The UC Student Association hosted the 25th annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC) at UCLA this past weekend with delegations from every UC in the system. UC Irvine had the largest delegation in attendance with a total of 138 students representing. Students at UCLA helped organize this event under the University of California Student Association (USCA) in conjunction with leaders from every campus.
SOCC is intended to bring together students of different identities in an effort to learn from one another, share experiences, and discuss important issues that impact students of color in the university system.
The conference included student-led workshops, leadership trainings, speakers, cultural performances, and provided spaces for students to congregate with other members of their community.
From the start of the conference, students were clear in representing their views about important issues currently facing the UC system. UCLA Chancellor Glen Block welcomed SOCC delegates to the Bruins’ campus and spoke directly on the need to increase diversity and enrollment of students of color throughout the system. His remarks addressed UCLA student Sy Stoke’s viral YouTube video, which laid out issues surrounding the limited amount of black students admitted to UCLA and low rates of retention that occur within the black community.
During these opening remarks, a group of students stood in front of the podium with signs in response to his message, one of them reading “actions speak louder than words.”
Shortly after, a message from UC President Janet Napolitano was aired for students, this message was not well-received and resulted in a very emotional response both from students in the audience and those in charge of organizing the event. The high energy and attitudes of the opening ceremony carried over to the rest of the conference as students discussed issues including anti-black sentiments in API (Asia/ Pacific Islander) communities, the school to prison pipeline, and workers’ justice.
The biggest event during SOCC was the action held on Saturday afternoon. Delegates took to the streets of Westwood to protest the school to prison pipeline, echoing the spirit of UCSA’s IGNITE (Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration Transform Education) campaign. Cinthia Flores, the UC Student Regent was present for the march and invigorated the crowd with her message about student activism and the IGNITE campaign as approximately a thousand students sat in the streets peacefully demonstrating.
At the closing of the conference, students were allowed time to gather and speak about their sentiments towards UC President Janet Napolitano. After a series of passionate and emotional testimonies from undocumented students and allies, delegates chanted in solidarity and departed with their respective schools.