African American Initiative Announcement

September 2015

Dear Campus Community,

Today we are announcing the UC Berkeley African American Initiative, a comprehensive effort to address the underrepresentation of African American students, faculty, and staff at our university, and improve the climate for those who are here now and all who will join our community in the future.

Berkeley’s reputation as the world’s preeminent public university is well deserved, yet that standing is only part of what makes this such a special place. We believe deeply in the importance and benefits of diversity in every sense of the word, while our public mission and ethos mean that we all have a stake in our continued ability to offer a model for the sort of society we hope to build in the world around us. In that context, nothing is more important than making good on our commitment to foster and sustain a campus community and climate where every person feels, respected and welcome.

It is evident that African Americans have faced challenges at Berkeley in terms of their representation and the climate with which they must contend. The share of African Americans among our students and faculty has been hovering at disproportionately low levels for many years, posing a challenge for us all. Moreover, a recent campus climate survey found that African American students feel the least respected among all groups on campus. All the evidence tells us that this situation is critical and that we must, as an administration, a community, a workforce, a student body and a faculty, do better.

We are therefore launching a comprehensive initiative to help us fulfill Berkeley’s promise for African American students, faculty and staff. The goals of this initiative are to:

  1. Achieve and sustain a critical mass of African American students, faculty and senior staff at Berkeley.

  2. Ensure that the African Americans who are here now feel welcome, supported and respected.

  3. Achieve the reality and deliver the message that Berkeley is a welcoming place for African Americans.

Working together with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends over the course of the last 12 months, we have established the following objectives for this comprehensive program:

  • Help raise a $20 million endowed undergraduate scholarship fund to support African American undergraduates, in partnership with private, non-profit organizations.

  • Improve the recruitment and yield of African American students and other underrepresented ethnic minorities.

  • Boost the social, personal and academic support provided to current and future African American students.

  • Target a range of efforts to improve the classroom climate, including training and pedagogical resources for faculty and Graduate Student Instructors.

  • Increase faculty diversity more rapidly over the next 10 years.

  • Continue efforts to increase the racial and gender diversity of Berkeley’s senior management.

Learn more about our plans and objectives.

This initiative, while focused on African Americans, is not a zero-sum game. It will not take away resources from other groups or communities or undermine our commitment to equity for all, regardless of origins, beliefs or identities. We believe that the entire campus community benefits from a university and a community that is truly inclusive for all. Indeed, we expect that this initiative will teach us a great deal about ourselves as a campus community and what it takes to meet our highest, best aspirations. The lessons we learned in the course of implementing this initiative will certainly be applied to other groups that have or will face similar challenges.

Although the initiative we are undertaking is predicated on our collective determination to engage and improve the campus climate for African Americans across every sector of our community, we also know that progress and improvement cannot and will not happen solely as the result of administrative dictate. Rather, success in this most important of realms can only be achieved and sustained if all of us – students, faculty, administrators and alumni – work together in the context of what are deeply shared goals, values, and beliefs. To be clear, the success of this initiative will depend on effective and ongoing collaboration among all of us here on the campus and, crucially, our alumni and friends whose support will be essential if we are to make good on our aspirations.

The Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion will direct the initiative with our guidance and support.


Nicholas B. Dirks

Claude Steele
Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost