John R. Lewis in the documentary "Good Trouble."
John R. Lewis in the documentary “Good Trouble.”
(Courtesy Magnolia Pictures)
UC Santa Cruz

UCSC College Ten to be named in honor of civil rights icon John R. Lewis

UCSC announced Wednesday that its youngest college will be renamed after the late congressman and civil rights icon. The formal renaming will occur in spring 2022.

UC Santa Cruz’s College Ten is getting a new name.

In line with the undergraduate residential college’s theme of social justice and community, College Ten will soon become John R. Lewis College. Founded in 2002, it’s the university’s youngest college, and will become the first one to be named after a person of color.

The late congressman, whose activism contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1987 until his death in July 2020.

UC Santa Cruz staff and students gathered for the announcement Wednesday morning in the Namaste Lounge on campus as Chancellor Cynthia Larive, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta and others participated via livestream from Washington, D.C.

Ethan Davis, a fourth-year neuroscience major, attended the on-campus event as a representative from the Black Student Union.

“It’s a momentous occasion,” he told Lookout. “It’s very important to have Black voices and Black representation on campus.”

He said naming College Ten after Lewis makes Black students — who make up 4.6% of the overall undergraduate student population — much more visible.

UC Santa Cruz Neuroscience Major Ethan Davis at the announcement of the naming of College Ten.
UC Santa Cruz neuroscience major Ethan Davis at the announcement of the naming of College Ten after late congressman John R. Lewis on Wednesday.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Third-year students Chloe Magidoff and Matthew Moran have both lived at College Ten and are part of the college’s student government.

“I think the naming is really big for us as student government leaders,” said Magidoff. “Being able to put a face and a name and an inspiration to our values of social justice and community is very exciting.”

Moran added the announcement is meaningful not just for College Ten but for the entire UCSC campus. It’s an opportunity for people to learn more about Lewis, he said, and what College Ten offers.

The future John R. Lewis College has a wide variety of programs, events and courses that revolve around the theme of social justice and equity. The college’s students host an annual Practical Activism Conference, for which Angela Davis was the most recent keynote speaker. In addition, the Apprenticeship in Community-Engaged Research, or (H)ACER, program teaches students how to use research to take on injustice, while some students are also involved in an alternative spring break program working with Watsonville organizations and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSC.

Courses at the college include “Transcommunal Peacemaking,” in which undergraduate students and incarcerated men learn about unity and solidarity through differences. The creator and instructor of that course, John Brown Childs, spoke Wednesday morning about the naming of the college.

Childs said he was at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, John R. Lewis, then 23 years old, also spoke before the crowd of thousands about the urgency of taking action for civil rights. Childs said he spoke about the need for a living wage and support for the starving and homeless across the country.

“As I heard those words, I felt combined compassion and love for all,” he said. “Alongside the determination to engage in action for social justice, not just with words, but also with positive deeds.”

John Brown Childs speaks to a crowd at Namaste Lounge on the UC Santa Cruz campus Wednesday.
John Brown Childs speaks to a crowd at Namaste Lounge on the UC Santa Cruz campus Wednesday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

It was the actions of Lewis and other major civil rights leaders of the time that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the latter of which Childs said has been undermined.

“Today, our democracy is in dire danger,” he said. “We now face an avalanche of restrictive voter suppression laws and bills throughout the country.”

In August, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Democrats say the legislation, which was named the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, would bolster the 1965 voting rights act and prevent states from restricting access to the right to vote. The bill is currently in front of the U.S. Senate, but support and opposition are split largely along party lines, making its future uncertain.

Panetta, speaking from Washington, said the late congressman was the conscience of Congress, and will be for College Ten.

“And our hope is that by learning how to be the conscience of their communities, the students of John R. Lewis College will be the conscience of who we are as a country,” he said.

Larive said the college and the university will develop a series of events on social justice before an official dedication which will take place in spring 2022.

Officials said a donor-funded endowment of $5 million will support the college and its students by funding courses, programs and initiatives that further the community’s social justice mission. The endowment was pledged by supporters of the university and a private donor, who school officials said requested to remain anonymous.

“Advancing social justice, championed by Rep. Lewis throughout his life, is fundamental to our mission as a university,” said Larive, closing the event. “Having his name connected to UC Santa Cruz will forever remind and inspire our students and our alumni to fight injustice where they see it, and to leave the world a better place than when they found it.”

UC Santa Cruz officials announce College Ten will be named after the late Congressman John R. Lewis.
UC Santa Cruz officials announce College Ten will be named after late congressman John R. Lewis on Wednesday at the Namaste Lounge on the school campus.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)