Fifty years after 12 black students took over UC Santa Barbara’s North Hall to demand change on campus, the Black Student Union met with UCSB administrators to submit a list of demands not all that different from the students’ five decades before them. On February 9, the BSU team sent a follow up email to the UC Regents after having presented their demands to Chancellor Henry Yang. The students iterated their demands and informed the Board of Regents about what they described as an anti-black incident that occurred before the regents joined the meeting.
In the email, students claimed that Assistant Vice Chancellor Maria Herrera-Sobek made comments about a former black administrator’s work, claiming that the administrator “did not have much involvement with ‘Hispanic students’ and that it was because of the perceived ‘focus’ on Black students.” Students also wrote that Herrera-Sobek “continued to belittle the struggle of Black UCSB students and Black people by … claiming that ‘we are all African’.” The BSU Demands team continued, “[I]t was troublesome for us to hear an administrator whose position is explicitly and solely dedicated to diversity and equity on campus use such apparent anti-Black rhetoric.”
Herrera-Sobek responded to a request for comment with a statement: “I have already communicated to the students that I deeply regret the remarks that caused them discomfort and made them feel marginalized. I expressed my hope to have the opportunity for further dialogue with the students and to continue to find ways for my office and the university to support their needs and to address their pressing concerns.”
Students are demanding of the university a Malcolm X Center for Black Student Development in part to commemorate the 1968 North Hall takeover where students first sought to create a space for black students. Students are also asking the school to create an Office of Black Student Development to “increase the number of black students in college who graduate and are successful.” Currently, only 5 percent of undergraduates are black, and the freshman class entering in 2014 had a 65 percent four-year graduation rate, compared to white students’ graduation rate of 76 percent.
For the office, students are requesting a director and assistant director of black student development, two academic support counselors, a recruitment and retention specialists, a coordinator of black student life, and two advocacy counselors. “The university has continually been unable to fulfill black students’ demands without the intervention of Black students on campus who address this inability [to study, learn, and become wholly involved as campus community members],” wrote the BSU team. “The University’s reliance on Black student intervention in what should be structured efforts to support Black students is unacceptable.”
“Chancellor Yang appreciates hearing from students and having the opportunity to listen to their ideas and concerns,” UCSB responded in a statement. “He is supportive of their vision and has been working with students, faculty and administrative colleagues to ensure progress is made toward planning for the establishment of such a significant academic resource.”