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Black citizens make up 6.6% of 18-24 year olds in California but the black student population at UC San Diego is only 1.4 percent. Is this something to be celebrated?

Recently, the University of Southern California Center for Race and Equity released the results of a study gauging the status of black students in public universities, Black Students at Public Colleges and Universities: A 50-State Report Card. The University of California, San Diego and two other institutions received the highest ‘grade’ among all the universities included in the report. However, the analytical criteria used in the study produce overly positive conclusions about UC San Diego’s racial status quo that are reinforced by the University’s misleading portrayal of the researchers’ conclusions. 

As a public university that was established with provisions to serve the people of California, the disparity between California’s black community and the presence of black students and faculty at UC San Diego is stark.  Black citizens are 6% of the California population and 6.6% of 18-24 year olds, as well as a significant population of black residents who are not citizens. However, the black student population at UC San Diego is only 1.4% and black faculty are only 1.9%. This means that UC San Diego’s black student population is only 1/5 of what it should be relative to the state population. If we look nationally, the disparity between the population of black people in the United States—13.4%—and the percentage of students and faculty at UC San Diego is even more severe. In fact, Center for Race and Equity researchers Shaun Harper and Isaiah Simmons report that UC San Diego has the second-worst black student representation in the state’s entire public university system, which includes thirty-one institutions (Harper & Simmons, 14)). Moreover, UC San Diego’s black faculty representation (1.7%) is well below the average representation of black faculty in postsecondary education nationally: 3% for black female and 3% for black male faculty (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System). 

As the Center for Race and Equity’s “report card” itself notes, the evaluation criteria used to grade institutions actually serves to reward UCSD for its low number of black students and only slightly lesser underrepresentation of black faculty. One of the four “equity indicators” the study assesses is the black student-to-black-faculty ratio, for which the university received an “A” grade. As a result, schools like UC San Diego “that employ a pathetically low number of full-time Black instructional faculty members and enroll very few full-time, degree-seeking Black undergraduates” actually benefit through this indicator (Harper & Simmons, 8). If the university’s student body accurately reflected the percentage of black youth in the state (6.6%), the student-to-faculty ratio would increase from the 10:1 ratio reported in the study to a 45:1 ratio. This would be a “C” grade according to the study’s criteria. Thus, what is portrayed as excellence in UC San Diego’s black student-to-black-faculty ratio is in fact evidence of the university’s underperformance in both black student enrollment and black faculty recruitment. 

We raise this issue in part because the study suggests a rather ideal situation for black students at UC San Diego, conveying an almost boutique educational experience. However, nowhere does the study suggest that it measures how well these universities are "serving black students," as UC San Diego has currently described the results in numerous public announcements. In fact, study authors caution readers that “high grades in this publication are not necessarily indicators of exceptional performance” (Harper & Simmons, 7). The study simply purports to measure numerical equity between black undergraduates and comparative groups in public universities. Depicting this numerical "status" as a measure of the manner in which UC San Diego serves black students is, at best, a misrepresentation. Indeed, for many of our black students, the small black community leads to a sense of isolation and makes it difficult to feel at home on a campus where they seem out of place, negatively affecting their overall college experience. According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data used to compile the Center for Race & Equity report card, the six-year graduation rate for black undergraduates matriculating at UC San Diego in 2011—69%—is the lowest for any racial community on campus. 

One of the implications of this situation is the perpetuation of a racialized division of access to knowledge and its related resources on a local, national, and global scale. While UC San Diego continues to make valuable strides to increase the recruitment and retention of black undergraduates, we would be remiss in our roles as faculty advocates to allow other colleges and universities to view our institution as having resolved, in any way shape or form, the numerous issues we face around increasing our black student pipeline, growing black faculty numbers, and cultivating positive academic and social environments for our black students.  If UC San Diego, a globally-renowned institution of higher education, is excused from fulfilling the promise of equity through access to public education articulated in California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, then it fails on the only report card that truly matters.

