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Assistant dean for campus climate selected

By Kassy Cho

May 10, 2011 12:11 a.m.

A new assistant dean will begin to address issues of campus climate this month, following efforts to fill the recently-formed position in the fall.

The primary duty of the assistant dean of students for campus climate is to investigate and follow up on incidents that involve a bias against a student, said Robert Naples, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students.

Christine Mata, currently the coordinator of student judicial education at Humboldt State University, will begin her tenure on May 23.

Because the position is new, Mata will familiarize herself with students and issues first before starting to develop programs to assess and ameliorate negative climate issues, Naples said.

Naples said although the administration has no particular programs in mind right now, the position is designed to meet the needs of the students, and Mata will be the primary point person for climate issues.

“We were looking for someone who is committed to the values of diversity in a higher education setting,” said Debra Geller, executive director of community standards at the Office of the Dean of Students.

Climate and diversity issues have been particularly prevalent at UC schools in the past few years with controversial events such as the “Compton Cookout” and the hanging of a noose at UC San Diego, as well as the carving of a swastika on a UC Davis dorm room door.

However, the position was not created as a response to any one specific incident, Naples said. Many campuses across the United States are dealing with climate issues, and he said UCLA wanted someone who would devote a large part of their job to this topic.

“(Mata’s) work will be around maintaining the campus as a safe, welcoming, respectful place where students can successfully achieve their goals,” Geller said.

Mata was considered a favorable candidate because she graduated from the UC system and can relate to student backgrounds, Naples said.

She comes from East Los Angeles and was a first-generation college student.

After transferring from a community college to UC Irvine, Mata earned her master’s degree in student affairs administration at Michigan State University.

Mata declined to comment on the new position, saying she does not wish to answer questions until she is at UCLA.

Mata comes to UCLA during a critical time, said Jasmine Hill, current Undergraduate Students Association Council president, who attended an open interview session with candidates for the new position.

Hill cited the “Asians in the Library” video as the most obvious example.

The video, in which former third-year political science student Alexandra Wallace made several offensive comments about Asians, prompted both a campus and worldwide response. Discussion forums were held on the Hill, and a USAC resolution was created.

Hill said the best measure of Mata’s competency will be her ability to bring solutions, but it would be unfair to expect a large amount of change, especially as the Office of the Dean of Students deals mostly with students on a one-on-one basis.

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