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Following negotiations for increased recruitment of black faculty and students, Chancellor Henry T. Yang and the Black Student Union reached an agreement in December that includes hiring an Admissions Counselor for Diversity Initiatives and establishing other changes campus-wide.
The settlement heralds new policies designed to address the currently small population of black students in UCSB — which was just four percent in 2011 — by establishing initiatives to recruit and retain black students and provide them with an improved learning environment. Among these upcoming changes, the Chancellor has agreed to establish an office for an Admissions Counselor for Diversity Initiatives, along with four student interns, two psychologists who have experience with black students and, over the next five years, four endowed chairs across the academic divisions. There were also other changes, such as new fellowships, and the total cost of these projects comes to over $2.5 million. Of this expenditure, there is an amount of $693,012 for all projects beside the new endowed chairs, for which there is $2 million, the funds of which will be raised over the next five years.
Other projects in the agreement include a bi-yearly global interdisciplinary conference allowing faculty and graduate students to share research about the black community, a display on student activism in North Hall in honor of the 1968 takeover and making information on all self-identified black students on campus available to the new admissions counselor. Making this change, in particular, will help to “enhance the Black Student Union’s outreach to all new students to the University,” according to a press release. However, Chancellor Yang denied the BSU’s demand to rename North Hall to Malcolm X Hall.
While saying he was excited to improve the university experience for a significant student population, Chancellor Yang said he was happy to work with BSU in carrying out the negotiations.
“The meetings were very productive and collaborative,” Yang said in an email. “Listening to and learning from students about their ideas and concerns is an extremely important part of strengthening UC Santa Barbara as an academic institution and as a community.”
Black studies major and BSU Co-Chair Alexis Wright said the agreement reveals the university’s support and commitment to the demands presented by the BSU. She said the new changes are significant because they mark a shift in the university’s attention to the black student experience on campus. In addition, Wright said she hopes to see similar policies enacted elsewhere within the University.
“BSU hopes that the campus’ commitment to the demands and initiatives presented by the Black student leadership at UCSB can create a model for other campuses to recognize the issues black students face and to acknowledge them as contributing factors to the quality of campus life,” Wright said in an email.
According to BSU’s Dec. 13, 2013 press release detailing the agreement, the institutional changes come 45 years after the BSU’s historic takeover of North Hall in 1968, a time when they set forth demands to improve the condition of their education. The takeover ultimately led to the creation of the Black Studies Department.
The press release states that the agreement is noteworthy since the there has been no need for the BSU to “engage in occupation, protest or threats of violence reminiscent of the past to make [their] demands a reality.” In the press release, the BSU Demands Team noted that the agreement was done peacefully on both parties and stated, “Chancellor Yang listened to our call and engaged with us in this process willingly.”
Additionally, the BSU plans to finalize several new positions, such as a visiting professorship named after the renowned black female activist Ella Baker — which will receive between $75,000 and $100,000 in funding for the first three years — as well as a two-year post-doctoral fellowship, which will be funded with $50,000 per year. Other plans include increasing the dissertation scholars program funding by $10,000 and creating a study to assess the campus climate experienced by black students at UCSB.