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Black student activists outline demands to address racial inequity in School of Education

Administrators at the School of Education and Information Studies pledged more support and resources for Black students in response to a January student petition. (Noah Danesh/Daily Bruin)

By Liv Stokes

April 9, 2021 12:01 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the Afrikan Student Union sent the School of Education and Information Studies a petition that said SEIS did not do enough to create safe spaces for Black students. In fact, SEIS Black Bruin sent the petition.

This post was updated April 10 at 10:48 a.m. 

Administrators from a UCLA school met with Black student activists and are planning to increase funding and create new positions at the school to promote diversity in response to a student petition from January.

SEIS Black Bruins sent the School of Education and Information Studies administrators the petition in January that said SEIS did not do enough to create safe spaces for Black students and voiced concerns about the lack of Black faculty and students at the school. More than 250 students, faculty and alumni from UCLA and other universities signed the petition.

The petition asked the school to hire four new Black tenure-track faculty members by 2023 and create a 10-year recruitment plan to increase the number of Black students at SEIS. The petition also asked the school to establish a $20,000 internal endowment for Black graduate students conducting research and create mandatory coursework and training sessions on anti-Blackness.

John McDonald, a SEIS spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that the administration met with students and will develop a strategic effort to recruit, fund and retain more Black students and will create a dashboard with data on the outcomes of SEIS students. McDonald added that the administration will provide $60,000 in new funding over three years for research on Black youth.

The petition said SEIS did not do enough to create safe spaces for Black students and voiced concerns about the lack of Black faculty and students at the school. The petition also criticized the absence of accessible data on the outcomes of Black students at SEIS, lack of funding toward research on Black youth and minimal coursework on anti-Black racism in education.

Students and faculty asked the school to hire a Black student affairs officer and two program representatives to establish and maintain Black affinity groups and an alumni network at SEIS.

Around 11% of the 654 students in masters and doctoral programs at SEIS are Black as of fall 2020, McDonald said. Nine of the 57 tenure-track faculty members are Black, he added.

SEIS will work with representatives from the Black Bruins to hire an assistant dean of equity, diversity and inclusion, a new position at the school, McDonald said. He added that the school will host an annual workshop with graduate students to address racism and an annual data summit to examine the status of Black affairs.

Administrators requested six to eight weeks to plan how to fulfill the demands of Black Bruins, said a representative from Black Bruins who asked to remain anonymous because they did not want their organization to be seen as having a leader.

In the meantime, SEIS asked Black Bruins to help the school improve its diversity and provided $1,000 stipends to three Black Bruins representatives to collaborate on the response, the representative said.

The representative said payments to the representative were important in negotiations and added that the school is currently coming up with ways to finance representatives to the school in the long term.

“We did an hourly audit, and Black Bruins last quarter spent over 400 hours organizing,” the representative said. “So (the stipend) was something that we were really adamant about.”

Sandra Graham, a human development and psychology professor who signed the petition, said SEIS should increase the number of Black faculty within the school.

“If there’s not enough Black faculty, you have difficulty finding your niche, fitting in, feeling safe that there’s somebody who understands you and your intellectual focus to talk to and to mentor you,” Graham said. “So the efforts to hire more Black faculty in the school are going to be very important.”

Graham said the school needs to actively improve its curriculums and diversify its staff to remove anti-Blackness and racism from the school.

“It’s not that microaggressions will go away if you have more Black students and more Black faculty,” Graham said. “But at least you have a safe space to go and talk about them.”

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