Cal Berkeley to open minority themed house next fall

UCLA will also discuss building separate housing for black students on its campus.

The University of California (UC) is implementing a new solution to combat racial discrimination among students: themed housing for minority students.

The People of Color Caucus together with the Demographic Inclusion Task Force (DITF), a division of the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) at UC Berkeley, have led a series of focus groups recently as part of ongoing efforts to establish a Person of Color (PoC) theme house for the Fall 2016 academic quarter, the school newspaper reported.

The PoC theme house would be similar to its other theme houses catering specifically to minority students, including an LGBTQIA & Queer theme house and an African-American theme house (“Afro-House”). The purpose of the PoC house would be to serve as an affordable “safe space” for students of low-income underrepresented minorities who feel a lack of respect from other students at UC Berkeley; while bonding with students of similar background through “cultural awareness” workshops and discussions.

“The (co-op) culture doesn’t suit people of color,” sophomore Peter Estrada said. “I have trouble relating to people in that place.”

Joanna Garcia, a senior at UC Berkeley and a member of the DITF, said during the focus group that the decision to create a co-op specifically for underrepresented minority students was motivated by a “shared sentiment” by minority students who felt uncomfortable by the “lack of diversity” in the co-op housing system.

Spencer Simpson, another UC Berkeley student and BSC board member, said that the “PoC (house) will alleviate that issue.”

Other UC campuses are following the BSC’s lead. After student outrage at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) over a “Kanye-Western” themed frat party which was labeled ‘racist’ by the Afrikan Student Union (ASU), the ASU pressured the UCLA administration to build an “Afro-House” at UCLA as well. The ASU argued that since a $20 million scholarship fund was established by UC Berkeley for black student programs such as this one, black students at UCLA should be entitled to the same benefits.

The UCLA administration responded that it will collaborate with UC Berkeley to discuss building separate housing for black students on campus, as they had requested.

“I am in touch with UC Berkeley better to understand Afro-house and its connection to that campus and to see if there are opportunities for UCLA to explore something along those lines,” UCLA’s vice chancellor Janina Montero wrote in a statement.

But many students believe that the demands led by the ASU and other minority campus groups at the University of California are not conducive to a more inclusive campus climate. In a recent online survey conducted by undergraduate students at UCLA, only 10.87% of those surveyed said that they supported separate housing for black students, and 86.67% said that they did not think the ASU was helping to raise levels of interracial tolerance at UCLA.

“Creating race-based housing is another example of societal regression masked as social-justice,” Bruin Republicans president Jake Kohlhepp, told Campus Reform. “College is about taking in new ideas and new people, not about encouraging people to geographically separate based on race."

Another student, Haley Nieves, told Campus Reform she is concerned that “self-segregation” by underrepresented minority students will “further contribute to the social construction of race and a separate and unequal learning experience for all students.” Nieves said that the idea of “separate but equal” accommodations is precisely what activists during the Civil Rights movement fought against.

“We should not regress back to the society that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others sacrificed their lives to change,” Nieves added.

The BSC at UC Berkeley did not answer its phone for comment in time for editing.

Likewise, the ASU at UCLA did not respond to requests via email and social media for comment in time for publication.

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