Diversifying the UC Application

Hoping to better represent all ethnicities, this week the Legislative Council discussed the addition of more categoriesto the UC application. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the ASUCI Legislative Council convened for their weekly meeting.

The council passed legislation R48-34, which involved the appointments of commissioners in the Office of Student Services, and legislation R48-35, which involved the appointments of commissioners in the Office of Administrative Affairs.

There was also discussion concerning the applications of UC Irvine students who were interested in becoming a school representative in the ASUCI Legislative Council. The council members formulated and suggested tentative questions for the applicants and confirmed both the times and location in which the interviews will be held.

A sizeable portion of the meeting was focused on the sharing of achievements so far and the setting of personal goals for each individual committee of the Council.

Shadi Jafari, a fourth-year representative for the School of Humanities, mentioned her involvement with being the point person at UCI for a bill regarding the addition of a Southwest Asian/North African (SWANA) checkbox in the ethnicity section of the UC application. She was supported in this movement by fellow council member and School of Social Sciences representative Hassan Mukhlis.

Currently, any students who identify their ethnicity as Middle-Eastern or North African only have the option to select Asian, White/Caucasian, or Other on the application.

Even though the White/Caucasian checkbox has specified subcategories that include Middle-Eastern and North African, anyone who selects this box will be recorded by the U.S. Census as White regardless.

“Many students [of Middle-Eastern and/or North African descent] do not want to identify themselves as Caucasian because that category means something very different in cultural terms,” Jafari said. “The adding of a SWANA checkbox is one way of getting rid of an inaccurate label that the government has inflicted upon us.”

In her presentation to the Council, Jafari notes that the addition of a SWANA checkbox would also be beneficial for the students, as it would provide the school with statistical information that would aid in recognition for a number of things, such as scholarships, financial aid and the organization of programs geared towards community events.

Jafari became introduced to the SWANA campaign last quarter at the Students of Color Conference.

“This captured my interest because as an Iranian, I always felt it was problematic that Middle-Easterners had to identify as White or Other. We didn’t have our own category and I wanted to be a part of a campaign that would make us more visible,” Jafari said.

After collaborating with the leaders of the workshop to get the bill passed at the University of California Student Association (UCSA), they began to target each individual UC campus.

A SWANA checkbox on the UC application is currently in place on several other UC campuses, such as Berkeley, Santa Barbara and San Diego, which just recently passed the bill on Feb. 6.

According to the bill that was passed at Berkeley, the SWANA category also includes subcategories such as Afghan, Arab/Arab American, Armenian, Iranian and Turkish, among others.

“The ethnicity portion gives communities the tools they need to engage with issues such as underrepresentation, recruitment and retention. We need to define our community based on agreed upon terms, not inaccurate and imposed racial classifications,” Jafari said.

“We simply don’t have the resources right now because we don’t have anywhere to begin to start doing this advocacy. This will be a great first step to get the ball moving.”

Further discussion and the voting of the SWANA bill by the Council will be on their next meeting at Tuesday, Feb. 12, starting at 5 p.m. All Legislative Council meetings at UCI are open to the public and students are highly encouraged to attend.