UC Berkeley’s commitment to the Pilipinx community

November 23, 2021

Dear campus community and members of the Pilipinx community,

We are writing to you to formally acknowledge the harm caused by the display of research on the Philippines in the library exhibit celebrating 50 years of the South/Southeast Asia Library. We apologize for making the Pilipinx community invisible -- both in terms of content and engagement -- in an exhibit about research on the Philippines, and for reinforcing colonial hierarchies of race and nation in doing so. In retrospect, we wish we had immediately recognized the wrong in including four scholars without, at the very least, acknowledging their racist participation in colonialist activity and providing the community with broader context prior to the library’s reopening in August 2021 -- including acknowledging the un-naming process of Barrows Hall in 2020 in alignment with upholding Berkeley’s mission and values. In addition, we regret that we were not able to make more substantive modifications to the exhibit before its scheduled closure, when the issue was brought to our attention by members of the Berkeley Pilipinx community. 

Leaders in the Berkeley Pilipinx community suggested that an exhibit representative of Berkeley scholarship and stewardship of the Philippines would not just “take down” the work of Barrows et al. but would contextualize such campus scholarship as a part of a global colonial racial formation project. Although we were not able to do that in time for this exhibit, we understand the importance and power of contextualization and the value it would bring to ongoing campus conversations about racism, settler colonialism, and inclusivity.

We want to thank the community members who were able to join Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion Dania Matos and other campus leaders for a meeting on November 2, 2021, to discuss this issue. We also want to thank the student leaders who led the meeting and modeled how to have a difficult and courageous conversation. Pilipinx students presented several requests at that meeting which included, in addition to a letter of apology, better coordinated communication with the Pilipinx community and a series of meetings with Vice Chancellor Matos over the next several months to build on the work of making UC Berkeley a more inclusive and antiracist campus for Pilipinx students, staff and faculty, as well as for other marginalized communities.

We have learned important lessons for the future and look forward to continuing to work with you, as well as the greater campus community, to remediate harm, promote healing, and continue our work to make future exhibits inclusive and accurate with respect to historical context. Recognizing that antiracist and decolonial work should not be done in silos, we will be working across campus with many divisional and academic leaders to continue our goal of becoming an antiracist campus. This institutional work is not the responsibility of Pilipinx students, staff, faculty and alumni; however, we commit to actively engaging and consulting with the Pilipinx community throughout the process to ensure that Pilipinx perspectives are reflected in the work we do.

Thanks to the cross-section of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and members of the public for calling us in to the work and for partnering with us to help UC Berkeley do better

In partnership,

Jeffrey MacKie-Mason
University Librarian

Dania Matos, JD (she/her/ella)
Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

Catherine P. Koshland
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost