Building the Future Together
As the new year gets underway, Chancellor Block encourages all students to strive to build a genuine community that welcomes different perspectives.
On behalf of your Bruin family, welcome to the new academic year! New friends, new challenges and new opportunities await you in the months ahead. This is an exciting time, and I know that you will enrich UCLA with your presence, talents and insights.
At UCLA you are among students, faculty and staff from more than 100 countries who have created a wonderful intellectual, social and cultural community. This extraordinarily vital environment will allow you to do great things.
While we celebrate the start of your academic year, and the possibilities it presents, we must also recognize that it comes during a troubled time for our country. As I’m sure you know, a number of tragedies this year have demonstrated again that our nation has racial wounds that have yet to heal and hatreds that have yet to abate. And we know that, for all our accomplishments here at UCLA, we are not immune to episodes of bias and ethnic tensions.
As the future leaders of your generation, you know that we need more than symbolic gestures to overcome barriers, achieve reconciliation and ensure a just society. We need good will and wisdom, and the courage to look honestly at the past and create a better future together. These are virtues that strengthen communities, and they are the virtues I ask you to cultivate this year at UCLA.
These past months have reminded me of Maya Angelou’s wise counsel: “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.” UCLA asks us all to examine our histories, envision our futures and develop the skills to turn our visions into realities. Hard times may test our optimism, but transformation is possible when we are brave enough to reach across lines of difference, and to understand how we can hurt each other at our worst and how we may heal each other at our best.
Our UCLA community must continue to confront these issues. Therefore, I am excited to share that during the summer, after a nationwide search, Jerry Kang, a UCLA professor highly respected for his expertise on bias and the law, became our first vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. Vice Chancellor Kang will work closely with Student Affairs and other partners to help us ensure a welcoming environment, combat gender discrimination and counter all forms of bias. UCLA’s Principles of Community demand that we “build a community of learning and fairness marked by mutual respect.” We take that mission seriously and so should you.
A community is created by the intention and care, and the honesty and humility, that each of us contributes. So I expect you to engage your studies with rigor, explore the unfamiliar with curiosity and find new ways to express your best selves. But, equally important, I expect you to treat one another with compassion and understanding, to be sensitive to the hopes and fears of your classmates—even when you disagree with each other—to learn from those who are different, and perhaps even see in them a reflection of yourself.
You are about to embark on an adventure of unparalleled potential. Embrace it, make as much of it as you can and accept my thanks for all you will contribute to this marvelous institution.
Gene D. Block
Sept. 28, 2015