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Opinion: I’m Black, So UC Berkeley Is Fosho Not For Me


By Yeni Belachew


I was surfing through articles online and came across an interesting article discussing the reasons high achieving black students chose not to attend the University of California, Berkeley. There were the more common reasons: “They won’t accept me so there is no point in trying” or the “it’s too close to home”. Additionally, it is the discomfort and disrespect that the African American student body on campus feels that steers perspective black Cal students away.  

Being from Berkeley myself, I reflected on what I truly felt when applying to UC Berkeley. I attended Berkeley High School and frequently visited the Cal campus, always joking with my friends about how we’d see one black person per week and that they usually turned out to be a high school student like us. This definitely had a huge impact on my feelings towards applying to UCB. When I received my rejection letter and many of my white and Asian classmates were overjoyed with their admittance letters, I suddenly felt cheated and disheartened. I had heard many statistics of how Cal was now accepting more African-Americans in order to be able to be a “diverse” community. Unfortunately, the percentage of African-Americans as advertised by CAL in magazines, articles, and throughout the schools banners is not reflected in classrooms (especially in science and technology).

In 1997, the year after California voters approved Proposition 209, which prohibited the consideration of race or ethnicity in the operation of state institutions, black students made up 8% of UC Berkeley’s freshmen enrollment — roughly the same percentage of African Americans living in the state. The following year, the percentage of black freshmen at Cal plummeted by more than half and has hovered at or below 4% ever since. It averaged 3.6% in the five-year period between 2006 and 2010.

However, there is a lesser-known trend contributing to the low number of African Americans at Cal. Between 2006 and 2010, 885 out of 1,539 or 58% of admitted black students chose to go elsewhere. Why would they turn down this “progressive”, “diverse”, top university?

It is plain and simple: we are getting no love on campus. Due to underrepresentation, students are choosing to attend historically black colleges instead. There is no inherent problem in attending an HBCU, but the choice shouldn’t be the outcome of feeling unwelcome elsewhere.

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