Let’s Take Action (LTA) is a collective group of students pushing for the equal treatment of marginalized and underserved students at UCR, demanding that transformative action be taken by campus administration.
Towards the end of spring quarter, UCR student leaders and activists Kalin-Pont “KP” Tate, Evelyn Kennedy, Ariana Turner, Samia Alkham, Vincent Rasso and Roman Gomez came together to draft a letter and list of demands directed towards UCR leadership, ensuring that Black and minority students were being cared for by the university during their upcoming final exams and beyond. “The members of UCR’s Black student community, who have been faced with systemic injustice and national outrage, have been especially affected,” stated the letter. LTA drafted the letter following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Nina Pop, which have caused an outpour of protests across the country with folks demanding justice for those killed as a result of racism and police brutality.
On Sunday, May 31, the list of demands was sent to notable campus administration including Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, Chief Diversity Officer Mariam Lam, Academic Senate Chair Dylan Rodriguez and the deans of all UCR colleges, with a deadline to respond by Wednesday, June 3. In the letter, LTA demanded that spring quarter final exams be canceled, postponed or made optional by professors and that UCR acknowledge campus-wide support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also called for the immediate implementation of a no-failing policy for the 2020 spring quarter and the assessment of alternative forms of UCR campus safety and ultimate divestment from UCPD. A petition made by Gomez received over 17,900 signatures at the time of writing, and a GroupMe chat that was started by LTA for students who wish to be involved with the group now has over 300 members. The call to action was supported by a large population of students, many campus organizations and faculty members.
In an interview with The Highlander, LTA stated that the Academic Senate Chair, Dylan Rodriguez, was a helpful ally and consistently stayed in contact with the group. “We appreciated the transparency given by him and the things that we were able to do to get students accommodated in such a small time frame. We are very pleased with the outcome of that considering the realm of possibility,” stated Tate. Tate referred to a statement made by the Academic Senate on June 4. The announcement, “outlines the concrete measures the UCR Academic Senate has taken to maximize (their) collective capacity to academically support vulnerable and impacted (Black) students during this time.”
The Academic Senate passed three measures to aid students during finals week. The first allowed for students to drop a course from the third full week of instruction through the end of the term with the approval of an academic advisor; this action was previously only allowed until the second week of the term. R.1.1.5 stated that no indication of courses dropped during spring and summer quarters would appear in students’ permanent transcripts, whereas previously, students would receive a transcript symbol of W, signifying withdrawal. And finally, R1.1.6 allowed for students to petition for conversion from letter grade to S/NC or vice versa until the end of the term. In the statement, Rodriguez also urged faculty members and colleges to evaluate their grading policies, and “to embrace the call for solidarity, flexibility and fundamental empathy that is so clearly articulated in the Call to Action.”
While LTA was pleased with the results and help they received from Rodriguez, they say that there is still more work to be done to fulfill the demands listed, especially as it pertains to UCR’s divestment from UCPD and its support of the Black student community. Gomez stated that the list of demands was a good starting point for the group and provided them with the momentum to keep going. “It’s about getting administration to make commitments that we can hold them accountable to … getting UCPD to make commitments that we can hold them accountable to,” stated Gomez.
In their first meeting held on Wednesday, June 18, the group discussed the various meetings that co-authors of the list of demands and various allies have held with administration. In the meeting, Tate stated that administration gave explicit commitments to improve the Black Student Experience working group, a committee that was created last fall to provide advocacy and representation for the Black student community. Tate also stated that in a meeting with UCPD Police Chief Mike Lane, he stated that UCPD is willing to work with the community and plan to take in feedback from students on ways they can ensure student safety on campus.
The group is currently working on establishing LTA as an official organization on campus that will be focused on bringing sustainable change to UCR.