Today, students across the country are engaging in efforts to make our universities and society more equitable. It is because of National Take Affirmative Action Day, sponsored by the United States Student Association (USSA), that our campus, as well as others, is educating people about affirmative action.
We are in an extremely dangerous place in our country where race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, class, and other characteristics are being used against people in terms of accessing resources for jobs, education and a quality life.
By the time they’re nine, students growing up in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind students growing up in wealthier communities. Also, students growing up in low-income communities are seven times less likely to graduate from college.
We see it affecting our communities everyday and still no one talks about what was lost in California when affirmative action was outlawed. We are in need of more action, more dialogue, more research and thought around the oppression of our communities and those of our brothers and sisters who struggle with us.
According to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, “Nearly 70 percent of inner-city and rural fourth-graders cannot read at even a basic level. Imagine that: In the greatest, wealthiest nation the world has ever known, nearly seven out of ten fourth graders in big cities and rural areas cannot read. It is our greatest failure as a nation. It is our failure as a people, and we must do something about it.”
While Rod Paige is normally conservative on issues around identity and access, he is right on with his statement here. On our campus specifically, we have a serious problem with admissions policies that clearly show how so many communities are drastically under-represented on our campus.
Specifically on the UCSB campus, African-American students account for only 3% of the population, American Indian students 1%, Latino 19%, Asian/Pacific Islander, 13%, Filipino 1% and East Indian Pakistani 1% (Reference UCSB admissions records). These numbers shows how drastically various communities of color are underrepresented on our campus. What is even worse is that there are other University of California campuses whose populations are lower than this.
On a racial level, it is clear that students of color are not only under-represented in our university, but it is obvious that there is an over-representation of white students. This is a direct result of the inequities that exist in our education system. Schools in urban areas that are populated almost entirely by black and Latino students receive less funding, less classroom materials and less teaching staff. We are getting worse not better.
The policies and institutions our communities are leaning on to grow are turning their backs on us. Beyond race, we have no current formal outreach program specifically for students with disabilities or for queer students, proving this is an issue affecting multiple communities.
The absence of affirmative action is deteriorating the so-called accessibility our universities are supposed to uphold. It is time to acknowledge what we’ve lost, or more correctly, what has been taken away, and remember that we need to work together; we need to struggle with one another in our joining battles of oppression. I hope we can all remember this day with no remorse or sorrow for the situation we are in but as a way to spark momentum. We need momentum for a movement of collaboration and unity to challenge this attack together.
Felicia Cruz is the external vice president for Associated Students Statewide Affairs.