The original version of this article contained information that was unclear and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for additional information.
A recent independent report commissioned by the UCLA Office of the Chancellor has highlighted serious problems with racial discrimination among the university’s faculty and the inadequacy of current policies to handle such complaints.
The recommendations presented by the report’s authors, an external panel headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, do not do justice to the severity of the problem or properly seek to fix the passive administrative response identified by the report.
The proposed solutions boil down to a bureaucratic knee-jerk reaction. The primary suggestions, which amount to one new administrative position, a revised organizational flowchart and a handful of training programs, are insufficient efforts to treat what the report’s findings indicate are deep-seated problems related to institutional inadequacies.
University administrators must find new ways to actively to cultivate a more diverse academic body and faculty members must feel confident that the university will hand down strict punishment after a fair and thorough investigation of any allegations of discrimination among faculty members.
Tyrone Howard, a professor of education who has taught at UCLA for more than a decade, was among the faculty members who initially asked for the report.
Howard suggested to the editorial board that deans and provosts be evaluated on how well they are able to hire a diverse faculty. Ensuring that faculty members come from a broad range of backgrounds and specialties would be a first step for the university administration to shape UCLA’s departmental culture into one of greater diversity and understanding.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, campus-wide faculty data indicates that only 2.5 percent of UCLA’s full professors are black, and only about 29 percent of the total faculty are women, according to the 2012 Diversity Statistics Regular Rank Faculty report.
The numbers corroborate the presence of a lack of campus diversity and a larger culture problem among UCLA’s faculty.
One of the catalysts of the report was a racial discrimination lawsuit started by UCLA surgeon and associate professor Dr. Christian Head, who sued the UC Board of Regents and his supervisors, Dr. Gerald Berke and Dr. Marilene Wang. In the lawsuit, Head brought forward allegations that a slideshow presented during a resident graduation event depicted him as a gorilla being sodomized by a white man, and that he was referred to as an “affirmative action hire.”
It should not take a stomach-turning case of racial discrimination for the university to look inward and identify the grave need for reform.
The Head lawsuit was settled for $4.5 million behind closed doors at a mid-July meeting of the regents, bringing the case to a quiet conclusion. The university assumed no liability in the case.
This is not an isolated incident. As last week’s report stated, many issues of alleged discrimination at UCLA were resolved without “any repercussions to the offending party.”For the university’s actions to meet their promises, the resolution of cases of discrimination should be conducted in the public eye, with clear explanation of the facts of the case as well as the punishment to be handed down by the University.
Like Chancellor Block said in his email last week, the report’s recommendations are only the first steps in addressing this campus’ handling of discrimination.
Campus administration has taken a timid step in the right direction. They must continue to make tangible progress to improve their institutional response to discrimination in the coming months. The initial outrage to the report’s findings should not be allowed to fade away with time.
Perhaps Howard put it best when he told the board that if the university only pursues the report’s preliminary recommendations, it would amount to “putting a Band-Aid on a big, gaping wound.”
Clarification: The original version of this editorial contained out of date data. According to the 2012 Diversity Statistics Regular Rank Faculty report, campus-wide faculty data indicates that only 2.5 percent of UCLA’s full professors are black, and only about 29 percent of the total faculty are women.