The UC Santa Cruz administration announced the new paid undergraduate Pan-African Research Fellowship for eight accepted students, which will give student researchers the opportunity to investigate ways UCSC can address racial inequality and a lack of representation on campus.
Announced in a press release on Sept. 29, the pilot program is a chance for student researchers and staff to work together to promote “institutional accountability.”
“[We’re] using research as a means by which to figure out what the main issues are with students,” said Dr. Aaron Jones, one of the two research advisors for the Pan-African Research Fellowship. “[The fellowship] also responds to and gives credence to the demands that students bring up, combining those things together, and really developing the best way forward to better support this population.”
The UCSC Black Student Union (BSU) sent a letter to the UCSC administration titled “The Unrelenting Anti-Blackness of 2020” on June 1. The letter made various demands on how the UCSC administration could demonstrate support for African, Black and Caribbean (ABC) students on campus.
Lindsey Tavares-Sabido, a UCSC student minoring in Black Studies and one of the eight Pan-African research fellows, said the steps that UCSC is taking should have happened sooner.
“My hope is that we can start to see some real changes happen now, not next year, not five years from now,” Tevares-Sabido said, “but with the same urgent response that was dispatched when the CZU lightning complex wildfires were a threat to UCSC campus, you know racism and anti-blackness, specifically at UCSC, have continued to be a burning issue.”
The new research positions were officially created on UCSC’s Employment Request system. The research projects each focus on different areas, and students came up with research questions that tie into their personal experiences.
The research fellowship was intended to be a summer pilot program this year, but was extended to December due to the wildfire evacuations. Depending on funding and how much time students need for their projects, the program might last through the academic year, said program advisor Dr. Aaron Jones.
The evacuations made it harder for students to access resources and technology needed for the program, and delayed processes like the Institutional Review Board application, Tavares-Sabido said.
University administration promised in the Sept. 29 press release to make additional institutional changes aside from the fellowships.
Jennifer Baszile, the interim vice chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs and Success, who works closely with students and staff in the Pan-African Research Fellowship, said the UC has funded the Office of ABC Students Success.
To support Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to hire three additional staff members, UCSC administration is collaborating with the Steve Fund, a nonprofit organization that promotes mental health and well-being of students of color, Baszile said.
As a research advisor for the fellowship, Dr. Aaron Jones says the new program is a step toward bringing student voices into the conversation around resources for ABC students on campus.
“It has never really happened before. And, you know, sometimes we don’t listen to students enough,” Jones said. “I think this is an opportunity for us to do more listening than talking.”
With multiple demands on the BSU list left unfulfilled, students like Tavares-Sabido are looking for more changes from the university to respond to the demands.
“I really do hope that through our research and dialogue and advocacy and engagement with the public, that we can substantiate this list of demands that have been passed down to us and revised over the history of BSU at UCSC,” Tavares-Sabido said. “I’m not satisfied with how long things tend to take when it comes to working with the university. I think that there’s still a lot more that needs to be done in order to feel like our needs have been met.”