UC Santa Cruz Black Student Alliance Scores Major Victory Following Three-Day ‘Reclamation’ of Campus Building

More than 100 UC Santa Cruz students “reclaimed” Kerr Hall last Tuesday and refused to leave until their demands were met. (Image courtesy of Dan Coyro, Santa Cruz Sentinel).

After fiercely protesting what they describe as a “hostile” campus climate, Black students at the University of California Santa Cruz will finally have their demands met.

University officials on Thursday, May 4, agreed to meet all four of the demands issued by members of the school’s African/Black Student Alliance, according to local station KSBW 8. The accord came after students locked themselves inside a campus administrative building for three days, vowing to remain until their demands were met.

“If the university fails us, there will be no business as usual,” A/BSA members told the campus newspaper Tuesday, May 2, as they occupied Kerr Hall.

The news station reported that Chancellor George Blumenthal sat down to negotiate with 10 of the protesters at 4 p.m. Thursday but noted that the meeting was later moved to another campus building after Blumenthal said he received threats and was concerned for his safety. Negotiations continued in the biology building, where the UC chancellor ultimately agreed to comply with each of the group’s demands.

“I’m pleased to announce that the student demonstration in Kerr Hall that began Tuesday has ended, with both student protesters and campus administrators agreeing on a path forward,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Though we’ve been working with underrepresented communities, including A/BSA, we acknowledge that we have not done enough to engage with them successfully. The student demonstrators raised a number of issues with campus leaders, issues we fundamentally agree upon.”

“We see these new measures as ways to meaningfully improve the ABC student experience here on campus, and, in doing so, improve our campus climate,” he added.

Most of A/BSA’s requests were in regard to the university’s Rosa Parks African-American Themed House, a “student-initiated themed living option for all students whose interests span historical, present-day and future experiences of predominantly Black/African-American peoples,” the school website states. Their requests also concerned campus racism.

The student group demanded that:

  • “Similar to EOP students and International students’ housing guarantees, we demand that ALL Afrikan/Black/Caribbean-identified students have a 4-year housing guarantee to live in the Rosa Parks African American Themed House. Guaranteeing this would provide a viable living option to all Afrikan/Black/Caribbean-identified students regardless of housing status and college affiliation. We demand a written agreement by the opening of housing applications in April 2017.”
  • “We demand the university remove the beds and release the Rosa Parks African Themed House lounge so it can serve its original purpose. We demand the lounge be returned by Fall 2017.”
  • “We demand that the university fund the ENTIRE exterior of the Rosa Parks African American Themed House being painted Pan-Afrikan colors (Red, green, and black) by the start of Spring quarter 2017. These Pan Afrikan colors represent Black liberation, and represent our diaspora, and the goals of our people.”
  • “We demand that all new incoming students from 2017-2018 school year forward (first-years and transfers) go through a mandatory in-person diversity competency training in the event that the online module is not implemented by June 2017. We demand that the training be reviewed and approved by A/BSA board every two years. We demand that every incoming student complete this training by their first day of class.”

University spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason told KSBW 8 that housing is a big concern for everyone, adding that the school is working to boost the number of beds on campus through a new student housing initiative.

A/BSA co-chair Imari Reynolds, who spoke with Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week, said on-campus housing is especially important to Black students at the university.

“Housing on this campus is important to Black students in general,” Reynolds said. “Visibility at this campus where we’re less than two percent is very important. So, having that red, black and green house in the middle of Stevenson College, which is a predominately white-serving college, is a matter of symbolism and visibility that Black students are on this campus. We do exist.”

A/BSA members said their building takeover should be described as a “reclamation” rather than an “occupation.”

In an emailed statement, university officials said the school is committed to making the changes by Fall 2017.

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