By Jackie Ward

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – This year there will be a new orientation program at University of San Francisco, and it’s only for black students.

But representatives from the San Francisco Republican Party say it is creating tension where there shouldn’t be.

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USF says this orientation is an example of how they continue to make this school a “socially responsible learning community” for its students.

Only open to new, incoming students the black student orientation “…is designed to facilitate a smooth transition to college life and help increase retention rates for black students.”

The voluntary program is an opportunity to build community among black students, faculty, and staff, according to USF.

Howard Epstein of the SF GOP says this is a step backwards.

“I think this is a bad idea. What would they do if they had a white student orientation? They can have orientation for everybody. We’re trying to desegregate the land, yet they’re segregating it,” Epstein said.

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New USF student Kendahl Gardner said, “I don’t think that’s true. Black students have a different — what is it, not outlook — experience when it comes to higher education.”

Gardner is attending the orientation on Friday and says he is excited to be among people in a similar position that he is in.

“Black students who are enduring the same educational journey, if we’re together then we can get through it together,” Gardner said.

At a community meeting hosted by the city’s Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, HRC’s executive director Sheryl Davis, said it is important that people facing unique experiences have a safe space to come together, especially at a time when racial tension is so high in our country.

Davis said, “I think that probably now more than ever, in a town like San Francisco, where people do not always know that there are different pockets of folks in the city…I think it might be good for folks to see, ‘oh we do exist and we are here.'”

The orientation will be Friday, August 18, at USF.

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Also this year, San Francisco State University will be opening its first dorm for African American students on Saturday.