UC Berkeley Black undergraduates are demanding change, Haas School of Business must listen

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: Despite a commitment to foster diversity and inclusion, Haas is failing Black undergraduates.

Illustration of the Haas Arch falling apart
Amanda Tsang/Staff

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Putting “students first” and seeking out “diverse perspectives” is, according to its website, one of the Haas School of Business’ principle pillars. And yet, demands from a crucial part of its undergraduate population is being ignored — Black students. The Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association, or HUBBA, has called for Haas to make tangible efforts to increase Black representation in faculty. We echo this call.

The low number of Black students and faculty at Haas, as well as within the broader campus community, is disgraceful. Only about 3.8% of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate population in fall 2021 is Black.

One month after HUBBA released its petition, Haas published a list of 10 new professors who would begin teaching this fall. None were Black. While Haas had already hired those professors before the petition circulated, failing to recognize Black students’ call for more representation in its press release was callous.

Despite that CA Proposition 209 restricts UC Berkeley from considering race in hiring and acceptance processes, Haas’ efforts to increase student and faculty diversity are inadequate. Black students are largely unable to learn from Black professors, which can negatively impact their education and opportunities for mentorship.

HUBBA is also demanding transparency surrounding faculty hiring processes and the placement of a student as a voting member on the Haas hiring committee. In addition, Haas must be transparent about its lack of Black representation — this information is unavailable on their website.

Marginalized students are too often expected to act as spokespeople for their communities, which is time-consuming and emotionally draining. HUBBA is calling for Haas to create a paid student task force charged with increasing the retention and recruitment of underrepresented talent. While members of the Hass administration are paid to create a welcoming environment for students, members of HUBBA and other Black students are having to spend their time and labor undertaking this responsibility without compensation.

UC Berkeley has taken steps to increase diversity, including eliminating standardized testing scores in the application process, which resulted in an increased number of Black undergraduates who were admitted last spring. Haas has also gone above other competitive business schools by asking faculty applicants for a diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, statement as well as methods for promoting DEI as a faculty member. This, however, says more about a lack of commitment to diversity in academia than UC Berkeley’s commitment to DEI.

Despite these important steps Haas and campus have taken to address diversity issues, Black students have still said they feel they are ignored. Black students must be heard, and yet there is no mention of any direct efforts to collaborate with HUBBA or other students in Hass’ five-year DEI plan.

The lack of diversity in the Haas undergraduate program shows a lack of regard for the social context that surrounds business and economics, as well as the students who are fighting to be acknowledged. We hope this editorial amplifies HUBBA’s demands. If Haas truly wants to protect its “students first” pillar from crumbling entirely, it must address the hollow promises it has made to marginalized students.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.