Dear Chancellor Gene Block, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang:
Ignited by the campus climate issues and incidents of the last few years, a group of staff, faculty and students came together to create a transparent space for concerned members of UCLA to engage in open conversations addressing campus climate and articulating transformative visions for the inaugural vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion, Dr. Jerry Kang. On April 23, 2015, over 200 staff, faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and community members gathered in Pauley Pavilion for the Forum to Reclaim Diversity.
For 16 weeks prior to the forum, the organizers held a series of town halls, focus groups and listening tours facilitated by trusted leaders across campus to design this forum. This letter collects the insights and recommendations generated out of the forum’s 10 workshops, as well as ongoing discussions generated by participating members of the UCLA community. Rooted in values of equity, inclusion, diversity and activism, we hope our documentation can serve as one of many tools that will support the onboarding and success of the new Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
The creation of this office alone will not be enough. As evidenced by the Moreno Report and failures in Title IX enforcement, as well as other failures to adequately address campus climate, it is apparent that UCLA, as an institution, has not prioritized the Regents Policy 4400: Policy on University of California Diversity Statement:
“The University particularly acknowledges the acute need to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of talented students, faculty and staff from historically excluded populations who are currently underrepresented.”
These underrepresented populations – including people of color and new immigrants, people with both visible and invisible disabilities, people who identify as women, people of various gender and sexual identities and expressions and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – are integral to the university’s stated mission, to strive for “excellence and diversity, recognizing that openness and inclusion produce true quality.” We are optimistic that the UCLA administration created the position of vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion in order to facilitate meaningful and consequential steps that ensure all members of the UCLA community feel safe, supported and valued.
To that end we have identified a number of shared priorities toward accomplishing this goal arising from the forum’s collective conversations and written feedback: 1) Remove institutional barriers for recruitment, admission and retention of underrepresented students; 2) Provide funds, administrative resources and incentives to encourage the hiring, retention and promotion of faculty from marginalized backgrounds and importantly, faculty supportive of diversity work on campus; 3) Encourage hiring, retention and promotion of staff from marginalized backgrounds and, more generally, staff who are supportive of diversity work on campus; 4) Increase resources and support infrastructure that enable student, staff and faculty participation and engagement in changing campus climate within their contexts; 5) Improve student, staff and faculty access to counseling resources that are responsive to the particular needs of marginalized campus populations; 6) Improve approaches to collecting and reporting on data and metrics related to campus climate; 7) Improve approaches to supporting survivors of sexual harassment and assault on campus; and 8) Increase support for UCLA community members with different abilities.
The outline above is a starting point for issues articulated by members of the UCLA community. This list, which is further detailed in the document’s appendix, is not meant to be exclusive or exhaustive. The participants at the Forum to Reclaim Diversity, as well as many other UCLA students, staff, faculty and alumni, are committed to improving campus climate at UCLA. In order to prove that these goals are truly shared, the institution needs more than communication strategies without action. As supportive members of the UCLA community, we require meaningful recognition and support for our work as well as ongoing political will from senior administrative leadership across campus, to realize the ongoing project of creating an equitable and just UCLA.
We are emboldened by the recent successes of the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley, which made similar demands of its university leadership. As a result of BSU’s struggle, Berkeley’s Chancellor Dirks answered these demands with resources, policy and other action. We are hopeful that you, our campus administrative leadership, will respond to the needs and vision outlined by your constituents with immediate, concrete and public steps to address the present shortcomings of institutional policies and practices.
Kareem Elzein, third-year graduate student in education
Olufemi Taiwo, second-year graduate student in philosophy
Devin Murphy, fifth-year African-American studies and political science student
Sarah Rahimi, alumna
Ayesha Khan, alumna
Grace Kyungwon Hong, associate professor of Asian American studies and gender studies