UCLA and two black student groups have reached a deal to turn the Undergraduate Writing Center office on the Hill into a black student resource center.
After more than five years of negotiation, the Afrikan Student Union at UCLA and the Black Graduate Student Association successfully reached an agreement with the university Oct. 29 to establish the Black Resource Center. The center will be located at the current office of the writing center at Rieber Hall 115, but only after a new space for the writing center has been found elsewhere on the Hill.
“(A black resource center) is a major step towards combating the social and academic inequities that exist on this campus,” said Trisden Shaw, the president of BGSA, in an emailed statement.
UCLA Student Affairs said in an emailed statement that the university has been working with students to finalize the design of the Black Resource Center. Student Affairs added they expect the center will be functional by the beginning of winter quarter, provided the writing center finds a new space in time.
Despite the agreement, negotiations between the student groups and the university have not come to an end. The ASU and BGSA are pushing for other demands, including an earlier move date and additional funding.
ASU chair Alexandria Davis said in an emailed statement that she thinks the university has not been prioritizing this transition.
“The (university) has been working with ASU and BGSA to locate a space for the Black Resource Center,” said Davis, a third-year political science and African American studies student. “However, this process has been ongoing for (more than five) years, which shows the (university) does not place this as a priority.”
As part of the current deal, UCLA Student Affairs has agreed to provide a one-time allocation of $60,000 to help fund programming at the Black Resource Center. However, Davis said the funding is not annual and would not guarantee financial sustainability for the long term.
To address this, ASU and BGSA are seeking annual funding from the university for a director and a programming assistant.
“The (university) has also committed to provide a one-time programmatic funding allocation, staff support in advising black students, and online diversity education for students – all asks that surfaced from on-going conversations with student leaders,” the statement from UCLA Student Affairs read.
Student Affairs said Chancellor Gene Block is committed to addressing racism and inequality at UCLA.
“Chancellor Block recognizes the persistence of racism that is often felt in the lives of African American students, and is strongly committed to ensuring a safe and equal learning and living environment for all black students,” the Student Affairs statement read.
The Black Resource Center comes as part of a series of negotiations between ASU and BGSA and the university to address issues facing black students.
According to a Nov. 4 statement on ASU and BGSA Instagram pages, black students face several issues at UCLA related to financial security and racism.
“This suffering has been due to the rising costs of tuition, costs of living, blatant racism, institutional racism and bureaucracy of the UC system, and this Black Resource Center is set to rectify that suffering,” the ASU and BGSA joint statement read.
In addition to the Black Resource Center, ASU seeks to enforce a new mandatory anti-discrimination course for all students, staff and faculty.
“A trial of this course has been administered and we are hoping to continue troubleshooting from this trial run,” Davis said.
In spite of this, Davis said there has been little progress in addressing black student issues, citing rising housing costs, being a student worker and securing financial aid as major issues black students still face. Of the progress being made, Davis said most of the efforts have been student-driven, with a low level of effort by the university.
“Nothing has been done, and this is why the demands we have exist,” said Shaw, an African American graduate student.
However, Shaw said the opening of the Black Resource Center would be significant in supporting black students.
“We see the center functioning as the epicenter for community-building,” Shaw said. “UCLA has seen years of (anti-black) sentiments and this center would allow for the cultivation of a safe and healing space. This center would have the ability to academically support (black) students and meet the needs that are often disregarded.”