Tuesday, June 18

Discrimination prevention officers to bring legal expertise to UCLA


Lillie Hsu, a former UCLA law professor, and UCLA alumna Dion Cherie Raymond were appointed discrimination prevention officers in September. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin)

Lillie Hsu, a former UCLA law professor, and UCLA alumna Dion Cherie Raymond were appointed discrimination prevention officers in September. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin)


Discrimination prevention officer tasks:
- Investigate complaints of discrimination among faculty
- Develop and write new policies
- Educate faculty about discrimination and UCLA’s policies through trainings
- Respond to complaints of discrimination
- Advise UCLA administration

More than a year after an internal report urged UCLA to better address discrimination on campus, two new officers are starting to examine the university’s discrimination policies for faculty and reach out to members of the campus community.

By the end of the school year, Discrimination Prevention Officers Lillie Hsu and Dion Raymond – both of whom have legal backgrounds and ties to UCLA – plan to develop a clear policy explaining discrimination among faculty, establish a training for professors and form clear guidelines for how to investigate discrimination complaints.

The university created the discrimination officer positions in response to an internal report that found UCLA’s policies and procedures for addressing discrimination reports among faculty to be inadequate and unclear. Former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno headed the investigation, which Chancellor Gene Block released to faculty in an email last October.

The university also created the new vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion position in response to the report’s calls for UCLA to do more to address the problem. Though Hsu and Raymond were hired in September, Tuesday was the first time they were available for an interview with the Daily Bruin.

Though students and staff can also report discrimination incidents to the officers or talk with them about their concerns, the officers will refer students and staff to other UCLA offices if their complaints do not relate to faculty, since their charge is mainly to address faculty discrimination.

Raymond has been practicing law for about 24 years. At UCLA, she was a student activist, serving as chair of what is now the Afrikan Student Union. She attended UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Raymond has done both plaintiff and defense work, focusing on employment law, and worked as a trial attorney in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office for about seven years.

Hsu went to Harvard University as an undergraduate and then to Stanford Law School. She clerked for federal judges for two years, worked as a civil litigator for several years and then taught legal research, writing and analysis at UCLA for four years.

After teaching, she went to practice civil appellate law again for more than 10 years, during which she represented numerous clients, including public entities like the University of California Board of Regents and the county of Los Angeles. She said she has never represented a plaintiff in a case against a larger public entity.

With the officers’ extensive knowledge of the law, some faculty members said they think they have the experience to critically examine policy and advise faculty members.

Reynaldo Macías, a Chicana/o studies, education and applied linguistics professor, said he thinks the new structure being created by the diversity specialists and the discrimination officers will be critical to how successful UCLA is in improving its campus climate.

“For a lot of the issues in the Moreno report, they don’t all arise to legal issues, but they still have to be addressed,” said Macías, who has worked and studied at UCLA for decades.

Michael Fehr, a member of the University Professional and Technical Employees union and a computer resource specialist for the UCLA Library, said he thinks attorneys can be activists in their own ways and can be creative in improving campus climate, but he wishes they had more specific experience promoting diversity to qualify for their jobs.

“How do they know about promoting diversity if their expertise is (mostly) legal?” he said. “Are the discrimination officers there to ensure that UCLA complies with the law or to promote diversity? Because these are not the same thing.”

“How do they know about promoting diversity if their expertise is (mostly) legal?” he said. “Are the discrimination officers there to ensure that UCLA complies with the law or to promote diversity? Because these are not the same thing.”

He added that he thinks it is a concern that Hsu has worked mostly to defend larger public entities.

“Somebody who’s defended the regents, are they willing to push back against the regents or administration?” he said. “(Hsu) hasn’t demonstrated that’s true. Until she demonstrates that, the question is fair game.”

Tyrone Howard, a professor of education who sits on the Moreno Report Implementation Committee, said he thinks Hsu and Raymond’s law experience will help them advise faculty on their First Amendment rights and be frank when dealing with complaints. He added that he thinks it is important to understand definitions of legality and the laws that protect students and faculty in the officers’ positions.

“We do have (discrimination at UCLA) that needs to be dealt with in a harsh way,” he said. “And part of what we have to do is make sure that we have people in place who understand the boundaries of what is tolerable on this campus.”

Fehr said he thinks having an attorney directly advise faculty could be helpful, but he also thinks UCLA could have looked to experts in equity and diversity who have experience in the field in ways outside the law.

“You can’t throw a stick up in the air without hitting an attorney at UCLA, they’re all over the place,” he said. “UCLA is not lacking for legal advice by any means.”

Macías, however, said he thinks Hsu and Raymond’s past legal work is not a definite indicator of their qualifications for the job, because of other experiences they have had and because the position is new.

“Competency isn’t limited to the experiences that you’ve had in this sense,” he said. “There may be other things in their resumes or work that make (the discrimination officers best suited for the job).”

As women of color, the officers said they have both faced discrimination in the workplace and in their everyday lives. They added that they think working to prevent discrimination is a way of promoting diversity.

“As an African American woman, every day of my life I have a heightened awareness,” Raymond said. “Yes, I’ve experienced discrimination, what’s important is how I deal with it.”

Raymond said she has had clients that would turn their backs to her when she walked into the room because she was black, and she has represented a client who said he didn’t want a “negro lawyer” representing him.

Hsu said she has faced stereotypes of being “passive or soft, conservative and unwilling to challenge authority” or part of a model minority because she is an Asian American woman. She added that she has dealt with discrimination in different ways depending on the situation, and is sensitive to the problem because she has experienced it herself.

“Ultimately, a key part of the response is to not take on other people’s visions of you or to take on society’s visions of you,” Hsu said. “That’s the greatest personal challenge – to remain whole despite other people or society wanting to put you in a little box or see you in a certain way.”

“Ultimately, a key part of the response is to not take on other people’s visions of you or to take on society’s visions of you,” Hsu said. “That’s the greatest personal challenge – to remain whole despite other people or society wanting to put you in a little box or see you in a certain way.”

Sarah Rahimi, the external vice president of the Muslim Students Association, said she is hopeful about the new officers’ work, though she thinks it can be difficult to improve hostile environments, including classroom settings.

“You can’t deal with that in a reactionary way. That’s not something (you) can report,” she said.

She said she has filed discrimination complaints before, but she thinks they were either inconsequential or addressed in an untimely way. She said she hopes the officers will revamp the reporting process, so that the number of reports more closely matches the number of discrimination incidents that occur at UCLA.

“There’s so many things that happen in my community that people don’t report anymore because there’s nothing tangible to mitigate the hostile experience they had,” she said. “That can only happen so long before people feel jaded.”

Rahimi added that she thinks the most important work Hsu and Raymond can pursue is gaining the trust of different communities on campus, by going to events and spending time to learn about the problems these communities face.

Howard said the Moreno Report Implementation Committee continues to meet about twice every month, and that the new diversity vice chancellor is expected to be appointed in the next six months.

“The Moreno report came down on us pretty hard,” he said. “Hopefully if we talk a year from now, we’ll be able to see some tangible changes.”

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