In wake of the recent racially insensitive incidents at UC San Diego and a racially offensive image drawn on the wall of a bathroom stall at the Earth and Marine Sciences building at UC Santa Cruz, campus leaders are trying to promote inclusion through new housing communities with special themes.
Ideas to ameliorate tension caused by racist incidents were pitched after various student organizations approached UCSC administrators and encouraged them to find a way of drawing attention to the diverse student population.
“We should use these issues as instruments of inclusion, and these recent events present an opportunity to improve our community,” said Pablo Reguerin, executive director of Retention Services and director of Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), in response to the concerns of the students at UCSC.
The student call to action was met with a swift reaction by campus administrators, many of whom met with students and agreed with the need to acknowledge diversity.
Administrators revealed a plan that had been in preparation for a long time to create non-college specific housing focusing on multiculturalism.
Colleges & University Housing Services (CUHS) began to distribute information and interest inquiries for culturally-themed housing facilities, with the intention of establishing these facilities in the near future.
The new themes would include an Indigenous Peoples Hall at Merrill College, a transfer-specific community at Porter, and an African-American-themed facility, known as PAATH, at Stevenson College. PAATH stands for Project African-American Theme Housing.
EOP director Reguerin said if enough people are interested in an African-American-themed facility, an entire dormitory at Stevenson may be converted into a theme-specific residence.
UCSC administrators and housing coordinators believe that these new facilities will have a positive impact on the students.
Citing examples from Cornell University and UC Berkeley, Reguerin highlighted the positive results of African-American-themed housing at those schools and his hopes that there would be similar results at UCSC.
“Theme housing is meant to be inclusive. This is not the end-all solution to many diversity issues, but it’s a step forward,” he said.
The African-American-themed housing was an idea proposed to administrators in the past. However, due to the lack of a facility in which to develop culturally themed housing, the idea never came to fruition.
When a facility became available, Reguerin issued an informative e-mail to students questioning their interest in living in an African-American culture-themed facility. The response was considerably positive and those who expressed an interest were encouraged to forward the information to other students with similar interests.
Although the majority of feedback to Reguerin has been positive, he has acknowledged that some students have expressed concerns about establishing ethnic or racially-themed housing.
Aviva Wolman, a first-year from Stevenson College, expressed mixed feelings about the new housing community.
“I think it’s nice to have culture-themed housing because it makes it easier to bond, but I’m skeptical of this new plan because it may lead to segregation of black students,” Wolman said. “But if anyone can live in the African-American-themed facility then I think it would be cool to see how people bond when they have a culture to share.”
Reguerin stressed the importance of building a stronger and more diverse community by bringing people with similar interests together in order to educate themselves and their peers in a positive way.
“African-American-themed housing is not a racially exclusive housing facility. It will be a place in which all people who are interested in African-American culture or history can be exposed to others with similar interests and further their knowledge,” Reguerin said.
Donnae Smith, Diversity & Inclusion program coordinator of the colleges and university housing services, applauded the idea.
“There has been a considerable number of off-campus students who have expressed an interest in returning to campus-sponsored housing facilities in order to live in this new community,” she said.
Some think this idea represents the pinnacle of change and advancement for the university, as it stands as one of many ideas that may alter the face of the UCSC community.
In addition to culturally-themed housing, there may also be non-college specific housing that allows people from different colleges to live together without changing their affiliation.
Smith said, “We are trying to encourage interaction between students and faculty members from various backgrounds.”