By Danielle Silva
For three years, Beyond the Stats (BTS) has been a student organization at UC Davis that provides a safe space for formerly-incarcerated and systematically-impacted students to talk about their personal experiences.
Started in 2017, BTS addresses issues that separate academic lessons about the criminal justice system from personal experiences. They found that students who have been formerly incarcerated and systematically impacted, meaning they know someone who has been incarcerated, often are told not to talk about their experiences. Their student organization creates a system of support where UC Davis members can speak to each other openly and safely about their experiences.
While BTS still acts as a support group that meets twice a month, the organization members also worked with Professor Ofelia Cuevas, faculty advisor of the student organization, in creating a student-facilitated class known as “Education as Freedom: aka AmeriKa, this is how you made me.” Offered as a course in the Chicanx department, the class is a 2-unit, pass/no pass seminar that “will be a discussion-based, consciousness-raising course that explores the power of narratives and personal experiences as part of a pathway to liberatory education.”
Scharleth Guadamuz, one of the students facilitating the class, shares how this syllabus is unique, with the class reading materials written only by people of color.
The class structure also leans toward being a changing, discussion-based space. Marcelo Lopez, President of Beyond the Stats, notes that they don’t want a static classroom, aiming to “dismantle the classroom setting” by moving desks into a circle instead of rows. The syllabus also changes, with the last two weeks of the class directed toward addressing current events and issues. This allows for students to retake the class and still receive a different experience.
Because the class depends heavily on discussion, the students taking the class can also create a different environment each time. Students can come from different backgrounds when they join the class, a change BTS encourages, as diversity can be seen as a means for a “multi-directional lens.”
Cuevas also notes, in her own research, she’s found that about 6 million people are formerly incarcerated. In assuming each of those 6 million formerly-incarcerated individuals has at least two other family members, at least 12 million other individuals would be considered systematically impacted.
“Colleges need to be receptive and in support of these students,” Kayton Carter, staff advisor for Beyond the Stats, states.
BTS is unique as it is a student organization affiliated with UC Davis, which gives members the opportunity to address a system that stigmatizes talking about these topics from within the UC system.
BTS recognizes that some students who may exist outside of their majors could find this group supportive, since systematically-impacted students can have experiences that may also address topics like mental health. This leads to their desire for outreach. Lopez and Guadamuz shared they had found out about the group from members who were already a part of it, and the class but would like to reach out to more individuals. On Nov. 5, BTS plans to have a potluck social for interested members.
In addition to the class and meetings, BTS also organizes a quarterly zine which consists of submissions of poems, art, essays, spoken word or thought pieces, songs, and raps.
For more information about Beyond the Stats, their email is email@example.com.