UCLA introduces online module for equity, diversity and inclusion
UCLA Dean of Students Maria Blandizzi emailed the UCLA campus Thursday asking undergraduates to complete an online module about equity, diversity and inclusion. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Justin Jung
Feb. 5, 2020 12:06 a.m.
UCLA requested undergraduate students to complete an optional online training module about equity, diversity and inclusion Thursday.
UCLA assigned all incoming undergraduate students an online training module covering topics centered around equity, diversity and inclusion in September. The module, which is now open to continuing students as well, was created by EVERFI, an online educational resource company.
The equity, diversity and inclusion module offers a basic education of its covered topics, including definitions, terms and personal stories, said UCLA Dean of Students Maria Blandizzi. She added that the module is intended to invite students to continue their learning of equity, diversity and inclusion after completing it.
“For some students, the stories shared in the module may be reminders of personal experiences that can be painful,” Blandizzi said. “For others, this module may be their first encounter with questions surrounding identity, microaggressions, exclusion or bias.”
Afrikan Student Union at UCLA chair and fourth-year African American studies and political science student Alexandria Davis said in an emailed statement the module introduces students to racial and ethnic diversity. She added that she hopes that it will create further discourse about diversity at UCLA.
“The Afrikan Student Union believes that this training can assist in decreasing the issues that we have with racism and discrimination, especially if the training provides a clear path for students to learn how to report incidents and if the training can be required for all students,” Davis said.
Davis also said all undergraduate students, faculty, staff and UCLA affiliates should be required to complete the online module. Requiring the module would help protect diverse communities at UCLA, Davis said.
On Nov. 30, 2018, a racial profiling incident occurred at University Apartments South. A UCLA employee stopped and questioned an African American UAS resident that evening, despite the resident not having broken any rules. In response, Chancellor Gene Block published a statement Dec. 5, 2018, about the incident and racial bias.
“This incident has demonstrated that the university must do a better job of reinforcing that message and providing training designed to deter racial profiling and unfair treatment,” Block said in the statement.
However, despite requests from the module’s advocates for it to be mandatory for all students, Blandizzi said UCLA will not be requiring all students to complete the module this year.
Blandizzi added that making the module compulsory would entail placing holds on the records of students who fail to complete it. However, because it is a pilot year for the module, this would not take place, Blandizzi said.
While Blandizzi’s statement said the module was not mandatory, an email from EVERFI said all UCLA students are required to complete the equity, diversity and inclusion module.
Lance Anthony, a first-year chemistry student, said he thinks UCLA should not require continuing students to take the module, especially if they have already had relevant training.
Despite the equity, diversity and inclusion module not being made mandatory, about 90% of the over 9,600 incoming students completed the module, Blandizzi said.
Anthony added that after completing the module, he thought it was helpful in situations with friends of different identities.
“I guess in a way it was helpful for some topics that I wasn’t really sure about, … (like) speaking for people of certain identities,” Anthony said. “I felt that that was really helpful; it was really illuminating, I guess, on how I should approach certain topics.”
The module was customized for UCLA in collaboration with a number of student groups. These included the ASU, Black Graduate Student Association, Undergraduate Students Association Council and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Board, which is a student-led group that works closely with the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
One change that resulted from this collaboration was the addition of customized pages for students to set their own pace for completing the module, Blandizzi said. She added that other changes included the addition of UCLA-specific information and opening and closing letters from Block and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Monroe Gorden Jr.
Since the module’s content is mostly set by EVERFI, further customization is difficult, Blandizzi said. However, she added that her office is accepting emailed feedback about the module’s content.
“We are also in ongoing conversations with colleagues across the UC system and at EverFi to offer feedback on the content of this module,” Blandizzi said. “Students who have feedback about the content can email us at [email protected]”
Taylor Tran, a second-year political science student, said she is interested in the module, but was not sure how effective it would be, given the deep-seated nature of the topics.
“I think it’s good because it allows students to voice their feedback … and tell (the dean) about suggestions that maybe (administrators) wouldn’t think of to help improve it or to see what is working,” Tran said.
However, Tran added that Blandizzi’s email about the module did not grab her attention. Instead, asking professors to announce the module in their classes would be more effective, Tran said.
“We hope students can utilize this module in ways that work best for their needs, and refresh their understanding of resources on campus that are here to support them,” Blandizzi said.