In response to demands from the Black Student Union, University of California, Santa Barbara administration has agreed to secure funding for various programs and initiatives aimed at improving education access and resources for Black students.
The demands set forth by the BSU are part of an effort to change the academic environment for Black students. Their demands for change extend as far back as March 2013, and since then the UCSB Administration has responded favorably overall.
“It is very telling of the fact that Black students have not been the priority of the institution despite the fact that those students put their lives on the line to better the conditions for Black students yet to come, and we had to sacrifice incredible amount of our time and energy to better the current conditions for future students,” BSU said in a statement. “In short, our desire to improve the racial climate and secure much needed resources for those Black students yet to come, is what propelled the Black Student Union to seek out change in the way that we have thus far.”
The BSU said that the some of the requested changes have been achieved. One admissions counselor for diversity initiatives, two psychologists, and four “endowed Chairs” have been or will be hired, and enhanced initiatives are being implemented to recruit Black students to UCSB. Also, a centered display is to be placed in North Hall to honor the Black student activists involved in “The 1968 Takeover.”
Lastly, funding has already been agreed upon for the hosting of a biennial global conference to take place this spring, “where faculty and graduate students who study the Black World can share their research and exchange ideas,” according to a press release from the BSU.
Future changes are also expected. Starting in the 2014-2015 academic year, the Black Studies Department’s Dissertation Scholars program will be increased in funding by $10,000. This will make it one of the most competitive dissertation fellows programs in the UC System, according to a letter from Chancellor Henry T. Yang to the BSU.
It is expected that in Fall 2014 visiting faculty will have the option to apply for The Ella Baker Visiting Professorship in Undergraduate Research. This is a three-year professorship, which, upon completion, may allow visitors to be considered for a permanent position at UCSB. This professorship will be funded between $75,000 and $100,000. Yang said that this program, as well as the following program, will be subject to student evaluations and specific criteria in order to determine its continuance.
Also expected in Fall 2014, the Post-Doctoral Fellowship will allow one post-doctoral fellow entry into a two-year fellowship program in the Center for Black Studies Research, which will be funded $50,000 per year.
In addition, discussion has begun in order to form a committee to assess campus climate.
“The concept of an External Review Committee to assess Black students’ UCSB campus climate experience and the institution’s response to discrimination, bias or a hostile climate is a valuable concept and I support the spirit of the proposal,” said Yang.
Both the Chancellor and BSU believed their discussion to be productive.
“The Chancellor exhibited exemplary characteristics in his constant willingness to sit down at the table with the Black Student Union and engage with us productively throughout this process,” BSU said. “He has always been respectful of our wishes and our approaches.”
To members of BSU, Yang stands in high regard as the only Chancellor in the UC system to have responded very peacefully to Black students’ demands. The last time Black students implemented unprecedented change at UCSB was in 1968 and it involved the occupation of North Hall.
“We believe that the lack of Black students, staff, and faculty on this campus speaks volumes about that lack of resources or effort to recruit or retain us,” BSU said. “This is the reason why we made our demands to the chancellor and we believe it is the reason why the Chancellor has authorized the funds he has authorized thus far to remedy the underrepresentation of Black students, staff, and faculty on this campus.”