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Vice chancellor position created to address diversity at UCLA

By Amanda Schallert

Dec. 6, 2013 6:23 p.m.

This post was updated on Dec. 8, at 11:19 p.m.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced Friday the creation of a new administrative position to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

The new vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion position was established after an internal report found UCLA’s policies and procedures for addressing claims of racial discrimination among faculty unclear and inadequate.

The new vice chancellor will have the resources and authority needed to ensure UCLA’s actions help create an inclusive campus for everyone, Block said in an emailed statement to the campus community Friday. The vice chancellor will report directly to Block.

“Although we have many dedicated individuals deeply committed to this work, I have come to see that we need a clear and powerful voice at the highest levels of the campus administration in order to advance our fundamental commitments to equity, diversity and full inclusion,” Block said in the statement.

Former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno headed the investigative report, which the university released to administrators and faculty Oct. 18. The report held that UCLA policies do not deter incidents of racial discrimination and bias on campus, since the majority of incidents evaluated in the report were addressed with informal processes instead of official investigations.

To combat the problem, the report recommended that UCLA appoint a discrimination officer to work with the Academic Senate and make sure UCLA’s policies and procedures for incidents of racial discrimination are reviewed, reformed and enforced. A discrimination officer has not been appointed yet, though the university is searching for a person to fill the position.

Tyrone Howard, a professor of education and one of several faculty members who initially pushed for the investigation, said he thinks UCLA needs to pursue both short-term and long-term goals to address structural discrimination on campus.

“These kinds of entrenched problems (are not solved with) just a single approach, you need multiple strategies,” Howard said.

He added that he thinks the new vice chancellor position shows administrators are listening to the report’s recommendations, and that UCLA needs people who are directly responsible for addressing issues of discrimination at its highest levels.

In response to the report’s recommendations, UCLA administrators have also already amended the Academic Senate’s bylaws to allow administrators to be more involved in the initial levels of investigations for discrimination claims.

The faculty committee responsible for implementing the report’s recommendations also met for the first time Thursday, Block said in the statement Friday.

Howard, a member of the implementation committee, said the committee discussed ways of evaluating discrimination policies, possible timelines for new procedures to go into effect, and strategies for ensuring that all academic departments are working to increase diversity.

He added that he thinks the new vice chancellor could help department leaders focus on recruiting and maintaining a more diverse faculty.

“Sometimes you need someone who’s advocating, who’s pushing, who’s asking questions, and who’s offering recommendations,” Howard said. “(You need) someone from outside of your department to say ‘look at the numbers (of women and faculty of color).’”

In June 2012, about 30 faculty members signed a letter to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh, asking for an independent committee to review UCLA’s policies and procedures for responding to racial discrimination.

The faculty members requested the review partially in response to a high-profile racial discrimination lawsuit involving former UCLA surgeon Dr. Christian Head.  Head, who said his colleagues at UCLA discriminated against him because he is black, was paid $4.5 million by the University of California Board of Regents in July, as part of the lawsuit’s settlement.

During the lawsuit, some faculty members thought that UCLA had tried to disassociate itself from the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where Head worked. The faculty asked administrators to investigate and gain a better understanding of UCLA’s “campus racial climate,” instead of seeing Head’s case as an isolated incident.

After the report was released, some faculty members said the success of UCLA’s response to issues of racial discrimination would depend on continued action. Some faculty also said the report demonstrated UCLA’s need for a more diverse faculty, in addition to better enforcement of policies regarding racial discrimination.

Howard said he thinks structural problems cannot be “dismantled” overnight, but UCLA should still act with a sense of urgency to address discrimination.

“These things have been so set in stone for decades, they need chipping away,” Howard said. “It can take years to start to see some (significant) movement.”

Block said in the statement that UCLA will continue to outreach and make changes to improve its response to discrimination on campus.

Compiled by Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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