Professor Proposes Renaming Sixth College to Cesar Chavez College

A proposal to rename Sixth College to Cesar Chavez College was met with swift student resistance at an Associated Students meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The proposal was made by Dr. Olivia Graeve, a professor in the Jacobs School of Engineering, who believes that Cesar Chavez represents “an entire movement in California that promoted social justice and equality for the most vulnerable in the state.”

In the proposal, Graeve noted that the three main bodies she planned to consult with were the Academic Senate, the Graduate Student Association, and A.S. Council. According to Social Sciences Senator Freddy Arriola, this caused concern about whether student input from Sixth College would be sought.

“[Graeve] kept referring back to trying to support the students, but she clearly hadn’t spoken to any of the Sixth College students,” Arriola said.

Sixth College Representative Senator Caroline Siegel-Singh also believes that communication should have been more transparent with Sixth College.

“[Consulting with those three bodies] isn’t really the appropriate process. It also completely blocks out the majority of the voice,” Siegel-Singh said. “So we really emphasized in last week’s Senate meeting that the appropriate avenue for this discussion was not A.S. Council, was not GS and was not Academic Senate — it would be to first approach the Sixth College Student Council.”

In light of these concerns, Graeve said she will be meeting with SCSC in two weeks to further discuss the proposal. She believes that despite resistance, students need time to think the proposal over.

“I hope that students would consider my proposal in serious way in what I consider to be a serious and valid proposal,” Graeve said.

In 2015, A.S. Council and SCSC, among several other campus and student organizations, advocated for Sixth College to be named after a woman of color who embodies the theme of the college to promote representation and inclusivity. According to Siegel-Singh, this is still the prevailing belief among SCSC constituents.

“Students reiterated that they don’t think [Cesar Chavez] is the best name because it doesn’t tie into our theme of Art, Innovation and Technology and then again referenced the resolution, saying that they really do want to see more diversity in the naming of the college and specifically having a woman,” Siegel-Singh said.

Figueroa said she is willing to back SCSC’s stance.

“I saw that Sixth College senators were really supportive of [the resolution] and if that’s how they want to go, then we can reaffirm the resolution and A.S. [Council] will support that.”

Graeve said she was not fully aware of the resolution when she made her proposal.

“Clearly [the resolution] didn’t result in a name change,” Graeve said. “So I figured, well some attempt was made but let’s give it a second attempt. Let’s see if this one with broad campus involvement can result in finally a name change that everyone can support.”

Graeve noted that Cesar Chavez is Latino, and thus falls into the resolution’s advocacy of a person of color, although he is not female. However, Graeve believes that specific parameters should not dictate how the college is named.

“A decision made strictly and only on gender and race is not appropriate,” Graeve said. “It is about everything that involves that one person and what that person represents.”

According to Figueroa and Arriola, some A.S. Council constituents have expressed interest in having Sixth College being named after Frida Kahlo. However, Figueroa said that there have been no formal discussions about the renaming of Sixth College in A.S. Council this year until Graeve’s proposal surfaced.

Figueroa also stated that there is no formal process for renaming a college, but that A.S. Council will support whatever decision SCSC makes.

“I would let Sixth College admin, SCSC, and Sixth College students really take charge of the renaming process, and I see it as our role as A.S. [Council] to advocate for them and support them with the resources and whatever else they need,” Figueroa said.

According to Figueroa, A.S. Council is working to institute a formal process for renaming the college.