Letter to the Editor: VOCEROS Reforms


In 2015, the University of California, Santa Barbara was declared an HSI, a Hispanic-Serving Institution, meaning that 25% or more of the student population falls under the government issued census racial category Hispanic. As an HSI, UCSB gains federal recognition, in addition to political and financial rewards – despite demonstrating an extreme lack of care for this particular community. The progress that has been made in the enhanced recruitment of Latinx students is acknowledged; however, this community has been relegated to the fringes of the university. Furthermore, we utilize the term Latinx as an identifier but embrace the diversity within our community and respect the right of individuals to identify as they choose.

In response to a campus climate that promotes the continued discrimination and marginalization of the Latinx community, and that can sweep under the rug the tragic and neglectful death of a Latino UCSB second year student (Andy Sanchez on October 2015), a series of community town halls were coordinated by the Associated Students of UC Santa Barbara, Office of the Student Advocate, and other student leaders on campus. The purpose of the first, initial town hall was to create congregation amidst segregation, provide a space for Latinx community members to heal with one another, and to identify the issues affecting this community. The organizers of the Latinx Town Hall found that the conversations needed to continue. For that reason, town halls were organized in Winter and Spring quarter in which participants began to formulate solutions to the issues that were identified in the town halls.

From the Latinx Town Halls, we, a collective of Latinx undergraduate and graduate students, came together as the VOCEROS in April 2016 to address the solutions that were made within our community. ‘Voceros’ is a Spanish word that translates to spokespeople, but we are also utilizing the term to represent the acronym: Voices Of the Community, En Resistencia, Organizing Solidarity. Through multiple gatherings, we discussed the various ways in which our community has been unheard, underserved, and misrepresented by this institution.

We strongly believe that a conversation between Chancellor Henry Yang, VOCEROS, and those who are a part of the UCSB Latinx community needs to take place, to solidify the necessary steps that need to be taken for the retention and graduation of Latinx students at UCSB. We demand that the university live up to its designation by providing the resources our community deserves. Our expectation is that one day UCSB will be able to act not only as a cultural liaison for our community, but also equate our graduation rates to our enrollment rates. Although UCSB has been named an HSI, we are not provided with the sufficient resources to graduate. We want to see a university in which hostile environments are not tolerated, a university in which our Latinx students are proudly seen as members of the overall campus community (and not culturally appropriated through our mascot, the Gaucho), and a university where our community is able to reach its full potential.

As an official HSI, we demand a more transparent approach by the HSI committee in allowing students to actively participate in the coordination of HSI resources throughout UCSB. We want to establish a concrete plan as to how information gathered from previous HSI workshops will be utilized as a guiding platform for future retention programs.

It is important to acknowledge that the struggles we face are not unique to our campus but are a reflection of social and economic inequality that exists on a national and international level. This country is sustained through the marginalization and oppression of the Latinx community and other communities of color, in which institutions profit from the exploitation of our labor, our parents’ labor, and our people’s labor; opportunities to succeed are limited as a result. Due to these circumstances, we are asking for a set of reforms to be created which will facilitate the achievement of these goals. Our goal is not to participate in a set of oppression Olympics or create division with the UCSB community, rather we ask individuals to provide your support as it will benefit all communities. Furthermore, we demand that Chancellor Henry Yang prioritize this crucial matter and meet with us Friday May 20, 2016 between 8 A.M. and 12 P.M.

The reforms we want to be addressed are the following:

Campus Climate –
• Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness Committee
o Establish a committee made up of social justice-oriented experts in cultural sensitivity and awareness that include faculty, staff, and students to oversee the university’s actions for accountability purposes.
o Institute mandatory cultural sensitivity and awareness components within freshman orientation and mandatory follow up trainings annually until graduation. This training should be made an annual requirement for all faculty and staff.

• Campus Climate Survey o Establish an annual campus climate survey to be administered to students, staff, and faculty to track the state of the campus climate. Areas of concern and improvement will be made public to the UCSB community. The survey will include demographic identifiers to determine variations of responses reflected among different sectors of the campus community. Diversity, Equity, & Academic Policy at UCSB should be in charge of administering the survey. In addition, the Campus Climate Report (established 2014) is to be updated yearly. Programs and workshops are to be implemented accordingly based on the results.

• Define hate speech
o A committee of members from every marginalized community will work to define hate speech on our campus.
o This committee will work to ensure that proper investigations and actions take place by the university when cases of hate speech have been identified.

Latinx Parent Weekend –
• Institute a Latinx Parent Weekend to increase our visibility on campus and ease the transition into higher education for Latinx students.
o The events for the weekend will be made available in both English and in Spanish to acknowledge potential language barriers.
o Workshops will be provided to increase awareness of resources for first generation and undocumented students.
o Latinx professors from a variety of fields will give brief lectures on their areas of study/research in order for students to identify role models engaging in their areas of interest.
o Organizations that cater to the Latinx community, such as El Congreso, M.U.J.E.R., I.D.E.A.S., and multicultural fraternities and sororities are to be given the opportunity to set tables at the event.

