Berkeley holds early orientations for 'special populations'

The University of California, Berkeley invited certain “special populations” of new students to move in a day early to attend racially-exclusive orientation sessions.

According to a guide to the new “Golden Bear Orientation” program, the school offered a special programming on Monday for a variety of populations, including Hispanic students, black students, Native American students, and Asian American/Pacific Islander students.

“Most other students,” meanwhile, spent the day moving into their residence halls and preparing for the main freshman orientation program, which runs from August 15-22.

The “Black Student Orientation” aimed to address “the specific transitional and community needs of African American/Black students” at the university with “community building activities, academic and campus life workshops, and a resource fair.”

As part of the “Black Student Orientation,” students participated in a “Black World Tour” in which they were taken around the surrounding area for a showcase of “black owned businesses.”

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Similarly, a “Familia Orientation” was offered for “Chicanx and Latinx” students on August 13, while an “Asian American Pacific Islander Student Orientation” was reserved for responding to the “specific transitional and community needs of Asian American, Pilipinx , and Pacific Islander students.”

A final “special population” orientation was provided for “native students” enrolled at the elite institution, who were encouraged to show up early to “map locations of your classes, get to know campus, meet continuing Cal Native students and other new Native students, and have a little fun before classes start.”

In fact, the Native American Student Development Office touts on its website that “another bonus” of attending the exclusive orientation was being “eligible for early move-in,” a benefit that the African American Student Development Center similarly advertises on its website, noting that participants were able to move in before “most other students.”

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An official with the Native American Student Development Office explained to Campus Reform that the “purpose for the orientation was to make Native students know that they have a space on campus that they can come to,” since the several Native student groups on campus “tend to not get noticed.”

Additionally, the office confirmed with Campus Reform that the orientation was reserved exclusively for Native Americans, Indigenous people, and Pacific Islanders to introduce the many resources available for them on campus.

Notably, according to a university press release, all incoming students (9,500 in total) are asked to complete a “Bear Territory” program where they will “receive diversity and inclusion training.”

Participation in the “Golden Bear Orientation” as a whole is “considered mandatory,” with it being the “university’s expectation that [students] attend” unless there are extenuating circumstances.

“We want all our students to make it to orientation and to have an accessible and equitable experience,” Director of New Student Services Chrissy Roth-Francis remarked in the release.

[RELATED: Kent State offers minorities-only orientation, mentorship]

Troy Warden, president of Berkeley College Republicans, told Campus Reform that “it doesn’t surprise [him] that the university held segregated orientations,” noting that the school actually has “racially ‘themed’ accommodations and residential programs that offer services and perks [he] never received while in student housing.”

In addition to the supplemental orientations based on race, Berkeley also offers similar programming geared toward disabled students, international students, student-athletes, "readmitted" students, and Pell Grant recipients.

Campus Reform reached out to the university, and each organization cited previously, for additional information on the orientation programming, and is currently awaiting responses. Rita Zhang, acting director of Asian Pacific American Student Development, informed Campus Reform that she would respond at a later time due to the time constraints of orientation.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski