Q&A: New EDI Vice Chancellor Anna Spain Bradley’s goals for her upcoming term
Vice Chancellor Anna Spain Bradley sat down with the Daily Bruin to discuss her priorities as the new EDI vice chancellor as well as other issues facing the UCLA community. (Courtesy of UCLA Media Relations)
By Genesis Qu
Oct. 27, 2020 7:44 p.m.
Anna Spain Bradley became the vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion in September after Jerry Kang stepped down in June. UCLA created the office in 2014 after 30 UCLA faculty members published the 2013 Moreno Report, which highlighted concerns over the deteriorating campus racial climate. Bradley is the second person to hold the position, excluding Carole Goldberg, who held the interim position over the summer.
Bradley sat down with the Daily Bruin to talk about her priorities as the vice chancellor, racial inequity, relationship with law enforcement, academic freedom, Title IX, the Office of EDI’s budgetary constraints and diversity in faculty. The following is a Q&A between Anna Spain Bradley and campus politics Editor Genesis Qu with edits for length and clarity.
Daily Bruin: What are your priorities as the new vice chancellor of EDI? What are you doing differently than your predecessor?
Anna Spain Bradley: Thank you for the interview and for being here to have a conversation about equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA and beyond. As you’ve just framed, I did join this fantastic, vibrant and dynamic community just under two months ago. I believe I am the second vice chancellor, if I have that correct, after Jerry.
I’m very impressed by the energy and the passion and (the) commitment to change that all of the many people who love to identify themselves as Bruins have. And also I think, in this particular moment, given where we are in this country and where we are in the world, it’s a real moment to address the problems in front of us and to create an authentic change. We have talked around what to do for a long time. We have researched and assessed for a long time and people are hungry for action, hungry for impact and rightfully so.
The way the (EDI) office was constructed … came out of a moment of crisis back in 2013, when the (Moreno Committee) was set up to investigate how the campus handled allegations of discrimination and harassment. My predecessor, professor Jerry Kang … came into this office with a specific mandate to standardize investigations and (to demonstrate the need for equity, diversity and inclusion) through important research and data.
So I come at it (with) a slightly different lens and bring that to this work … with this fantastic team that is the people who are dedicated to EDI. And (the lens) is one of a human rights advocate and somebody who’s been in the world of conflict resolution and peace building. … The thing that UCLA has is an incredible breadth and depth of diversity.
If you look at all the ways that people identify themselves across age, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, ethnicity, national origin and more, the people who make up the Bruin community and who read the Daily Bruin represent much of the human family. And when you have that kind of breadth and depth of diversity, you have a greater responsibility around inclusion and around equity.
But when we start to talk about inclusion, we’re talking about an experience of feeling that you belong, … and that you’re seen and accepted for how you identify, that is inclusion. When we move into equity, (it is) the value of ensuring that everyone is afforded with opportunities at UCLA, whether it’s education in the classroom, whether it’s research, whether it’s opportunity to work and serve.
My priorities, and that of the dedicated team that I work with, (are) … how do we build community better in this time? What does it mean to move through the spaces and places that form UCLA, knowing that we have the tools to have dialogue of our differences, to celebrate the things that bring us together? And here I draw upon a key principle that’s been valuable in my work in human rights, and that’s the principle of dignity.
Dignity is the inherent quality of being valued, that we all have value. And I want to bring that to our community in an approach that helps us understand (that) dignity is vital, especially where there’s a power difference. … There’s a power difference in the classroom between the professor and students, … there’s a power difference on the campus between people who commute long hours to get here and work every day and who are considered to be staff and people who have other roles. There’s always a power difference. And even when we have different roles to play we can treat each other and move through those roles with dignity.
So I’m really excited to join at this time, it’s a hard time. We have an election coming up. We have a global pandemic. We have no shortage of challenges. But I’m committed to working with people sharing and shining the light on those who are contributing in phenomenal ways and doing it with my guiding light which is this principle of dignity.
DB: Nationwide protests (this summer) have focused on racial inequity and police violence. Students and faculty in particular have focused on how (racial inequity) manifests on our campus. In our last meeting with the editorial board, you and Chancellor Block said you were having conversations with students to talk about potential reforms. Are those conversations yielding any results? And how do you approach student demands?
ASB: Thank you for the question. So, I will reframe it a little bit to say that … when you’re in a big place like UCLA, how do you understand the problem? What is the problem? And I firmly believe, and this again goes back to my work in the peacebuilding, conflict resolution space, people who are experiencing the problem are best suited to understand it and therefore offer solutions.
In this context, when we think about questions around injustices that occur because of someone’s identity and (race-based identity), … what does a place like UCLA need to do? And so here we have layers to the problem, we have big picture, structural racism.
