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UCLA needs to keep its promises to support black students, open a resource center

African American students have long faced social, economic and health challenges when navigating the American education system. At UCLA, this shouldn’t be the case. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Allison Oliva

November 12, 2019 10:59 pm

They take your money, they take your energy – but they don’t take your concerns.

Admits are told UCLA is where they’ll thrive. However, the reality is that it’s much harder for students to reach their full potentials when the administration that is holding students back is also behind on such promises.

And for black students, those promises seem increasingly empty.

African American students at UCLA have spoken out about their ideas and suggestions being constantly brushed aside for years despite the school touting diversity and representation as one of its core tenets.

A 2019 study by UCLA, called “Beyond the Schoolhouse: Overcoming Challenges & Expanding Opportunity for Black Youth in LA County,” served to further highlight the systemic problems black students face, reporting major racial discrepancies in academic readiness for higher education.

Being left to advocate for themselves, dealing with microaggressions on a daily basis and trying to figure out how to deal with traumas from home while pursuing a degree can be daunting to say the least.

So while the university is busy releasing reports, there remains no tangible, on-campus change for the students who know the problem best.

The fact that African American students at UCLA have had to fight for simple things that are offered at all other UCs needs to be addressed and dealt with by the administration. The issues in this report are nothing new – but they serve to further highlight how badly UCLA needs to look inward if it wants to support these students. Creating tools to help the 3% of undergraduate students who are African American as well as safe spaces – such as the highly demanded black resource center – is the least the university could do.

And it’s not as if students haven’t asked for this.

This kind of resource center can be much more than just a place to get help from the university. The center would allow black students to come together and unify as a community facing issues that others can’t relate to.

And on top of it all, African American students can’t even find a safe haven at a prestigious institution like UCLA when it’s riddled with racial biases.

Samone Anderson, a second-year political science and African American studies student, said that more support from the university would also help students deal with microaggressions they face everyday.

“One time I walked into De Neve, sat down and the people sitting next to me stood up and moved,” Anderson said.

As unfortunate as these occurrences are, it’s something that African American students have to face at school all too often. Despite how inclusive UCLA claims to be, the truth is that people are still treated differently based on skin color.

Anderson added that members of the community are still in contact with family and friends from their low-income communities who face violence and death everyday, which can take a toll on students’ mental health and their desires to continue pushing through academics.

And while the university can’t solve systemic racism, it could offer solidified support to those who feel its effects on a daily basis.

Nneoma Kanu, a fourth-year sociology student, has been part of a committee within the Afrikan Student Union at UCLA that has spent years trying to get support from administration, but said she has faced multiple challenges every time.

“When we come asking for help about our problems, it would be nice if they empathized with us – there is a lack of empathy between administration and the students,” Kanu said. “It feels like we are saying the same thing over and over again, but not getting heard.”

UCLA might be hesitant to help these students out because the issues they are facing aren’t easy to tackle. The solutions that are required to help the community have to address national, historic and systemic discrimination as well.

As of now, ASU has met with Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Monroe Gorden. It has also met with Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Development Suzanne Seplow and Community Director of University Apartments South Markeith Royster, both of whom are from UCLA Residential Life. According to a statement from ASU, the administration promised several things which include attempting to create a black resource center on the Hill, a move-in date to that location by week one of winter quarter, a one-time programming budget of $60,000 and more.

In reality, the situation has stayed largely stagnant – and that’s something black students can’t afford during their time in higher education.

Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management, said the topic of the resource center is something that students should continue to ask questions about because they need a safe space to gather.

“This is about their mental, physical and emotional well-being and I know the chancellor is working on it,” Copeland-Morgan said.

Of course, change might take time given that there are other student groups who similarly don’t feel represented or supported. But the fact that UCLA is the only UC without a resource center for black students says something about its interest in supporting minorities on campus. There are UCs younger than UCLA that have found ways to create these centers in the short time that they have been open, but it seems that UCLA still can’t tackle these problems, even after 100 years of experience.

Students who already face so many more issues outside of academia deserve more from a university that promised to help them succeed in their future endeavors.

Staying afloat at a world-class research institute is more than enough work.

Black students shouldn’t have to carve out a space for themselves on top of getting an education.

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Allison Oliva | Opinion columnist
Oliva is an Opinion columnist.
Oliva is an Opinion columnist.
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