In December, Chancellor Gene Block addressed the campus community following various concerns regarding incidents and reports of discrimination at UCLA.
Block’s email statement was meant to be an explicit acknowledgement of the concerns about discrimination and poor campus climate and an affirmation of the university’s commitment to one of its core values: diversity.
In the same email, he announced the creation of the position vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion, who would be a senior administrator responsible for leading all campus efforts to fulfill UCLA’s vision of a diverse and inclusive environment.
But talk is cheap. The administration must practice more vigilance to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the new vice chancellor position as well as other changes that deal with diversity.
Standards of transparency and accountability are best met through allowing for a significant channel of public input from all stakeholders.
The UC Union Coalition, an association of unions that represent various staff at the University, requested non-administrative staff representation in the vice chancellor search process. The coalition recommended two UCLA staff members to be considered.
Despite their request, the search committee for the recruitment of the vice chancellor did not include any non-administrative staff – a decision that this board believes compromises the integrity of the vice chancellor search.
Transparency and accountability are in fact very tied to the idea of diversity. A lack of either is what makes discrimination and biases go unchecked.
Staff members also deserve a seat at the table, a meaningful vehicle for expressing their specific concerns and needs as part of the UCLA campus.
While the search committee held a town hall for staff input and includes Cindy Cordova, president of the UCLA Staff Assembly which represents staff interests, Cordova is a high-level administrator and may not provide the insights and experiences of unionized and non-administrative staff members.
In an interview with the editorial board on Monday, Chancellor Block said the administration’s focus as of late with regards to the vice chancellor search and other institutional changes has largely been on faculty.
But as the chancellor pointed out when he first announced the vice chancellor recruitment, the ways in which we as an institution fulfill our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion affects all constituencies of our campus: students, faculty and staff.
The university is in the process of appointing numerous faculty across campus to serve as part-time diversity specialists for individual departments that will eventually answer to the new vice chancellor. UCLA staff could also benefit from having such specialists in their departments.
Currently, UCLA employs a variety of plans and units regarding diversity or discrimination that largely differ based on the constituency involved. UCLA lacks a centralized and campus-wide effort to carry out those plans in the most effective manner. This contributes to confusion around the university’s discrimination policies and procedures – a lack of clarity that affects the entire UCLA community.
One of the bigger challenges the diversity vice chancellor will face is providing deliberate leadership that integrates the multitude of different diversity strategies. Effective strategizing on part of the new vice chancellor should make the slew of resources and relevant information readily available to the campus community it serves.