Campus student leaders addressed the removal of former Internal Vice President Bee Schaefer and condemned an anti-Black climate in Associated Students and at UC Santa Barbara in statements last week.
During Fall Quarter 2022, Associated Students (A.S.) President and fourth-year political science major Gurleen Pabla removed Schaefer from her position through an executive order, citing Schaefer’s months-long strike from her duties and alleged negligence of her former position as reasons for the removal.
Schaefer’s strike began before the Senate’s Oct. 19 meeting in response to anti-Black harassment and prejudice within A.S.
The Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC) released a statement on Jan. 23 in solidarity with the UCSB Black Student Union and Schaefer on its Instagram account. The statement summarized and affirmed Schaefer’s experience, which she detailed as anti-Black harassment, threats and prejudice within A.S. The statement described Schaefer’s difficulties navigating university resources and grappling with remote learning and campus police, the only solutions she said were presented to her by UCSB.
“The Afrikan Black Coalition has no tolerance for the jeopardization of Black student safety,” the statement read. “We recognize that what has been allowed to happen at UC Santa Barbara and to Bee Schaefer are the results of an anti-Black climate of unchecked racial injustices and a lack of protocol for racial violence occurring in higher education .”
ABC called on the UC Student Association (UCSA) — a student-run coalition representing students across the UC system — to provide allyship and urged the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to provide an immediate response to the situation and meet with Black UC students.
UC Riverside student and UCSA Board Chair Amina Hearns released a statement on behalf of UCSA in response to ABC on Feb. 4, writing that UCSA has no tolerance for an anti-Black climate.
“In response to our partner, Afrikan Black Coalition, the UC Student Association has zero tolerance for antiBlackness and affirms our commitment to dismantling antiBlack rhetoric within the UC,” Hearns said in the statement.
“We stand in solidarity with UCSB Internal Vice President (IVP) Bee Schaefer and call on UCSB Administration, including but not limited to — the Office of Student Affairs and the Chancellor to be held accountable for allowing Black students safety to be endangered,” the statement continued.
The statement recognized the lack of options given to Schaefer from UCSB’s campus department aside from police assistance, demanded the university to find alternative solutions for Schaefer and asked UCOP to meet with ABC in “developing systemwide work done in the name of Black students.”
“We demand that UC Santa Barbara, along with the other nine (9) UCs, connect with alternative policing groups and develop safety protocols that do not involve the police,” Hearns said in the statement.
Hearns also said UCSA will utilize its board committees of Governmental Relations, Campus Action and the University Affairs to continue dismantling anti-Black rhetoric and developing alternative policing protocols for Black students.
UCSA President, former External Vice President of Statewise Affairs chief of staff and UCSB fourth-year history of public policy and law major Alex Niles addressed Schaefer’s removal during UCSB’s Feb. 1 A.S. Senate public forum, stating that individuals in A.S. neglected to ensure Schaefer’s safety.
“Regardless of what you think — whether or not that removal was warranted by her job performance — there was an issue of student safety, and no one in this room, no one in A.S. exec, no one in A.S. [professional] staff intervened actively enough to ensure that Bee was safe,” Niles said. “It was someone in our own organization who was unsafe and no one lifted a finger.”
Niles said during the senate meeting that the A.S. handling of Schaefer’s removal is a reflection of A.S. “prioritizing certain communities” on campus.
“I work in the UC Student Association, which represents all nine campuses, and other campuses know about this … It’s an embarrassment; this is a joke,” Niles said. “We’re not the only campus that has a long history of being anti-Black, but this is being observed, and it’s disgraceful.”
Fourth-year sociology and Asian American studies double major and A.S. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) Marvia Cunanan also released a statement on Schaefer’s removal on Instagram, deeming her initial support of the executive order a “mistake.”
“In my own interactions with Bee, I failed to withhold judgment and fully validate Bee’s fears and experience of harm as the only Black student in the AS UCSB Senate/Executive space,” Cunanan’s statement read. “To accept her punitive removal from office via Executive Order was a mistake in individual judgment from myself.”
Cunanan said that A.S. failed to account for Schaefer’s personal conditions last quarter and did not acknowledge Schaefer balancing IVP responsibilities and assurance for her safety.
“Within a societal and historical context where Black women’s health and pain is not taken seriously, to try to balance Bee’s responsibilities as IVP with her requests for her safety to be ensured — rather than centering the latter — was especially negligent, and perpetuated an anti-Black culture and system wherein one’s productivity is prioritized over their personhood,” the statement read.
Cunanan hopes to reimplement legislation related to “Abusive Conduct and Bullying” that was passed by the 72nd Senate. The legislation formed a Conduct and Ethics Committee under the Office of the Student Advocate last academic year, and Cunanan hopes to modify the legislation with more integration of restorative justice training into A.S. Legal Code for the committee.
“In speaking with Student Advocate General Kristen [Wu], we agree that it was a mistake that this protocol wasn’t activated in immediate response to Bee’s concerns,” she said.
“I also believe we can build equity into our leadership system by creating policy where — in the event that alleged violations of legal code or ‘dereliction of duties’ may be connected to the duress or harm that marginalized persons in these positions may experience — that, rather being removed from office or their appointment, they might be allowed leave of absence as we facilitate a restorative justice process for repairing harm,” Cunanan’s statement continued.
Cunanan called on the senate to acknowledge UCSB Black Student Union’s call for anti-Blackness reporting.
“I believe a collective effort must be made to connect with campus departments to implement campuswide anti-Blackness training and protocol in an ongoing, permanent way,” they said.
A version of this article appeared on p. __ of the Feb. 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.