How is it that certain people are hired for certain jobs? They went to a certain school. They have certain credentials, they know certain people who are their references and that means that they’re qualified. And there can be structural issues of racism and discrimination on other forums there.
Then we look at questions of policy, what are UCLA’s policies? How did the policies protect certain voices and disadvantage other voices? Then we look at interpersonal. … We’re walking down the street together, what interactions do we have with each other based on our own experiences, and how do we undo some of those? And so all of those layers, I think, hit people who are traditionally viewed as having less power. And that’s where students come in. Students come to UCLA to engage in the pursuit of higher education, and they come with a sense of who they are. … How students engage with each other peer to peer might be different from how they feel that they should engage with somebody who works at UCLA or someone who’s a leader at UCLA. … And that’s where my office often sees the challenges in EDI where we have the mandate to investigate allegations of policy violations of harassment or discrimination.
So I get to see both the promise of what is happening in the best of senses and the hard stuff that happens where … behaviors and words are said that … have no place at a place of higher learning like UCLA. So I think in terms of engagement, we have a fantastic set of students in our second year of the student advisory board at EDI. I am in conversation with them through folks in our office. I’m also working very closely with Student Affairs and Vice Chancellor Monroe Gorden to meet with all the different student organizations and groups that Student Affairs already is in contact with. And we’ll be … (getting) together, unfortunately on Zoom, on Thursday afternoons, going forward for this year, with students, with … faculty, with staff and – importantly to me – community members out there in Southern California.
It’s in those conversations where we get to talk about how you understand the problem. Because it’s easy for someone to come up with a solution to a problem they see. It’s harder as a group to come up with solutions for problems that the group sees differently. … So as big as UCLA is, … dialogue takes time, and that can be frustrating. I think what can help, is that people understand who’s involved in the dialogue, what stage is it at, what can be done coming out of it and when’s the relief coming?
DB: You mostly talked about how UCLA manages its students, faculty and itself internally. Could you speak more about UCLA’s external ties with law enforcement agencies? The LAPD used the UCLA-leased Jackie Robinson Stadium as a “field jail” in June. How do you approach these external ties that could impact student lives?
ASB: I came into UCLA, looking at what had happened and hearing about it. Of course, I wasn’t there so I don’t have a first-hand account. … And I think this goes to the question of who makes the decisions. … Did the decision-maker appreciate the full impact? And importantly, … that occurrence has led the way forward to right now to think about what’s the right way for police to engage the community. UC has its own police system and we have LAPD that has jurisdiction … over the city of Los Angeles. So there are lots of questions there about policing and about community safety. And it goes back to the principle of dignity. Everybody deserves to walk on campus and feel that they are not going to be called out unduly by anybody in the law enforcement capacity.
And law enforcement is there for a reason. Because often in the hardest crises, they need to be there to protect other people. There’s always a balancing there. It’s easy to say so and so is right and so and so is wrong.
When we get in dialogue with everybody involved, we learn underneath that we all have common concerns: Everybody wants to feel safe, no one wants to fear for his or her or their life. It is important to set up rules and transparency and accountability to make sure that those basic goals of keeping people alive, safe and healthy are respected. I’m committed to that. I’m committed … to a process that’s going to be inclusive and that’s going to bring in a wide array of voices that should be a part of this conversation. And looking at models out in the world that have proven to work. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel completely, there are models of policing and community engagement that have shown to be effective. We just need to think about how to maybe adapt those in the best way possible to our community.
DB: My next question is about academic freedom. Over the summer, several lecturers and professors were accused of being racially insensitive by saying racial slurs in class. How do you view the potential conflict between academic freedom and the need to provide a safe place for students? And should UCLA formalize a process to handle racial slurs being spoken in class?
ASB: I know this is on many students and … many people’s minds, as it should be. Across the country, we have … data showing the uptick of racism and racial discrimination. That includes the use of racial slurs, it includes incidents of anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and much more. It is happening more in America, and there are new ways in technology of recording that. And we are seeing that of course on campus and in our community at UCLA because we are a part of … the broader situation in the country.
It is true that we have the Constitution of the United States which affords us the First Amendment set of protections around speech and freedom of expression. It is true that as an institution committed to higher learning, we do not want to constrain those goals, especially in the educational context. It is important for professors, instructors and students to engage in difficult conversations about history about challenges in the world and to do so in the promotion of learning. It is also true that people are not set up to learn when they feel threatened and they feel unsafe, whether the safety is their physical body or psychological safety. And so, a conversation about the balance between freedom of expression and the right to sit in a classroom and not have to listen to certain words that carry incredible historical and present-day harm … is a conversation whose time has come. And it’s a conversation that I had my eyes on.
