Community Denounces Upward Bound Removal

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School of Education Dean addresses concerns at a town hall meeting. (Vincente Patino/Foghorn)

USF’s recent decision to discontinue its 45 years of funding the Upward Bound program was vigorously debated last Sunday afternoon at a well-attended town hall meeting.
Community members gathered in Harney Center’s lecture hall to express their views of USF’s decision, which were often expressions of frustration, anger, and disappointment.
Attendees included Upward Bound members and their relatives, as well as School of Education students and faculty. Upward Bound Director Janice Dirden-Cook facilitated the meeting.
“If this Christian institution [USF] does not want Upward Bound, then [the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and the First A.M.E Zion Church] will, and the shame will be on USF,” said Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.
Brown, who is also the president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP, addressed the audience from the front of the lecture hall. He denounced the university leadership for not engaging in “respectful dialogue” with the underprivileged community. He called USF a “hostile environment” similar to those faced by African Americans in the 19th century who dug secret “pit schools” in the ground to educate themselves.
Dean Walt Gmelch from the School of Education attended the event. The audience’s questions were primarily directed to Gmelch, who was responsible for the decision to discontinue funding of the program .
“It really was an issue of facilities and space,” he said, insisting that money was not a factor in the decision.
Professor James Taylor of the Politics and African Studies departments said the university’s rationale was a “lack of vision” on USF’s part. Taylor and several other faculty members showed support for Upward Bound.
As Taylor spoke to the audience from his seat, he said “San Francisco has had a space problem since 1906…The issue of space goes back to the 1930’s and the 1950’s, when the university failed to acquire the contiguous space between the main campus and Lone Mountain.”
Pastor Malcolm Byrd of the First A.M.E. Zion Church said his strong feelings for continuing the program at USF stemmed from the fact that “I myself am a product of an Upward Bound program.” The First A.M.E. Zion Church is located one block from USF’s main campus.
Byrd said,“Institutions of [USF’s] nature admit just enough of us [the African American population] to experiment with us.”
According to Byrd, the discontinuation of the program is a blow to already-marginalized minority communities.
“They have dehumanized themselves by ignoring the needs of our brothers and sisters,” Byrd said o the university’s decision-makers
During the discussion, Gmelch affirmed his commitment to the cause of diversity on campus, noting the place many professors of color hold in the various schools of the university,.
After Gmelch addressed at length a series of comments questioning his and the university’s motives for not renewing federal funds, he said, towards the end of the meeting, “Excuse me for sounding a little offended, but I have never really had my integrity questioned before.”
One Upward Bound student, who said that he had applied to 14 different colleges, said that because of his exposure to the university through the program, USF was his first choice.
Another Upward Bound student argued against Gmelch’s reasoning concerning facilities.
“Sometimes I walk into the School of Education on the weekends, and all the classes and rooms are empty,” he said.
Ultimately USF’s aim was not to eliminate the program, Gmelch said. “We want to find another home for it.”
Rev. Brown said his congregations would be willing to host Upward Bound when its contract expires in fall 2012.

1 COMMENT

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