Avengers: Endgame is coming out April 26.
Equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA: Endgame is nowhere in sight.
UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was founded in 2015 to uphold its values of diversity. The office was created after the Moreno Report, a detailed document published by Carlos Moreno, a former California Supreme Court justice, that highlighted discrimination in the hiring and makeup of the faculty at UCLA.
The EDI office has since worked to make faculty hiring more equitable and the faculty makeup more diverse. But despite the changes it has implemented, UCLA continues to fall short in three ways: equity, diversity and inclusion.
The office’s efforts are largely focused on the faculty. It has overhauled the faculty search committees to account for implicit biases against specific groups. Administrators have also instituted training for those serving on faculty selection committees, and made sure that biases are accounted for as well as they can be.
But the EDI office seems to have no endgame – when will it transition from focusing on faculty to addressing student concerns? This disconnect is magnified by the EDI office’s unclear goals from a student standpoint, hindering its ability to promote equity, diversity and inclusion to the heart of UCLA: its students.
Administrators seem to miss this.
“(The EDI office) makes sure that there is fair and inclusive hiring,” said Jerry Kang, UCLA’s vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion. “(Faculty hiring) is arguably the most human element that is the most long-lasting.”
The faculty body might be the longest lasting part of UCLA, but students are its most human element. Students dictate the campus’ culture and atmosphere, and they’re the lifeblood of the university. Changing faculty doesn’t directly influence the student body’s diversity, which should be the priority of the EDI office. Additionally, changing faculty hiring practices isn’t something students can readily see the results of during their years on campus, making it understandable that the office’s messaging can go unnoticed.
Itzeel Padilla, a second-year ecology, behavior and evolution student, said awareness is the biggest reason students can’t always understand the EDI office’s motives.
“Nobody really talks about why diversity is actually important,” Padilla said. “We’re just told that it is.”
But UCLA’s student body has serious diversity problems. For one, black students make up only 3% of the undergraduate population, but more than half of UCLA’s male, black students are athletes – meaning the university largely seeks out members of the black community for their athletic ability, not their academic strengths.
The university shouldn’t be satisfied with the state of its student body, said Markie Vialpando, a first-year neuroscience student.
“The diversity with students on campus still has a ways to go,” Vialpando said.
Yet it’s unclear what the EDI office is doing about this: Issues of campus diversity don’t seem to be subject to action of the EDI office, even though they would appear to be – rather, they’re reserved for the admissions office and not spoken about much. This makes it easy for students to lose faith, since it’s hazy how the EDI office, well, promotes student diversity.
David Wang, a third-year bioengineering student, said the EDI office doesn’t inform students of its goals or actions, leading to doubt.
“I think that, yeah, we should be more diverse, but it’s hard to say what that would look like in terms of actual public policy,” Wang said. “How do we know anything’s getting done?”
A way to address this is to effectively communicate what exactly the office does, what its long term goals are and what makes its values of diversity and inclusion important at UCLA. For instance, events on the Hill would go a long way in ameliorating the disconnect students have with the office.
“It’s important to communicate these things to the student body, so that people know that they’re there,” said Jonathan Tai, a third-year engineering student.
There’s also the issue of implementing policies that won’t be seen or heard by students. In this case, invisible policies are problematic because they can breed skepticism about what they actually change, and whether they’re actually helpful to the university.
Of course, UCLA does hold events about diversity and inclusion that try to explain the rationale behind its actions. The problem is that events specifically addressing diversity on campus are too few and far between. That, coupled with the fact that they’re poorly promoted, limits student attendance.
Ultimately, the EDI office has a large task ahead of it: promoting equity, diversity and inclusion on a campus with hundreds of thousands of stakeholders. And it’s difficult to address both the faculty and the student body issues at once. However, it’s been more than three years since the Moreno Report was published. Multiple policies have been implemented to improve the faculty body’s diversity. Students want an office that promotes diversity and inclusion and educates them in these matters, and this university clearly needs one.
Granted, the EDI office isn’t the Avengers. But it doesn’t take a superhero to be clear about your long-term purpose and be transparent about what you do.