A.S. Council held a panel titled “A Critical Discussion on Race, Privilege and Campus Climate” this past Friday to create a space for student dialogue in response to recent campus events, including the chalking of anti-immigrant sentiments around campus and the lack of administrative response.
The event was organized by incoming AS Vice President of External Affairs Lauren Roberts, Campus Wide Senator Anali Valdez and AS Social Science Senator Minh-Hieu Vu. Vu shed light on the thought process behind the critical discussion format of the event.
“I wanted to create an event that would spotlight the experiences of black students, since their narratives are so often ignored on our campus except when blatant racist acts against them come to light,” Vu told the UCSD Guardian. “When the xenophobic and anti-immigrant chalking appeared on Triton Day, the other organizers and I knew that this event had to address campus climate as a whole. This event was an invitation for those students [upset by the chalkings] to become more engaged, and take action against the hate speech on our campus.”
The event featured speakers from the Afrikan Black Coalition, the Black Alumni Council, the Black Student Union and A.S. Council members. Counselors from UCSD’s Counseling and Psychological Services were also present to support students during the discussion.
Executive Director of the Afrikan Black Coalition Salih Muhammad opened the event by addressing UCSD’s history of a problematic campus climate in the context of race relations in America.
“Truth is, UC San Diego has a problem,” Muhammad said. “But the problem at UC San Diego is not devoid or divorced from a larger cultural context. And that cultural context is a society that is founded on the following premise: If you are white, you are all right, if you are black, you are what’s wrong with society, and everyone else finds themselves somewhere in between.”
Fnann Keflezighi and Allyssa Villanueva, members of the Black Alumni Council, spoke on how activism can be a lifelong commitment. Villanueva, a graduate of the class of 2012 and a law student at UC Hastings, shared her experience with activism during her undergraduate years.
Examples of the activism she was a part of included the demand for a Black Resource Center, her involvement in instituting the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion general education requirement and the work of establishing the Chicanx legacy mural in Thurgood Marshall College. She emphasized how her career choice is centered on the activism she learned and practiced while at UCSD.
“[Activism] does not end when you graduate,” Villanueva told the audience. “You can’t be all about these issues [as a student] and then say ‘I don’t care’ once you are actually in a position of power.”
The event concluded with a student panel which addressed topics including personal experiences, what changes could be made and how students outside of these marginalized communities could better support them as allies.
BSU intern Andre Thompson expressed how the lack of participation in #BlackAtUCSD, a social media campaign designed to raise awareness of and document the black experience at UCSD, is illustrative of the ambivalence of students on these issues.
“There are people in positions who have a voice — either they’re working in community centers or they’re on campus — but a tweet that takes 140 characters, a Facebook post that takes 10 seconds … it is so small, not time consuming,” Thompson emphasized. “But the fact that there are a lot of students not participating in [#BlackAtUCSD] who said they were going to … it kind of shows me that there is a lot of fear to actually put themselves out there. But not knowing what to say is not an excuse to not say anything at all.”
BRC Student Success Leader Cambria Anderson felt that changes to the campus climate would require the administration to address a variety of issues.
“I don’t really see change happening because it won’t benefit the institution [of UCSD] to do so,” Anderson said. “The things that need to change on this campus to make it better would require transformation, not necessarily continuous reform. What we have now is ways to make black students feel more comfortable with dealing with the issues. I’m supposed to feel more comfortable with the racist campus climate. If the institution was going to truly change we would … do things that are transforming the institution rather than including more people into the mess that is the institution.”