Thursday, February 20

Bruins in diversity video to discuss initiatives with administrators


The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.

The group of students who created the viral “The Black Bruins [Spoken Word]” video to draw attention to the low enrollment of black male students at UCLA plans to meet with administrators to discuss diversity initiatives at the university.

Sy Stokes, a third-year Afro-American studies student, created the spoken-word video with a group of fellow UCLA students last week, followed by a petition calling for more effective diversity initiatives at UCLA. The video has gathered more than 370,000 views on YouTube, and the petition has collected more than 2,000 signatures nationwide since it was posted on Nov. 7.

The 12 black male students who created the video now identify themselves as the “Black Bruin party”, a name they use to symbolize the movement that encompasses the video and petition, said Alex Mercier, a third-year political science student who participated in the video.

There are 81 black male students in UCLA’s current freshmen class.

Following the release of the video, several administrators and faculty members reached out to the students to discuss ways they can collaborate to increase diversity at UCLA.

“Releasing the video started off as a way to bring about the issue in an artistic manner, but it’s given us a platform to educate people about it and be solution-oriented,” said Mike Wamungu, a third-year sociology student and participant in the video and petition.

The students will meet with Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero, Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management Youlonda Copeland-Morgan and Tyrone Howard, a professor of education and director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA.

“(Montero) expects the meeting to be a frank exchange of ideas and information and she hopes to explore opportunities,” said Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesman.

Montero and Copeland-Morgan could not be reached for comment.

During the proposed meeting with administrators, Stokes and the other students who worked on the “Black Bruins” video said they plan to lay out their goals for administrators, which include revisiting a proposal for a diversity-related general education requirement as well as sending UCLA funds and student volunteers to K-12 schools that lack college preparation resources.

The meeting will also allow students from minority backgrounds to share their experiences at UCLA and offer administrators suggested steps to remedy the issues, Howard said.

“The students can oftentimes feel like they are alone in this journey,” Howard said. “But faculty involved can connect them with resources they may not be aware of, or help them understand steps … to get the support they want.”

Howard has worked with Stokes, Mercier, Wamungu and other students at the Black Male Institute for the last year, researching ways to increase access to higher education and improve retention rates for black male students.

One of the initiatives students plan to discuss is the diversity requirement for general education. The proposed requirement was rejected by College of Letters and Sciences faculty three times in the past 26 years, most recently in spring 2012.

UCLA is the only University of California campus without a diversity-related or ethnic studies general education requirement. Right now, no group in the Faculty Executive Committee is working on a new formal draft of the proposal.

Some faculty members said they opposed the requirement proposal in 2012 because they were concerned about how much it would cost. Some faculty also said that the proposal was too vague.

Mercier said the students hope to work with the Faculty Executive Committee to draft a proposal for a diversity requirement at UCLA in the future.

“UCLA students are inherently being robbed from the best education when they don’t have that whole level of diversity that you’re being advertised,” Mercier said.

After preliminary meetings with administrators and faculty, Mercier said he hopes to incorporate other student groups in the development of diversity initiatives.

“We don’t want groups to feel isolated. At the end of the day, this is not a black issue. This is everyone’s problem, not just people of colors’. This is a human issue,” Mercier said.

Stokes and administrators said they have not confirmed a date for their meeting yet.

Correction: There are 81 black male students in UCLA’s current freshmen class.

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