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Black Students At Liberal University Leaving In Despair

November 2, 1987

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) _ An increasing number of racial incidents at the University of California at Berkeley are creating an uncomfortable climate for black students, who are leaving the school in droves, student leaders say.

Despite a record enrollment last year of 1,182 black students, only 142 graduated. Fewer blacks were graduated last year than 12 years ago, when 205 of 895 enrolled blacks were graduated, according to university statistics.

″These are human tragedies,″ said Bernard Gifford, dean of the school of education at Berkeley. ″If a (black) student comes to this campus with high hopes and leaves in great despair and we do not know why, that is a tragic event.″

Increasing racial incidents are cited as reasons for departures. In recent weeks, one black student found Ku Klux Klan initials carved in her room, and another was chased from a football game by white students.

″I don’t know if I would call it a climate of racism,″ said Matt Denn, president of the Associated Students. ″It’s more of a climate of racial insensitivity.″

Racism at Berkeley is ″a lot more subtle and harder to address,″ said Denn, a white student.

Michael Joyner, for example, carried his dreams of becoming a dentist from a private Los Angeles high school to the university.

But two painful years later, the 21-year-old black student left the liberal university because the alienation and loneliness he experienced began to affect his drive to achieve.

″It felt like I was alone,″ said Joyner, who transferred to Howard University in the District of Columbia. ″All my professors were white, and my impression was that there was a lack of concern, that (they believed) I wasn’t capable of succeeding.″

Two weeks ago members of the African Students Association met with Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman and presented a list of 14 demands, including the hiring of more black faculty members and making ethnic studies a requirement.

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