UC-Berkeley grants $1.5 million for anti-racist efforts

The grants were given through the newly created Graduate Diversity Pilot Program.

The UC Berkeley Graduate Division received grants totaling $1.5 million to nine departments within the university.

The University of California-Berkeley has allotted $1.5 million to “improve departmental climates” via “diversity” grants made to nine individual departments.

UC Berkeley’s Graduate Diversity Pilot Program was established in July in an effort to “combat racism and foster diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) — provide funding to improve departmental climates for graduate and undergraduate students, staff, faculty (including lecturers), and postdocs; enhance faculty graduate student mentorship; and advance diversity in graduate outreach and admissions.” 

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In a recent announcement entitled: Our Commitment to Anti-Racism: Fall 2020 Initiatives, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division  Lisa García Bedolla, said the Graduate Pilot Program will provide grants to departments to “provide funding for training, tools, and programming for graduate students, faculty, and staff to raise awareness of issues of bias, foster healthy and respectful departmental climates, and advance equity, inclusion, and diversity.”  

The announcement comes after a June 12 letter addressed to the Graduate Student community,  promising changes would be made in an effort to boost diversity. Bedolla said “What I want to do is reaffirm my commitment to fighting anti-blackness in my own sphere and beyond through concrete action,” Bedolla wrote. 

“To that end, I promise to write to you again when my staff and I can promise real improvements and change for our Black graduate student community and all minoritized graduate students at Berkeley,” Bedolla continued. 

“Here is the promise I make to you: By the end of July, my staff and I will announce a set of concrete efforts we are advancing to change the status quo and move us toward becoming the anti-racist, truly inclusive institution we need to be,” she said. “We need to demonstrate to you — through our actions — that we are doing everything we can to actively fight against racism and hate in all their forms.”

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In July, the Graduate Diversity Pilot Program was established, through which nine separate departments will each receive $175,000 over four years to “leverage existing internal DEI efforts and add new ones based on internal climate surveys and audits,” along with other measures. Departments in receipt of the money include the Architecture, Chemistry, and Integrative Biology departments.

“It’s our duty to directly address bias and systemic racism and create an academic environment where every student feels they belong,” explained Graduate Division Dean and Vice Provost Lisa García Bedolla. “We’re extremely fortunate to have the means to advance real positive change in our campus climate and I’m excited to partner with these amazing colleagues in that effort.”

A graduate student at UC-Berkeley who asked to remain anonymous told Campus Reform that the concept of “diversity” as approached by the university needs to be readdressed.

“I think our understanding of ‘diversity’ needs to be examined,” the student said. “I am an advocate for diversity and equity. But how we achieve it is more complicated than grantmaking. How do we measure diversity?” 

“I think that too often we advance diversity by saying ‘we admitted xx% student[s] of color’ but that is not the only measurement for diversity, or at least it shouldn’t be the only measurement. I want to see more concrete steps about making the university a more diverse place, where students from different ideological backgrounds/cultural backgrounds feel safe and free to express their thoughts,” she added. 

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