Why Black Students Are Avoiding UC Berkeley 

In the post-Prop 209 era, nearly 60 percent of African-American students accepted at Cal are choosing to attend other colleges — often, because they feel unwelcome.

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While AASD has eight student workers, Dugas is the only professional staff member — not nearly enough for the program's needs and scope of operation.

Adding more staff members and putting them in a larger AASD space also could go a long way toward helping retain the African-American students already at Cal, as well as giving them reason and ammunition to be word-of-mouth recruiters for more black students. Meanwhile, finding more ways to support the student-run Black Recruitment and Retention Center could be a direct benefit to increasing the number of African-American Cal applicants.

Funded partly through the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), the Black Recruitment and Retention Center runs a year-round recruitment program for African-American students in high schools throughout the state, as well as operating social activities for those same students once they enroll at Cal.

Cal undergrad Destiny Iuwoma, BRRC's Northern California coordinator, said "there are students on campus who are literally hungry to recruit black students" to Berkeley, "but Cal has to show that it both wants that recruitment and wants more black students.

"I think one of the problems is the university doesn't believe it benefits by having more black students here who are not athletes," Iuwoma continued, adding that while the campus admissions office is "cordial" to the BRRC efforts, more than that is needed. "I feel like a better relationship needs to happen," he said. "They know we do recruitment. They know we go to high schools. They give us materials. But I want to hear from their mouths that they actually want more black students here, and this is what we can do to get them here. The university has money, and the students have the stories and the personal relationships with the students and the high schools. If I work with a group of students that I can tell what they need to get into the university and the university is backing me on this, and I have clout and I can say, 'If you do the work and meet the qualifications, I can help get you into UC Berkeley,' then I can actually advocate for these students. I can get students into Berkeley. But I need the administration to work with me on that. It needs to be a cooperative effort."

Iuwoma said that the university admissions office "should be building a pipeline to certain schools" in order to increase the pool of qualified black students applying, being admitted to, and succeeding at Cal. "What I would do is have UC Berkeley have some type of partnership with some of these schools that would groom students to compete and be eligible for UC. And we should be doing it at the freshman, sophomore, and junior level. Most of the time we're targeting seniors, and by that time, it's too late for them to prepare themselves."


Earlier this year, in its ruling on the questions of race in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin, the US Supreme Court established a slightly higher hurdle for college affirmative action programs to reach in order to improve diversity at their schools. And this fall, the court heard arguments concerning Michigan's anti-affirmative action law, which closely resembles California's Prop 209. The high court is expected to rule on that case next June, with most legal observers believing that it will most likely further tighten restrictions on affirmative action programs.

Yet surprisingly, some African Americans associated with UC Berkeley are perfectly fine with that, as well as with the widespread assumption that affirmative action is unlikely to return to California colleges and schools.

"I got into Berkeley on my own," said Nile Taylor, who entered Cal three years after the ban on affirmative action began. "I didn't get in because they had to meet a quota. I got in because my application was good enough to get into Berkeley. Part of the stigma of people who get in under affirmative action is one, they only got in because of affirmative action — that they're not considered to be good enough otherwise — and two, I think affirmative action is a Band-Aid. I don't think it's a solution."

Disclosure: Nile Taylor is the daughter of the author of this article.

Correction: The original version of this report misstated the name of the UC Berkeley campus survey that found that a substantial percentage of black students at Cal hold a dim view of the campus. It was the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey -- not the University of California Campus Climate Survey.

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