Working groups form to improve UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s diversity

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In response to student criticism over the lack of diversity in the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, or J-School, Academic Senate faculty members have established five working groups to make recommendations by July 15.

UC Berkeley’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, or NABJ, drafted 17 action items and voiced their concerns about the school’s handling of racial inequality issues within the journalism field. The senate faculty has responded by forming separate working groups that will address individual items and make plans.

“The main problem is a lack of diversity among professors and students, and the inherent biases and oversights that occur when there aren’t enough POC in the room,” said the UC Berkeley chapter of the NABJ in an email statement.

All the affinity groups at the J-School, including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapter and the Asian American Journalists Association chapter, have issued a letter of support for the NABJ’s list of proposals.

Members of the Academic Senate penned a letter to NABJ students and the wider J-School community Tuesday to provide an update on the action items the NABJ asked them to address.

According to the letter, the five working groups consist of 30 volunteers from faculty, lecturers and staff.

The working groups were asked to propose plans that diversify the student body, faculty and staff; increase student funding and support; update curriculum and overall learning; reimagine extracurricular and public-facing activities; and improve culture, climate, communication and transparency.

“We take very seriously the students’ requests,” said Geeta Anand, a professor at the journalism school, in an email. “This historic national uprising is a moment for us to seize to meaningful changes to address systemic anti-Black and other forms of racism at our school.”

An interim dean for the J-School is also expected to be appointed in the coming days after Dean Edward Wasserman made the decision to step down in order to rejoin the faculty full time. His resignation is effective July 1.

“We expect the interim dean to consider the recommendations from the working groups, consult with students and alumni, and adopt short, medium and long term plans,” Anand said in the email. “We expect some plans will be implemented before the fall.”

The working groups, which started meeting this week, are expected to identify sources of funding for their plans and make recommendations to the interim dean by July 15.

The NABJ also said it is now waiting to review the administration’s exact plan for other action items it proposed.

Contact Catherine Hsu at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @catherinehsuDC.