‘There is still work to be done’: UC system receives higher education diversity award

Photo of UC Berkeley campus
William Webster/Staff
The UC system was among recipients of the INSIGHT into Diversity magazine Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

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INSIGHT into Diversity magazine announced Sept. 20 that the UC system was one of 101 colleges and universities to receive the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

The magazine’s website describes the award as the only national award to honor an institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recipients will be featured in the November 2021 and December 2021 issues of INSIGHT into Diversity, according to the website.

“One of the goals of the application process is to help institutions of higher education assess their diversity efforts in order to build on their success and improve where necessary,” the magazine’s website reads.

Judged by representatives from the magazine’s publisher, the website describes the selection process as “comprehensive,” looking at diversity programs and initiatives from the institution itself, as well as factors such as student retention and hiring practices for faculty.

A university press release also noted that the UC system received the award because of its focus on recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students, as well as support of diversity and inclusion from university leadership.

“UC will continue to undertake efforts to encourage even more diverse prospective students, faculty, and staff to come to our campuses,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King in an email.

This award comes in the wake of this year’s most diverse freshman class yet, with the welcoming of a record number of underrepresented students and community college transfer students. King added that five of the nine undergraduate campuses have received the federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, with Latinx students composing the largest ethnic group admitted to the university this year.

Although UC Berkeley is not a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, there is a task force of more than 30 people, including students, to make progress toward that goal, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

“Increasing diversity is one of Chancellor Christ’s top priorities,” Gilmore said in an email. “Improving the support and opportunities available to all students is another important step so that all students have access to the wide range of opportunities on campus and thrive at Berkeley and beyond.”

Some diversity and equity resources on campus include the Centers for Educational Justice and Community Engagement, bridges Multicultural Resource Center and the Educational Opportunity Program, according to Kyra Abrams, a spokesperson from the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs. Abrams emphasized the role of students in maintaining diversity on campus, adding that “there is still work to be done” at the university level.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Riya Master also believes many of these centers are staffed by students themselves, rather than by administration. She added that while she is grateful to receive the award, the university has “a lot of room” for improvement, citing the underrepresentation of Black and middle-class students.

“Every time we win another award like this, people turn to the administration and applaud them,” Master said. “We should make note of the students who got us there.”

Riley Cooke is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @rrileycooke.