Moving Forward as a Community
Chancellor Block updates the campus community on new and continuing steps UCLA is taking to ensure an inclusive climate for all Bruins.
At the beginning of the quarter, I wrote to students that “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.” The events I referred to were not just abstract statistics or momentary news stories; they were a source of great pain for many in our community. Not only does racial injustice impact the lives we lead today; it can destroy the dreams we have for our future.
In that message, I also urged students “to treat one another with compassion and understanding.” The very next week, some people attending a fraternity party wore costumes that embodied exaggerated racial stereotypes, which exacerbated inter-group tensions and alienated Bruins from each other. It is clear that all of us at UCLA have much work to do. And we continue to do it.
In the past few weeks, I have met with students from the Afrikan Student Union to hear their concerns, and I have reached out to campus leadership to make sure we are doing the best we can to respond to those concerns. I have worked with senior leaders throughout my administration, including those in Student Affairs and in our newly established Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and we are taking several important actions, including:
- Hiring a professional staff member to focus on outreach to, and recruitment of, African-American students.
- Developing more robust anti-discrimination policies and programs.
- Moving forward on plans to establish a community school in a primarily African-American neighborhood in South Los Angeles.
- Creating a student advisory group to work with the vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Committing to stable, ongoing funding for the VIP Scholars program, which brings high school students from underrepresented groups to UCLA to prepare them for higher education.
- Re-conceptualizing the Afrikan Diaspora Floor in Rieber Hall to better serve our African-American community.
These are just the latest steps we are taking — more will come — and they follow other important measures such as the hiring of discrimination prevention officers, the appointment of departmental equity advisors, implementing the new diversity requirement in the College, enhancing our sexual harassment training, instituting mandatory training for all members of faculty search committees to promote fair hiring processes, and increasing efforts to prioritize equity and campus climate issues throughout the university.
These changes have happened because students, faculty, alumni and staff have come together in the spirit of cooperation; they have listened to one another and worked together. We undoubtedly will have more challenges ahead. More opportunities for dialogue and cooperation will surely follow. That is how we move forward as a community.
Moving forward on these and similar issues impacting so many in our community is central to my mission as chancellor. Living up to our obligations to achieve true equity, diversity and inclusion for all Bruins goes to the core of our institutional mission. Facing these issues with determination, insight and creativity is the obligation of everyone in the UCLA community and has direct bearing on the relevance of our research, the vitality of our ideas, the effectiveness of our teaching, the fairness of our workplace, the climate of our campus, our leadership in the broader community and the quality of the alumni we send out into the world.
Like so many across the nation, we are working with renewed vigor to address issues of inequality and discrimination that have been the source of so much pain for so long. As I said during a talk at our School of Law last month, too much fear and too many tears have made it necessary to say what should not need saying: that black lives matter. That should not be a controversial statement. It should be taken for granted by all of us, because the lives and dignity of all who are marginalized do, in fact, matter. And the well-being of every single Bruin matters to me.
We might never eradicate every vestige of bigotry, we cannot prevent every act of thoughtlessness and we cannot guarantee that no one will be ever be unfairly treated because of race, religion, gender identity, sexuality or other categories of difference. Indeed, even as Bruins came together in solidarity yesterday, Islamophobic posters appeared on campus, in complete disregard of our Principles of Community and the dignity of our Muslim students.
But we can, and we will, do our best to hold ourselves to the standards of integrity, inclusion, fairness and compassion that are the hallmarks of a healthy community. I am, and my entire administration is, committed to holding ourselves to those standards and to making this institution even better tomorrow than it is today.
Gene D. Block
Nov. 13, 2015