I’ve been making outreach to different important parts of our community about setting up a dialogue about that. UCLA is committed to upholding our First Amendment rights full stop. We’re not going to do anything that would impinge upon that. But we are also committed to giving students options. So what might it look like … from a student perspective (is) to be in a classroom and to know in advance what material might be covered and to have the right to respectfully remove oneself temporarily. What might that look like? I don’t know. Those are conversations that I think students, faculty and everybody involved need to have with each other so that we do have protections. Because ultimately we’re an institution committed to the pursuit of learning and research and education, and that’s what we’re here to do. And when having to experience the use of racial slurs in the wrong way, it gets in the way of our core commitment to the pursuit of education. It’s frustrating our core purpose, and that’s something that we need to address.
DB: The Department of Education implemented its new Title IX policy this past August, which limited sexual assault survivors’ ability to report and have their cases heard. How do you plan to support sexual assault survivors after the recently updated Title IX policy?
ASB: So the Title IX office is within the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It is led by our Title IX officer Mohammed Cato, and that office as is a part of … other investigative units to stand up what’s called the Civil Rights Office. We at UCLA are unwavering in our commitment to protect our community from sexual violence, harassment, stalking, relationship violence and other kinds of prohibited conduct and to ensure that we respect people who are involved in that process.
The new regulations … (went into effect) on Aug. 14. … So anything happening before that time would be under the old regulations. But the new regulations change a few things. The Department of Education’s definition of prohibited conduct is different from UCLA’s prior definition. But we should note that there’s nothing in the regulations that prevent us from also investigating and processing (Title IX cases) using our existing definition. In other words, it doesn’t weaken our approach. We can still provide the protections in the way that we have.
The process has changed. Now we do have a commitment, under the new regulations, to allow for in-person hearings. We’re working toward complying with all of that.
And the scope is different. The Department of Education regulations only cover sexual misconduct that occurs within the scope of a university program or activity, while the complainant was in the United States. This would exclude some off-campus conduct such as study abroad programs. The university’s policy is broader. It covers conduct in a UC program or activity, wherever the location takes place. So that would include off-campus activities and activities that take place outside of the United States, those protections remain in place.
So I think … we’ve heard a lot of change coming out of the Department of Education on this. In short, we’re working to comply with all of that, but we are absolutely committed to standing up our Title IX protections and continuing to do so as we have for all in our UCLA community.
DB: UCLA has experienced significant budgetary constraints because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that has caused programs at the EDI office, such as the Bruin Excellence and Student Transformation Grant Program to be cut and dissolved. What are your funding priorities for the EDI office and what programs would the office prioritize in the face of budget shortfalls?
ASB: That’s a great question and an understandable one. … To back up a little bit to say that. Yeah, … the budget situation for UCLA, for the UC system and for many universities and colleges across the nation is changing because of all the situations that we find ourselves in with the pandemic. And we are in a leaner financial time where we have to be a lot more fiscally responsible. We have choices; we can’t fund everything. And I’m committed to engaging in the following.
There are lots of needs, and there’s lots of groups that would like funding. And it’s important to me to build a process where we have funding available for students or for graduate students or for research or for faculty or for whoever it is. We say that we have funding available, and we make the process available which people can apply and groups can apply (to). People understand the decisions can be made, … and here’s where the funding went. So I think … where we can do that within university policy and guidance, that’s something we want to do because the idea of equity, diversity and inclusion touches all parts of campus and touches a lot of groups.
I know that there are many groups that maybe had certain support that hasn’t continued, and I can empathize with how hard that must be for them. But at the same time, we definitely want to make sure that maybe there are new groups that never had funding that would like to seek funding and we’re being able to provide that as well.
I think it goes to the bigger question which is, “What are the EDI priorities?,” funding aside, into 2021 and beyond. That’s a conversation that I’m currently having with our EDI team and with key partners and collaborators in the campus and in the community, to say … what is it that we can do during this time, what is it that we must do and what is it that we would like to do? And separating those things out.
One of the things that’s very important to me and why I was so excited to join UCLA is the idea of working more closely and more collaboratively with our Southern California Los Angeles community partners. There are lots of groups in the community who would love to have access to some of our resources and knowledge base, to do EDI work where they are. There are lots of groups in the community that we could learn from, that have incredible knowledge and incredible expertise in these areas that we would greatly benefit from.
DB: What are some of your plans to diversify the faculty at UCLA?
ASB: One of the great things about UCLA is the shared governance structure. Faculty have a lot of great ideas of their own about how to diversify peer faculties, so that’s something I am keen to learn about and listen to.
I think we will continue to do much of the faculty search that my predecessor Jerry Kang set up, and, you know, make sure that we are encouraging in the best way possible that searches are done in ways that can ensure better diversity, equity and inclusion.
And so we’ll look at what else we can do beyond that, I think it’s important to recruit diverse faculty. It’s also really important to retain people and retain people by not only working to support those who might have opportunities to go elsewhere to stay but making sure that we have cultures and environments within our wonderful units, departments and schools that encourage people to want to stay.