College Ten students Cheru Robinson and Ray Diaz start the John R. Lewis dedication ceremony at the Quarry Amphitheater
College Ten students Cheru Robinson and Ray Diaz start the John R. Lewis dedication ceremony at the Quarry Amphitheater, on May 6, 2022, at UC Santa Cruz.
(Nik Altenberg/Lookout Santa Cruz)
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UCSC celebrates John R. Lewis College dedication, with students engaging in some ‘good trouble’

Students, community members and faculty celebrated the official naming of John R. Lewis College, formerly known as College Ten, at the Quarry Amphitheater Friday at UC Santa Cruz. While UCSC students are proud to have a college named after the late congressman, some say they hope the university will take action to ensure students are supported with options for affordable housing and resources for groups on campus, among other demands. 

After 57 years, UC Santa Cruz now has a college named after a person of color.

To celebrate, hundreds of people gathered at the university’s Quarry Amphitheater for the naming of John R. Lewis College, formerly known as College Ten, Friday afternoon.

Opening remarks came from UCSC professor emeritus and sociologist John Brown Childs and Rev. Dwight Andrews, who traveled to Santa Cruz, from The First Congregational Church of Atlanta.

At the amphitheater on Friday, students, faculty and community members stood in applause several times to speakers including organizer and political strategist LaTosha Brown, award-winning poet Terisa Siagatonu and civil rights advocate Wisdom Cole. Siagatonu and Cole are both UCSC graduates.

“Can you imagine a world without racism?” Brown challenged the crowd, and asked those assembled to envision it, positing what social change ever happened without first a new vision of it. “ What’s wrong with a little love. I’m speaking to the best in us I want a world in which we can all find space,” she told the crowd with a passion that matched the nature of the day.

Cole recalled his experience studying chemistry and the many activities he was involved in including the African American Theater Arts Troupe, the Black Student Union and the African American Theater Orchestra. He was an Oakes College student, to which students in the crowd echoed, “Oakes!”

He said in his time on campus, students were fighting for housing and for retention of Black students.

“I know that many of those issues still reside today. I want to make sure that we’re being purposeful as we open this new college,” he said. “It’s amazing to start something new…But if we’re not intentional about how we’re doing it, it’s just gonna be performative.”

Student emcees Cheru Robinson and Ray Diaz introduced UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive and UC President Michael V. Drake, and made demands of the UC. As is common at UCSC events, student protest became part of the day.

“In the name of good trouble, I implore you to stop the exploitation of the more than 280,000 students attending the UC,” said Diaz. “I urge you to reaffirm the UC’s commitment, revisit its mission, meet the demands of students and workers, and remind everyone that the March on Washington was not just for civil rights, but it was also for organized labor. UC for the many, not the few.”

As Larive and Drake spoke about the work of Lewis and the people involved in connecting UCSC with Lewis’ family, at least 50 students silently stood holding signs that read, “We can see your greed UC.”

Students hold signs reading "We can see your greed UC" as UC President Michael Drake speaks at UCSC, on May 6, 2022.
Students hold signs reading “We can see your greed UC” as Chancellor Cynthia Larive and UC President Michael V. Drake speak at the John R. Lewis College dedication ceremony at UC Santa Cruz, on May 6, 2022.
(Nik Altenberg/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Towards the end of the event, two leaders of the Black Student Union more directly challenged both Drake and Larive on campus priority and funding issues.

Just before the event started, Xaul “X” Starr, a fourth-year earth science major and Black studies minor, stood by a table hosted by the Black Student Union.

“It’s meant to be a celebration,” said Starr. “Celebrate. Think about how far we’ve come. We’ve come very far. But there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Starr serves as the president of the university’s Black Student Union – one of the several groups represented at the Quarry Ampitheater Friday. Students from the university’s National Society of Black Engineers, the UCSC Ethnic Resource Centers and the John R. Lewis Governing Cooperative passed out fliers and told visitors about the “good trouble, necessary trouble” they get into.

Long ago, before becoming the “conscience of Congress,” John Lewis himself was a student and organizer, early on gaining a name for himself as one of the “big six” civil rights leaders.

He founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, pushed for desegregation of interstate travel in the south and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His activism contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He later served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from January 1987 until his death in July 2020.

With this naming, the approximately 1,500 undergraduate students of John R. Lewis College now have that legacy to reflect on as they decide what paths to take in the social justice and community themed college. The college is developing the Good Trouble Academy to guide them on that journey.

The university’s youngest college – founded in 2002 – already offers students a variety of programs geared toward social justice and community, and its new Good Trouble Academy will expand on those programs and eventually codify the students’ involvement in them much like its current leadership certificate, according to Sarah Woodside Bury, John R. Lewis College director of student life.

“Our hope and goal is that the Good Trouble Academy elevates what students [already] participate in,” said Woodside Bury told Lookout earlier this week. She spoke alongside now-John R. Lewis College Provost Flora Lu, at the naming, “The idea is that they would have a menu of options of how to get into good trouble — how to continue the learning and growth that is necessary for the kind of trouble we need to make in John Lewis’ name.”

FOR THE RECORD: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of a source’s name.