Students rally against low black enrollment

    Over 100 students participated in a rally and a silent march on March 5 before presenting the UCSD administration with a list of demands asking the university to address issues concerning the black community at UCSD.

    Students from other UC campuses joined UCSD students of various ethnicities to speak and march in the “Blackout” rally, which started the systemwide Students of Color Conference held on campus March 5 through March 7.

    Participating students wore black clothing, with many from UCSD wearing shirts reading “Represent 1 percent.” Black students at UCSD currently total 1 percent of the undergraduate population, the lowest rate of all UC campuses.

    “We’re here to show people that there are people of color on this campus, that we can all come together, that we can all work together,” Student Affirmative Action Committee Chair Perse Hooper said. “Being 1 percent is a lonely, lonely percentage.”

    The rally started with speakers at the bottom of the snake path, then continued as a silent march through Price Center, and stopped halfway down Library Walk near the Chancellor’s Complex, where the silence was broken and the list of demands was read.

    Presented by Black Student Union President Stephanie Akpa, the list demanded that the black population of students, faculty and staff at UCSD each reach at least 7 percent to represent statewide demographics. The second demand was that student-initiated outreach become a priority of the university.

    “We do what we can,” Queer People of Color President Rigo Marquez said. “All of the SAAC organizations put on conferences to outreach to our communities … We can’t do that anymore because our budget has been cut, and the university doesn’t want to take action.”

    The demands asked for the termination of black individuals’ “scrutinization, tokenization and eroticization by neutral and partisan entities on campus.”

    “When we come to this university, they send us photographs of a black man and a white guy,” said Sixth College sophomore Chris Sweeten. “That’s another way that this university tokenizes us. You can use us to be in a picture but you can’t let us into a classroom. You can be sure the university has all of our numbers on speed dial when it’s time for a photo op. Why? Because they want to claim that we’re diverse. We’re nowhere near being diverse.”

    The demands included a quick response network and stronger sanctions against people who participate in hate speech. Speakers cited the Koala as an example.

    “It’s such a beautiful thing today for all of us to come together, for all of us to recognize that we’re different yet we’re similar — we struggle together as people of color, as minority groups, as people struggling in this university to show our presence,” said Jonathan Lego, Kaibigang Pilipino’s vice chair internal. “It makes me angry to see things like the Koala, to see people not supporting us.”

    Other demands included instating an African-American studies minor at UCSD; removing UC Regent Ward Connerly from his position for his “hostility and opposition toward the advancement of the black community;” the systemwide protection of financial aid; and increased funding for cultural, educational and social programs, including the African-American Recognition Ceremony.

    The last item on the list of demands called for the administration to form an investigative committee to determine a reason for “the dismal number of underrepresented students at UCSD” and to create a plan of action to increase their admission rates.

    Bonnie Horstman, special assistant to the chancellor, came to the group of students to receive the list of demands on behalf of Acting Chancellor Marsha A. Chandler. Horstman addressed the group, expressing Chandler’s excuses for being unable to be present, and suggested sending a group of 10 representatives to set up a meeting “to sit down with the chancellor and to discuss their demands and concerns … which [Chandler is] concerned about also.”

    These suggestions did not go unanswered.

    “Representatives will be sent, we will bring our list of demands, we will seek a response, and if we don’t see action backing up rhetoric, we’ll be back,” Akpa said.

    After presenting the demands, participants marched down Library Walk, this time chanting “Whose university? Our university,” and “Segregation’s got to go.” Some signs held up read “Still separate and unequal,” “Keep koalas in Australia” and “Better campus climate now.”

    The march ended in Price Center Plaza, where the demands were repeated. Several speakers took to the stage to address the students around.

    “If you don’t see anything wrong, then something’s wrong,” Akpa said. “If you don’t know why we’re here, then you need to ask somebody. We’re here because we’re here, but we don’t have a voice here.”

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