Spaces –
• El Centro o Building 406, El Centro, will become a permanent space which confirms its presence on the UCSB campus for many years to come to serve the continuously growing Latinx community. To make this possible we would like the existing structure to be well maintained on a continuous basis, and in the case of a natural or man-made disaster, the building will be rebuilt.
o The students and organizations that meet and utilize the space are to be provided open access to the second floor of the building. The university will create a fulltime position for a staff member to be the director of the building, similar to the resource centers in the Student Resource Building.

• Housing for Latinx Students o Establish an inclusive Latinx Manzanita Village House in addition to the San Miguel Chicanx/Latinx Cultural Floor in order to provide a wider opportunity for students that identify as such to reside in these spaces.

• Display
o The creation of a visible on-campus display commemorating the 1989 and 1994 Hunger Strikes and past Latinx student movements here on the UCSB campus. This display will be created because we, the students, are keenly aware that representation and visibility matter, and that the legacies of struggle of the Latinx community on our campus are crucial to our understanding of our present-day social justice commitments.

Undocumented Students –
• We urge that UCSB declare itself a sanctuary campus to counteract any future transgressions by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or any other immigration enforcement. By doing so the university is aligning and upholding its mission statement, which promises:
o “[An] academic community of faculty, students and staff [which] is characterized by a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that is responsive to the needs of our multicultural and global society.”

Police Relations –
• Isla Vista Police Collaborative Board
o We demand the creation of the Isla Vista Police Collaborative Board, effective immediately. The board’s responsibility includes a direct basis for communication between the UCSB/IV community and UCPD/IV Police, to maintain healthy police relations between our officers and community members, and ensure that we are moving away from criminalization. Lastly, we demand that Chancellor Henry Yang provide yearly funding for the long-term maintenance of the Isla Vista Police Collaborative Board.

• Demilitarization
o We call for the immediate demilitarization of law enforcement agencies present in Isla Vista, particularly during Halloween and Deltopia. Additionally, we ask for an immediate increase of support and funding of UCIV.

• Trainings
o We request a report on the current training that UCPD officers are required to undergo, specifically pertaining to community sensitivity/engagement. In these reports it will include how frequently these trainings occur, what they consist of, and how much funding is allocated for them.

• Gender
o As it relates to gender relations within the UCPD, our community requests that Chancellor Henry Yang take immediate action to hire more female identified officers to the UCPD.
o We recognize that the hiring of officers takes time however we would like Chancellor Henry Yang to direct the chief of the UCPD to hire more female identified officers whenever feasibly possible.
o If a male and a female candidate apply with the same level of qualifications, priority of the job is to be given to the female candidate.

Diversifying Professional Staff and Services –

• Care Services
o CARE (Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education) is the main provider of professional services concerning sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking to students and faculty. Currently, there are only three employed advocates working in the CARE office, all of whom identify as white women, for a campus of over 20,000 students. Therefore, we demand both an expansion of CARE professional staff and that all new staff additions identify as people of color.
o It is imperative that the service providers at CARE reflect and embody the many identities of the students they serve. Expanding the racial diversity of CARE staff will alleviate linguistic, racial, and cultural barriers survivors of color may experience when seeking out these important services.
o We demand a report of how and where the department recruits for potential advocate staff, specifically detailing how advocates of color are being engaged and connected to these job listings.
o Concerning future staff hirings, we demand that students of color be present and participate in all interviews and staff selections.

• CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services)
o We appreciate the effort of CAPS in the hiring of Latinx identified staff, but for a population of our size at UCSB we demand to see more therapists that identify with our community and more targeted outreach when hiring.
o The university shall work to de-stigmatize and create awareness about mental health issues for Latinx students. In addition, the university will work with CAPS to expand awareness of resources related to mental health for the Latinx community.

Central American Department and Major –
• Establish a Central American Studies Department and major
o This department is to offer a curriculum that creates an appreciation and awareness of the history, people, and culture of the transnational identity of Central America; and furthermore empower the growing Central American community both on and off campus. o The department can be modeled after the Central American Studies Department at California State University Northridge, the first college campus to offer this type of curriculum in California.
o Professors who demonstrate the comprehension of the diverse cultures, ethnicities and experiences of the Central American community and Central American descent community are to be hired.
o A panel of undergraduate and graduate students who identify as Central American are to review the proposed plan and provide feedback.

Signed By,

Joseline Roselia Garcia- Associated Students, Student Advocate General, United States Student Association (USSA), National People of Color Student Coalition Chair
Lorena Alvarez
Mayela Morales
Andrea Munoz
Jasmine Ortiz
Joel Ruiz
Michael Kile
Rosie Bermudez
Idalia Robles De León
Diego Lopez
Marisa Salinas
Nancy Hernandez
Joshua Hernandez
Teresa Campa – Associated Students Humyn Rights Board, Chair
Evelyn Diaz Sanchez-  Associated Students Humyn Rights Board, Outreach Coordinator
Cassie Rubio- Associated Students Womxn’s Commission, Chair

Ongoing Petition- httdps://www.change.org/p/chancellor-henry-yang-vocerosreforms?recruiter=308498257&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

As of press time, VOCEROS has met with Chancellor Henry Yang, who has agreed to work toward meeting some of these demands.