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New African American Initiative Plans to Improve UC Berkeley Campus Climate

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    New African American Initiative Plans to Improve UC Berkeley Campus Climate
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    FILE ART - UC Berkeley

    In 2013 a campus climate survey conducted at UC Berkeley found that the campuses’ African American students feel the least respected among all the groups on campus.

    Nearly two years later, the UC Berkeley African American Initiative was announced last week to address the underrepresentation and campus climate.

    With the support of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Claude Steele, the Division of Equity and Inclusion formulated this plan over the past two years. Led by Steele, African American studies chair, Na’ilah Nasir, and outgoing vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, Gibor Basri, a comprehensive initiative was developed with three goals in mind.

    One is to gain and retain a critical mass of African American students, faculty, and senior staff. According to the initiative, African Americans make up three percent of the undergraduate student body, four percent of graduate students, and two percent of faculty.

    Steele suggests that the low percentage of African Americans may lend to the how hard is to recruit and keep African American students at Berkeley.

    “The low percentage of African American students may also play a role in a kind of negative cycle: There’s not a large number here, and therefore it’s harder to recruit people to come here,” Steele said to Berkeley News in an interview.

    The second goal of the initiative aspires to combat feelings of uneasiness on campus as it vows to ensure that African American students feel welcome, supported, and respected.

    According to 2013 the Campus Climate Survey, only 47 percent of African American students rated the climate as respectful of them while nearly 90 percent of Asian and white students over-estimated the positive climate for African American students.

    Lastly, the initiative hopes to deliver the message that Berkeley is a welcoming place for African Americans.

    Over the last 12 months faculty, staff, and students have established objectives for the program that include raising $20 millions to endow an undergraduate scholarship fund, boost support for current and African and American students and improve the recruitment of African American students and other underrepresented ethnic minorities.

    Though this initiative may take sometime to go into full effect, Basri says, “In four or five years, if we’ve really changed things, we could be in a different place.”