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Initiatives from UA representative Kristen Ukeomah lobby for Du Bois to prioritize Black students in the house selection process within the next semester. 

Credit: Amelia Sharpe

This semester, Undergraduate Assembly representative and College junior Kristen Ukeomah is lobbying for Black students to receive priority in the Du Bois College House selection process.

Since its 1972 founding, Du Bois has never given housing priority to Black students, Faculty Director of Du Bois William Gipson said. Students, including current and former residents, hold mixed opinions on whether to implement the policy.

Ukeomah said she hopes to meet with Rhina Duquela, the dean of Du Bois College House, and leaders from Makuu this semester but has not yet met with the respective parties or College Houses and Academic Services. 

The house was founded by Cathy Barlow as a residency program for Black students at a predominantly white institution, Ukeomah said. Ukeomah said she heard from her friends who live in Du Bois that fewer Black students lived there than when she lived in Du Bois her freshman year. She said she decided to take on this project after meeting with a Black student who was unable to get housing in Du Bois.

Housing priority in Du Bois can play a key part in the room selection process because more people apply to Du Bois than there is room. Katie Musar, associate director for housing occupancy at Penn Residential Services, said that Du Bois typically fills up each year, and some students are placed on a waiting list. 

Ukeomah decided to begin this project after meeting with a Black student who was unable to get housing in Du Bois.

College first-year Sabria Henry-Hunter currently lives in Hill College House as part of the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program but hopes to live in Du Bois next year. She said she wants to see Du Bois prioritize housing for Black students.

“Making it just a multicultural dorm might take away from the space that’s been created there,” Henry-Hunter said.

College sophomore and current Du Bois resident Chinaza Okonkwo said she supports the dorm prioritizing Black students. She added that some Black first-year students that she knew had been denied from the house.

GAs suspect renovations of Du Bois may have enticed more non-Black students to apply this year.

College sophomore and Du Bois resident Jonathan Hanson added that he would like to see priority given to people of color who opt to live in Du Bois.

Engineering first-year and Du Bois resident Isaiah Williams, however, said he does not support any particular housing selection policy but thinks Du Bois should be opened to those who are willing to be part of the community.

Wharton junior Beverlye Gedeon wanted to live in Du Bois after her first year, but was not able to get into the college house. She echoed Williams' thoughts and would not support a policy of giving priority to Black students.

“That mission is of course going to attract Black students, but at the same time, nobody should be denied the opportunity to be a part of the initiative,” Gedeon said.

Ukeomah said that she believes there is a level of unwillingness among administration about what Du Bois means to Black students at Penn.

“It shouldn’t be that people want to live in Du Bois just because it has a kitchen,” Ukeomah said. “It’s more about Black history, Black culture, and the contributions of Black people to this campus.” 

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