In response to institutionalized racial discrimination and marginalization Afrikan, Black and Caribbean (ABC) students face at UC Santa Cruz, UCSC’s Black Student Union (BSU) organized a town hall with eight top UCSC administrators to make sure they will and are addressing themes of housing, culturally competent professors and campus climate for Black students in a way that will bring about real change.

“If we say we’re having financial hardship and you’re talking about Slug Support, that’s for everybody,” said Basheera Ali-El, BSU president.

Ali-El said a marginalized group of people will be on the margin of that assistance, so admin needs to be specific about what they’ll do for Black students.

About 50 students and staff gathered in the Namaste Lounge to engage with the panel of administrators which included Chancellor George Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) Marlene Tromp, the heads of Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES), Academic Affairs, Business and Administrative Services (BAS), Dean of Students (DoS) and Student Success. The town hall was mediated by Teresa Maria Linda Scholz, campus diversity officer.

“I don’t think a lot of people get to interact with admin on such an intimate or close level. It opened a lot of peoples eyes,” Ali-El said referring to the students in attendance. “Even I didn’t have to say everything. They caught it, they could see it, it’s a lot of visibility.”

During the town hall Ali-El and BSU Vice President Donnaven Bradley asked admin to address topics such as on- and off-campus housing for ABC students, the need for a Black studies minor, culturally humble, and what admin is doing to address these topics. A question and answer session was held at the end of the event.

First, admin addressed things they are currently doing to support UCSC ABC students. Sue Matthews, associate vice chancellor of CHES, addressed needs for more on-campus housing for ABC identified students. CHES will expand the Rosa Parks African American Theme House (RPAATH) to a Stevenson apartment building starting next year and create a new African American themed housing opportunity for students in Rachel Carson College.

Due to racial discrimination in the Santa Cruz housing market, Jaye Padgett, vice provost of Student Success, said he will work to hire a parthalf-time staff member by fall 2018 to help address issues of housing discrimination with students through identifying and vetting landlords and property agencies that are racially sensitive.

T. M. Robinson-Mosley, interim dean of students and the only Black person on the panel, was able to give students a clear answer when other panelists were not able to answer questions about what the division of Student Success is doing to support ABC students. She told attendees ways in which she and other admin will move forward to work with BSU.

“As much as we’re engaging with each other, I feel like it’s not gonna be really productive if we don’t get to a place where we can really be involved in the process and that you have some skin in the game just like we do,” Mosley said. “I want to implore you to really engage with us and work with us knowing that it’s not always going to be great but it’s always going to be something that I hope you can invest in, and that’s what we wanna support you in.”

A question and answer session was held at the end of the event.

During the Q&A portion of the event, students asked questions about the progress administrators are making in establishing a Black studies minor. EVC Marlene Tromp said it takes time to establish a minor because faculty must thoughtfully propose curriculum, which is then approved by the Academic Senate. She also said the university is committed to supporting the minor financially.

One student also pointed out that the first served parking passes selling system disadvantages many Black students because permits are usually sold out by summer but financial aid isn’t dispersed until fall quarter starts. Larry Pageler, TAPS director, said it shouldn’t be a problem to create a mechanism for financial aid students to put parking permit costs on student accounts before financial aid is dispersed.

Moving forward from the town hall, Basheera Ali-El said BSU will try to get its community more involved in creating institutional change with admin.

“There usually are still hierarchical dynamics — it’s admin, it’s students, it’s non-black people, it’s Black people,” Ali-El said. “We just do our best to navigate them to make sure that our agenda is being met or our goals are being met. It’s not the easiest of tasks but
they’re necessary.”