UC Santa Barbara’s Black Student Union released a set of demands on Feb. 8 for the university to fulfill, which includes eight new paid positions dedicated to fostering black student success on campus and the creation of a building specifically for black student development.
These demands build upon previous ones that Black Student Union (BSU) presented to the university, first in 1968 and again in 2012. The most recent demands aim to address “structural hindrances on the development of Black UCSB students,” according to the list of demands authored by the BSU Demands Team.
“Black students must continually fight to have their humanity recognized and appreciated, which takes time away from students’ abilities to study, learn and become wholly involved as campus community members,” the team wrote in the demands list.
The demands team argued that the university’s lack of effort to improve the conditions of black students on campus has required that BSU members and the black student community consistently advocate for black students, according to the demands list. To alleviate this, BSU demands institutional changes they said would provide a reliable source of advocacy for black students on campus.
“The University has continually been unable to fulfill Black students’ demands without the intervention of Black students on campus who address this inability,” the demands team wrote.
“The University’s reliance on Black student intervention in what should be structured efforts to support Black students is unacceptable.”
The Feb. 8 demands include the following:
- The creation of an Office of Black Student Development “to support the Black experience at UCSB.” The office would include eight paid positions and would provide “resources, advocate for and help create a positive learning environment” for black students in addition to building a “sense of belonging” to bolster the academic success of black students.
- The implementation of a Director of Black Student Development, who would advocate for black students on campus and keep the university “accountable to Black students and Black student development.”
- The implementation of two academic support counselors dedicated to addressing the academic achievement needs of black students.
- The implementation of a recruitment and retention specialist to “ensure that the University is … recruiting more Black students in order to increase our Black student population” and to focus on Black student retention. The specialist would also focus on “creating a livable environment for Black people.”
- The implementation of a coordinator of black student life, who would specialize in the social and extracurricular activities and opportunities of black students.
- The implementation of two advocacy counselors tasked with identifying the current challenges that black students face at UCSB and working to resolve those issues and help black students achieve their goals.
- The creation of a building on campus, which would be named the “Malcolm X Center for Black Student Development.” It would be solely dedicated to black students and would be a commemoration to the North Hall Takeover of 1968.
BSU estimates the total cost of the demands to be about $900,000 and requires that this money be provided permanently by the chancellor’s office, as opposed to the Division of Student Affairs, and be allocated by February of 2021.
BSU also demands that the construction of the Malcolm X Center for Black Student Development begin within the same two-year period. This demand for a building for black students on campus was part of the 1968 demands set forth by BSU members during the North Hall Takeover.
“We believe that it is time that the University fulfill the commitments that it has claimed to have made to Black students throughout the course of the last 50 years. We want the entire campus community to know and hear clearly our struggle. We refuse to wait any longer,” the demands team wrote.
BSU met with Chancellor Henry T. Yang and other top administrators on Friday to present and discuss BSU’s demands.
Yang said he is willing to work with students in creating Office of Black Student Development in a statement he sent to the Nexus.
“I am supportive of the vision for an Office of Black Student Development, and have been working with students, faculty, and administrative colleagues to ensure that progress is made toward the first steps of planning for the establishment of such a significant resource,” Yang wrote in the statement.
The demands and information about the meeting were emailed to Nexus on Feb. 9. In that email, BSU expressed “frustrations” about an incident that had happened during the meeting.
According to the email, Maria Herrera-Sobek, associate vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, made “disturbing and insulting” comments which “belittle[d] the struggle of Black UCSB students and Black people by minimizing the Black identity as a whole.”
While discussing BSU’s demands, Herrera-Sobek reportedly expressed her discontent with a previous black administrator, who she felt centered efforts on the black student community and lacked attention toward the Chicanx and Latinx student community, the email stated.
Herrera-Sobek also reportedly said during the meeting that she would have hoped the administrator spent more time focused on the Hispanic student community, adding that, “[W]e are all African,” according to the email.
“Black students across the board continue to be undervalued and underserved at an institutional level within university systems,” BSU wrote in the email.
“Our meeting [on Friday] proved how ignorant our own administration is to the plights of Black students.”
Herrera-Sobek said she apologized to the BSU members for the effects that her comments had in the meeting.
“I have communicated to the students that I deeply regret the remarks that caused them discomfort and made them feel marginalized,” Herrera-Sobek wrote in an email sent to the Nexus on Tuesday morning.
“I hope to have the opportunity for further dialogue with the students and to continue to find ways for my office and the university to support their needs and to address their pressing concerns.”
BSU said Herrera-Sobek’s behavior during the meeting was an “iteration of anti-Blackness” on behalf of the university, and something they said is familiar to the experiences of black students at UCSB and other schools such as Santa Barbara City College and California Polytechnic State University.
“It was troublesome for us to hear an administrator whose position is explicitly and solely dedicated to diversity and equity on campus use such apparent anti-Black rhetoric,” BSU wrote in an email.
A copy of the demands in full can be read below:
Updated [2:30 p.m.]
Sofia Mejias-Pascoe is an asst. news editor at the Daily Nexus and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Feb. 14, 2019 issue of the Daily Nexus.