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Unpacking Black representation on campus

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FEBRUARY 23, 2023

February is Black History Month, a time dedicated to those who fought deeply for the freedom of Black individuals and have and continue to make pivotal contributions to the Black community and all of society. But given how much improvement our nation still needs to make in protecting and supporting Black individuals, we hope to draw attention to the work campus has done and what more needs to be done.

UC Berkeley has historically enrolled a low number of Black students. Between 2012 and 2018, the overall enrollment rate of Black undergraduates steadied at around 3.3%. This lack of Black representation in the student body wasn’t notably improved until the fall of 2019, when the rate increased to 3.5%.

But, most recently, the rate of Black undergraduate enrollment was 3.8% in the fall of 2021 and 2022. Despite the improvements in enrollment rates compared to 2012, these rates remain evidently low when compared with the demographics of California residents, where Black individuals are about 7% of the population.

UC Berkeley’s position as a California public school comes with the responsibility to serve the Californian population. Even with the clear increases in Black undergraduate enrollment, there is still room to improve representation in enrollment. By admitting more Black students every year, we urge campus to align with — or even go beyond — demographics between the state and the school and represent California more accurately.

However, it is important to acknowledge that campus has made many changes to aid in the overall increase of Black representation at UC Berkeley. The Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center and the African American Initiative are just some examples of how campus works closely with partners and honors its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Given that the prison system disproportionately incarcerates Black communities, Berkeley Underground Scholars is another organization on campus that aids in creating a pathway to education for formerly incarcerated or system-impacted individuals. Amid funding concerns for this integral program at UC Berkeley, we hope that campus continuously allocates resources and financial support to organizations like Underground Scholars working closely in the realm of diversity and inclusion. We hope campus will increasingly prioritize the voices of individuals within the Black community who call for more support.

While it is Black History Month in February, we urge all readers to practice awareness, inclusion and respect always. Despite the promise of numerical changes in enrollment rates, UC Berkeley can only become an anti-racist school with the help of everyone in it. These changes, no matter how seemingly minimal, add up to a grand impact. We are living in the moments that matter most to make change for our future generations, and it starts with us.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2023 opinion editor, Ashley Tsai. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

FEBRUARY 24, 2023