but Cal Day was hectic and disorienting, especially for an out-of-state freshman.
Although there were very few LGBTQIA+ related events, one of my favorite memories of Cal Day was hanging out at the GenEq Center and meeting the volunteers and staff there. I remember, however, having to forfeit sessions highlighting different majors on campus in order to try and locate the GenEq Center. Even months after Cal Day, during Golden Bear Orientation, I wasn’t shown QT+ spaces with resources such as the Cecilia Chung Resource Center on the fourth floor of Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.
The lack of QT-specific information that the administration relayed to me before I started my undergraduate career ultimately didn’t deter me from choosing UC Berkeley. But it was greatly disappointing and made me question whether I was going to a school that really cared about its QT+ students.
To the UC Berkeley administration: I know operations to prepare for the fall semester and welcome the incoming transfer class of 2022 and freshman class of 2024 will be difficult due to COVID-19. However, I urge you to do more to broadcast QT+ resources than you have in the past.
If QARC organizes a Pride admit week event for incoming freshmen and transfers, do your part to spread the word about this event and other events QT-specific clubs might hold. Spread this information specifically to the students whom you know are QT+ identifying.
If admitted applicants submitted their UC apps with their contact information and data about their genders and sexualities — precious parts of their identities and lives that they might not have felt safe disclosing publicly before — do your part to relay QT+ specific information to them. Send all incoming QT+ students this nonexhaustive guide on QARC, QT+ student organizations and QT+ resources on and around campus to show them that they are truly welcome and supported on campus.
If we give you information about our identities, we expect information back. This is how you as an administration establish trust among incoming students and send the message that queer and trans+ students are truly welcome on this campus.
Jenny Kwon is a rising junior at UC Berkeley studying public health and data science.