Student Holds Survey About Prejudice at UC Berkeley

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Student Holds Survey About Prejudice at UC Berkeley

Students discuss racism on the UC Berkeley campus.

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Correction Appended

When Jana Hiraga walked down Sproul Plaza as a UC Berkeley student a few years ago, she said she was disturbed by what she found to be a segregation of student groups-the Jewish club or the Korean club.

Now a UC Berkeley graduate and the program director for Berkeley YWCA's youth development, Hiraga oversees the center's anti-racism program. This summer she worked with Hatty Lee, a UC Berkeley senior, who explored attitudes about racism on campus by conducting a survey.

To educate students about prejudice, Lee conducted an extensive survey of UC Berkeley students and alumni on the topic of racism.

"I wanted to show that there really is a sense of a color-blind racism, but people don't talk about it," she said.

The survey, containing questions such as "How often do you talk about racism with your friends?," was administered all summer outside the YWCA.

In September, the results of the survey will be displayed at the YWCA in an exhibition.

As of now, the overwhelming majority of UC Berkeley students and alumni surveyed believe the campus is racist, according to Lee.

After the exhibition, focus groups will be held during which students, alumni and staff can discuss racism.

"The more you know about the situation, the better you are at making better, more informed decisions," Hiraga said. "I think the more we talk about it, the more comfortable we will get being uncomfortable."

The survey also addresses disadvantages minorities face even before applying to UC Berkeley.

"The campus is only three percent African American, but the state of California definitely has more than that," Lee said.

Potential applicants who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds often do not have the academic resources to compete with other students, Lee said.

"A lot of schools in economically-disadvantaged areas don't have a career center, after-school counselors or SAT prep classes," said Hiraga. "Schools in nicer neighborhoods have better teachers, counselors and people who come in to talk about college admissions."

Affirmative action, a policy aimed at promoting access to education and jobs for minorities, became illegal in California after Proposition 209 banned all preferential treatment of individuals based on race in 1997. Following the proposition, statistics show fewer disadvantaged minority students have been admitted to the UC.

With or without affirmative action, many students agree with the findings of the survey and say prejudices are often expressed through student cliques.

"People are conscious of race and people tend to hang out with people of the same race," said Anna Callahan, a recent UC Berkeley graduate. "But racism, in a negative sense in terms of animosity, doesn't really exist."

Another common form of prejudice is stereotyping. However, while some on campus admit to the existence of certain stereotypes, such as the Berkeley hippie, they expressed doubt about the prevalence of racial stereotyping.

While many students said they are not openly racist, they also said they think racism most likely exists almost everywhere.

"Racism affects everyone, everywhere and you affect racism," said Hiraga. "There is no easy one-two-three step to eliminating racism, but it is important for us to do something to prevent racism."

Correction: Monday, Sept. 1, 2008

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a Mexican American fraternity exists at UC Berkeley. In fact, the article was referring to Latino American fraternities on campus.

Tags: YWCA

Contact Victoria Gu at [email protected]

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