Berry outlines goals of current civil rights push

    Civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry called for increased diversity in higher education when she spoke to students and staff at the Price Center Theater on April 17.

    Tyler Huff
    Guardian

    Berry explained the need for continued efforts to help minority students get into college and graduate.

    She spoke of the strides made during the civil rights movements of the 1960s. She said that the minority students and staff in the room attested to the success of the movements, but added that more work is needed.

    “”We are in a period of stagnation,”” Berry said. “”It’s hard to find a way to make further progress. The Supreme Court is trying to turn back the clocks.””

    She referred to the pending University of Michigan admissions affirmative action case, which could overturn the Bakke v. UC Regents case.

    Berry also noted the role education plays.

    “”We need to educate people for them to live in this world,”” Berry said. “”We need respect for human potential.””

    Berry said multicultural education and finding ways to admit students of color were some of the issues surrounding higher education today.

    “”We need a supportive environment and we need to increase faculty of color,”” she said.

    Berry also discussed the importance of retention and said that universities need to find ways to help students feel comfortable on campuses.

    Berry is the chairperson for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches law and history. Berry is also one of the founders of the Free South Africa Movement, the recipient of the Rosa Parks award and the author of seven books.

    “”Bridging communities is what this event is about,”” said A.S. President Jeff Dodge. “”It brought a national figure to campus to talk about issues of diversity and civil rights not only for students but to citizens across the country.””

    Dodge said he felt inspired by her speech.

    “”It’s fabulous to have somebody say what they feel,”” he said.

    Berry also urged the audience to maintain their commitment to diversity.

    “”Wartime causes us to reinforce our abandonment of social justice,”” she said.

    Berry said change takes place because of social activism and movements.

    “”Power concedes nothing without a demand,”” she said.

    The event began with a performance by the UCSD gospel choir and was followed by a student panel discussion, an audience question-and-answer session and a book signing.

    Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman Marisol Gutierrez said she came to the speech to get exposure to new ideas. She said she was interested in seeing how Berry’s speech addressed some of the issues in her ethnic studies course.

    President and chair of MECHA Catherine Medrano said, “”Institutionalized racism runs deep, but activism does exist in terms of retention and outreach.””

    The event was sponsored by the A.S. Council, the UCSD Council of Provosts, the San Diego State University Student Affairs Division, and the SDSU Office of Diversity and Equity.

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