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Editorial: UCLA can do more to meet Afrikan Student Union demands

By Editorial Board

Oct. 28, 2015 11:53 p.m.

Following the now infamous “Kanye Western” themed raid earlier this month, the Afrikan Student Union released a list of 10 demands that prompted a swift response from the UCLA administration.

Some of ASU’s demands, such as the creation of an Afro-house and the creation of a $30 million endowment for black students, both of which mirror UC Berkeley initiatives, cannot be achieved immediately. However, there are many demands that can be fulfilled in the near future. As such, UCLA should investigate these options and see how it can work with black students to reach these goals, but in the meantime, the administration can address a number of ASU’s calls to action.

The creation of a student advisory board for Jerry Kang, the recently promoted vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion, is a good place to start. Direct collaboration between black students and Kang, who was given the title to deal with these very issues, will be necessary to build trust between the black community and the administration. If ASU’s rally was any indication, there is a significant gap between ASU and UCLA administration, despite communication between the organization and UCLA Student Affairs.

Additionally, this demand would cost the university virtually nothing and could be organized quickly. A black student leadership task force – comprised of alumni, faculty and staff – would create a support system with virtually no trade-offs.

In addition to these advocacies, Chancellor Gene Block should meet with ASU leadership face to face to gain a better understanding of what it is they are asking for exactly. Reading the list of demands and issuing a written response is one thing; an in-person discussion, in which the administration embraces the stories of black students and does not go on the defensive, is another entirely. Many students, especially members of the black community, are vocal about what they believe is a lack of understanding of their communities. Opening up genuine dialogue could lead to better communication, if nothing else.

Some of the more large-scale goals however, are out of UCLA’s reach. While hiring an additional black admissions officer could potentially help increase the number of black applicants, Proposition 209 prevents the university from adequately serving specific communities by increasing admissions, a fact that Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Janina Montero referred to directly in her response letter. A more diverse admissions staff alone cannot traverse such a major legislative hurdle.

Even with such an obstacle, UCLA deserves some credit for what it is currently trying to do for the black community in the Los Angeles area. Montero stated that UCLA is working on establishing a pre-K through 12th grade community school in South Los Angeles, an area with a relatively large black population. It’s this kind of action working from the ground up that will allow the university to circumvent its legally mandated colorblindness and make actual in-roads with underserved communities.

As ASU points out, UCLA can improve its service to the black student population and the black population at large, despite some significant restrictions like Proposition 209. UCLA must take these concerns seriously if it truly values this historically underserved, and certainly underrepresented, segment of its student body.

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