This Date in UCSF History: Black Caucus Battles

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Originally published in Synapse on February 28, 1985. 

The UCSF Black Caucus began a month to the day after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. On May 4, 1968, 250 black employees had the first in what was to be a chain of meetings, confrontations and challenges which has characterized the work of the caucus on this campus.

Then, as now, the caucus sought to be a forum encompassing all black men and women on campus.

It has served as an instrument for the formation of a black consensus on those racial issues affecting every employee and student at UCSF.

This consensus has often been presented to the campus administration for appropriate action or resolution.

Black employees, in years past, could use the caucus as a conduit to management and the campus community to openly express their feelings regarding matters of race as they affect life at UCSF.

The depth and diversity of this collective of individuals is clear in the Black Caucus' involvement in a wide variety of issues pertaining to human rights and dignity.

Some examples of these efforts are:

• Presentation to the chancellor of the first set of black employee demands on pay, working conditions and dignity in 1968.

• In 1969, jointly with the Black Students Union, demanded a UCSF commitment to 25 percent of all admissions being black, Hispanic, or American Indian.

• In 1970, following demonstrations and killings by the National Guard at Kent State University, the U.S. bombing of Cambodia and the killings of black students in Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., and Greensboro, N.C., the caucus called a halt to business as usual.

Working together with other employees, the caucus staged a work stoppage protest. Employees attended a day-long convocation, later extended an additional day by Chancellor Philip Lee.

These efforts have had substantial impact on the campus — in ways that are still paying off.

The role of the Personnel Office in the hiring process has been strengthened and reinforced by centralized processing.

This has increased objectivity and fairness in the recruitment and selection of staff employees.

Through its determination and insistence, to UCSF administration, the Black Caucus was largely responsible for the establishment of the Affirmative Action Office in 1972, and a management training program for minorities and women in 1971.

The caucus successfully pushed to integrate skilled trades into the Grounds and Buildings Department (now called Physical Plant), and for the re-evaluation of the School of Nursing curriculum to reflect the real nursing care needs of minorities.

Throughout the years, the caucus has opposed racist practices and policies which resulted in all skilled tradespeople on campus being white.

Through periodic discussions with UCSF administrators over the years, the Black Caucus has helped to successfully integrate the blue-collar workforce. After a suggestion by the caucus, a Chancellor’s Public Service Award was named to honor the late Dr. Thomas M. Burbridge, a UCSF professor and civil rights activist.

Since the beginning of collective bargaining representation at UC, the role of the caucus — in making known the concerns of its constituency — has been limited to a degree by labor unions. But the Black Caucus’ charge to speak out against racism and the injustice of discriminatory policies and mentalities at UCSF, remains undaunted.