In an effort to try and solve one aspect of perceived racial discrimination issues among its students, the University of California (UC) is building “themed housing” for minority students.
The People of Color Caucus and a division of the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) at UC Berkeley, have together conducted a number of focus groups as part of an effort to create a Person of Color (PoC) themed house for the Fall of 2016.
If the project goes forward, the PoC themed house will be similar to the university’s other themed houses that specifically cater to minority students, including an African-American themed house (Afro-House) and the LGBTQIA & Queer themed house.
The stated purpose of the PoC house is to serve as an affordably priced “safe space” for students of lower-income underrepresented minorities at the university who feel less respect from other students. The house will also allow bonding with similarly situated students through “cultural awareness.”
UC Berkeley sophomore Peter Estrada feels that, “The (co-op) culture doesn’t suit people of color. I have trouble relating to people in that place.”
Other UC campuses are following Berkeley’s lead. Facing pressure from the Afrikan Student Union (ASU), the UCLA administration built an “Afro-House” on its campus. The ASU argued that since a scholarship fund in the amount of $20 million was established by UC Berkeley for black student programs of this nature, black students at UCLA should receive the same benefits.
The UCLA administration indicated that it will collaborate with UC Berkeley on the issue.
However, many students believe that the idea is not a good one. They feel that the demands of the ASU and other minority groups on campus fly in the face of creating an inclusive campus environment. In a recent poll of UC students conducted by students, less than 11% of those surveyed said that they actually supported separate housing for black students while almost 90% said that the house was not doing anything to raise “levels of interracial tolerance at UCLA.”
Bruin Republicans president Jake Kohlhepp told Campus Reform that, “Creating race-based housing is another example of societal regression masked as social-justice. 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 the paper that “self-segregation” by minority students will “further contribute to the social construction of race and a separate and unequal learning experience for all students.” Nieves opined that “separate but equal” accommodations is precisely what human rights activists fought against during the Civil Rights movement.
She added that, “We should not regress back to the society that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others sacrificed their lives to change.”