Instead of UC Berkeley Changemaker program, support Save Mills, UC Mills campaigns

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I am writing in response to the March 29 story published in The Daily Californian, “UC Berkeley partners with Mills College to launch freshman pathway.”

On Wednesday, March 17, the Mills College Board of Trustees decided Mills College will stop granting degrees after 2023. News of this closure came a few days before students went on spring break and was a surprise to many members of the Mills community.

Mills alumni are tenacious, and we are not going to let the school close without a fight.

As a college older than UC Berkeley, Mills College deserves better than to be relegated to an institute that does not yet have a clear mission. Two campaigns, Save Mills College Coalition and UC Mills, were created to fight the board of trustees’ decision.

The Save Mills College Coalition, or Save Mills, is a coalition of Mills students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Save Mills members demand full transparency into the college’s true financial state, any potential mergers and any outside acquisitions of college property, assets or leases. The call for transparency is due to Mills’ historical financial instability and its ongoing struggles with declining enrollment, recent tuition decrease and faculty-administrator tensions, referenced in a 2015 Inside Higher Ed article written after Sweet Briar College’s closure announcement. Save Mills’ main purpose is to have the board of trustees explore all possible paths to keep Mills a degree-granting college.

Mills College has long-standing partnerships with UC Berkeley, according to Ramu Nagappan, the assistant dean at UC Berkeley Extension, which will help oversee the UC Berkeley Changemaker in Oakland program. While the Changemaker in Oakland program is a solution for the available vacant space at Mills, little is mentioned of its effects on and benefits to current Mills students. The Alumnae Association of Mills College, or AAMC, has proposed UC Mills as an initiative to make Mills College an independent college within the UC system, much like UC Hastings, which would mutually benefit Mills, the UC system and the state of California. UC Mills is pushing beyond what the Changemaker in Oakland program, Mills Institute and the UC system can offer for historically underrepresented student populations, such as Black, Latinx, first-generation, low-income, community college transfer and nontraditional students.

Mills College and UC Berkeley share similar communities and characteristics, both being located in Alameda County. To lose Mills would be a huge loss for the Bay Area. To members of the UC Berkeley community, we as Mills alumni and fellow Alameda County residents need your support in both of the proposed initiatives to save and redesign Mills College in a way that benefits the communities Mills has been serving for decades.

Octavia Sun is a 2016 alumna of Mills College. She is currently a corporate social responsibility associate analyst based in San Francisco.