Multiple town halls discuss UCLA’s search for new chancellor
Royce Hall is pictured. Students, faculty, staff and alumni attended separate town halls to discuss the search for the next UCLA chancellor. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Members of the UCLA community attended virtual town halls separated by faculty, staff, students and alumni to discuss the search for UCLA’s next chancellor Nov. 8.
Chancellor Gene Block will step down from the role at the end of July 2024 after 17 years in the position. The search advisory committee, which will assist in the international search for the next chancellor, is chaired by UC President Michael Drake and includes UC regents, university faculty and staff, students, alumni and UCLA Foundation representatives. The committee is also aided by a professional search firm.
David Yoo, the vice provost of the UCLA Institute of American Cultures, said the next chancellor needs to focus on the designation of the university as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution.
Since Los Angeles is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States, the next chancellor should also consider raising salaries for staff and low-level administrators, said Laura Ha Reizman, the assistant director for the Undergraduate Research Center for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
One attendee mentioned that UCLA and UC Berkeley are searching for chancellors at the same time, potentially causing an overlap between the candidates. Nancy Chen Lane, the systemwide integrated talent management senior director, said while this overlap has been mentioned in meetings with Drake, both search committees are looking for different attributes in the applicants they are looking to appoint.
Many faculty members said they hope the next chancellor has a strong background in research and scholarship at a public institution.
One attendee said the next chancellor will have to navigate campus following the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s United Auto Workers strike. They added that both events changed how students, faculty and staff engage with the campus and each other.
“I think whoever comes in is going to have to deal with the post-COVID, post-strike environment that the campus is in right at the moment,” they said.
Jennifer Poulakidas, the associate vice chancellor for government and community relations, said a priority for the new chancellor should be establishing and maintaining relationships with elected officials in the areas UCLA has campuses, including the South Bay and downtown LA.
“Relationship building is not something that happens as a one-off. It does require a commitment to visiting Washington D.C. and Sacramento and city hall,” Poulakidas said.
Latino candidates should be considered, as well as those with experience working with Latino students, said Antonio Sandoval, the director of the Community Programs Office.
Lindsey Cornwell, the senior associate athletic director of policy, risk and people, said she would like to know the new chancellor’s experience working with a high-profile athletics team. She added that the job, in terms of athletics, often involves making decisions that are high-risk and high-reward.
Staff also said they hoped the new chancellor would consider hybrid work and the lack of office space.
“Having a candidate and a chancellor who’s very open to the idea of a hybrid schedule or to the idea of having some people working remotely, I think, is going to be critical in the face of that space deficit,” said Sheehan Parker, the office manager in the Center for Academic Advising in the College.
Students responded to questions from the search committee and gave input on characteristics they would like to see in the new chancellor. Graduate students also said they want a chancellor who can address issues with housing.
“I would like a chancellor that would acknowledge this (housing) and be able to work to provide students with affordable long-term housing because their current solution or the current situation is not sufficient,” a computer science in doctoral student said.
The new chancellor must support faculty and staff and improve learning conditions, including technology to aid with hybrid learning, said Eliana Sisman, a fourth-year sociology student and the former Undergraduate Students Association Council general representative. This includes increasing accessibility on campus and speaking with students with disabilities to come up with solutions, Sisman added.
Students also said they would like to see more resources available to them, especially for those from marginalized communities. The student population changes each year, and the new chancellor must be able to recognize students’ needs and adapt to new challenges, one student said.
Some students also expressed concerns about interaction between the new chancellor and unions on campus exercising their rights following the UAW strike last year. Union leaders should be consulted during the search to ensure the new chancellor respects the rights of unions, said Luke Finnerty, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics.
Students at the town hall added that they believe the new chancellor must acknowledge issues that students care about instead of ignoring them.
“I think a deal-breaker for a lot of students on this campus is a chancellor that is not able to recognize diversity and a chancellor that is not able to speak out against racism and violence against different communities on campus,” the computer science doctoral student said.
Many alumni expressed concern about the safety of Jewish students on campus.
One attendee said they think that it is important for the next chancellor to address issues regarding safety on campus following the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
“I would just ask that our future chancellor acknowledge these challenges head on (and) properly contextualize them so we can prepare our students and the broader community we serve to thrive in a pluralistic and ever-globalizing world,” the attendee said.
Some attendees said they support free speech but are distressed to see demonstrations on campus that they feel include threats against other community members.
Jerry Mosley, who graduated from the School of Law in 1982, said UCLA fell in promotion of free speech rankings. He added that he would like to see the next chancellor be someone who values the diversity of opinion on campus.
Other attendees said they hope to see the next chancellor focus on academic excellence, student support and department funding.
“I would like to see someone who is as committed to expanding opportunity for upward mobility and maintaining excellence of our campus,” one attendee said.