Sources Consulted:

California State Department of Education (1960). A Master Plan for Higher Education in California, 1960-1975. Sacramento, CA: Prepared for the Liaison Committee of the State Board of Education and the Regents of the University of California. https://www.ucop.edu/acadinit/mastplan/MasterPlan1960.pdf

Contreras, F., Chapman, T., Comeaux, E., Rodriguez, G., M., Martinez, E., & Hutson, M., (2015). Investing in California’s African American Students: College Choice, Diversity & Exclusion. San Diego, CA: Report Prepared for The University of California Office of the President. http://iurd.berkeley.edu/research/EXCEL_Report_2016.pdf

Freedberg, L., Zinshteyn, M. “More California students graduate from high school, but far fewer graduate from college.” EdSource, February 26, 2018. https://edsource.org/2018/more-california-students-graduate-from-high-school-but-far-fewer-graduate-from-college/594065

Harper, S., and Simmons, I. (2018). Black Students at Public Colleges and Universities: A 50 State Report Card. Los Angeles: University of Southern California Center for Race and Equity.

https://race.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Black-Students-at-Public-Colleges-and-Universities-A-50-State-Report-Card-Harper-and-Simmons-1-9-26.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=CA&zc=92093&zd=0&of=3&ct=1&id=110680&fv=110680

Sincerely, 

Boatema Boateng, Associate Professor of Communication, UC San Diego 

Adam Burgasser, Professor of Physics, UC San Diego  

Thandeka K. Chapman, Associate Professor of Education Studies, UC San Diego

Dennis Childs, Associate Professor of Literature, UC San Diego 

Zeinabu Irene Davis, Professor of Communication, UC San Diego 

Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of Literature and Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego 

Ivan Evans, Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego 

Hanna Garth, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

Dayo Gore, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies, UC San Diego 

Jessica Graham, Assistant Professor of History, UC San Diego 

Sara Clarke Kaplan, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies, UC San Diego 

Sara Johnson, Associate Professor of Literature, UC San Diego 

Daphne V. Taylor-Garcia, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego 

Daniel Widener, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego 

Also supported by: 

Shelley Streeby, Professor Ethnic Studies and Literature, UC San Diego

Mya Hines, Academic Advisor of Muir College, UC San Diego

Shaista Patel, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

LaGina Gause, Assistant Professor of Political Science, UC San Diego

Kirstie A. Dorr, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Ross Frank, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Yen Espiritu, Distinguished Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

David Pedersen, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

Saiba Varma, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

José I. Fusté, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Ameeth Vijay, Assistant Professor of Literature, UC San Diego

John B. Haviland, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

Frank Biess, Professor of History, UC San Diego 

Robert S. Westman, Professor of History and Science Studies, UC San Diego

Cathy Gere, Associate Professor of History of Science, UC San Diego

Rachel Klein, Professor of History, UC San Diego 

Nancy Kwak, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego

Christine Hunefeldt, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Rebecca Jo Plant, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego

Jeremy Presholdt, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Michael Provence, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Benjamin Cowan, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego

Natalia Molina, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Sarah Schneewind, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Joseph Hankins, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

Ulrike Strassar, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Matthew Vitz, Associate Professor of History, UC San Diego 

David Borgo, Department Chair and Professor of Music, UC San Diego

Steven Parish, Professor of Anthropology, UC San Diego

Patrick Anderson, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Communication, UC San Diego

Isaac Martin, Chair and Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego 

April Sutton, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Simeon Man, Assistant Professor of History, UC San Diego

Rosaura Sanchez, Professor of Literature, UC San Diego

Andrew Jolivette, Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Vanesa Ribas, Associate Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Harvey Goldman, Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Danielle Raudenbush, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Brian Cross, Associate Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Jody Blanco, Associate Professor of Literature, UC San Diego

Luis Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Literature, UC San Diego

Roshanak Kheshti, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Brett Stalbaum, Associate Teaching Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Alena Williams, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Max Parra, Associate Professor of Literature, UC San Diego

Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor of Visual Arts and CALIT2/QI, UC San Diego

Erica Cho, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Daniel Navon, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Amy Adler, Department Chair and Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Kyong Park, Professor Public Culture of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Harvey Goldman, Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Anya Gallaccio, Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego 

Martha Lampland, Professor of Sociology and Science Studies, UC San Diego

Amy Alexander, Associate Professor of Visual Arts, UC San Diego

Mary Blair-Loy, Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego

Kevin Lewis, Associate Professor of Sociology, UC San Diego