They are among the most salient questions of our time: What can we do to recognize our shared humanity, bridge cultural differences and bring people together?
Given the rich diversity of our campus community, our responsibility to provide a welcoming academic environment and our role as a laboratory for testing solutions to society’s most pressing challenges, UCLA is vigorously addressing issues of diversity, inclusion and equity.
One watershed moment in that effort was the establishment of our Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The office is directed by UCLA law professor Jerry Kang, our inaugural vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, a scholar who is highly respected for his expertise on implicit bias.
Offices under Vice Chancellor Kang have taken the lead in ongoing efforts to enhance UCLA’s ability to counter bias and prevent discrimination. Already they have redesigned anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for faculty, staff and students, and they are conducting impartial investigations to see whether university policies on discrimination and harassment have been violated. We have hired new professionals and charged them to find the facts, and we have adopted new procedures so that everyone involved in each case receives fair treatment.
The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has also become a catalyst for our campus, spurring us to carefully reconsider how we can advance equity and fairness. The office has awarded grants to students developing innovative campus climate interventions. It has initiated interventions to counter “stereotype threat,” which can undermine academic performance, and it provides training on how to avoid predictable pitfalls, such as implicit bias, during the faculty hiring process. In addition, Kang maintains a blog that frankly examines campus climate issues.
But our interest in these matters is not isolated to a couple of offices: Across our campus, schools, departments and scholars are engaged in efforts to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion.
Last year, for example, our faculty implemented a requirement for every undergraduate in the UCLA College to take at least one course dealing with the complexities of diversity. The new policy will help our students thrive not only while they are at UCLA but also as citizens and leaders in our multicultural world. More than 100 courses — in departments as varied as history, biology, classics, political science and religion — already meet the criteria for the diversity requirement.
We also have incorporated a new focus on diversity and mutual respect in our orientation for new students, providing them with opportunities to expand their capacity for intergroup dialogue and cooperation across gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, identity and difference.
UCLA also launched a program called Every/One. So much has been said about “microaggressions” — the everyday, and sometimes subtle, words or actions that hurt or belittle others, particularly those who are members of minority groups. Every/One seeks to jumpstart a new conversation, to pivot the community toward microconnections — moments that create enduring bonds and new understanding among members of our diverse campus community. The initiative has already spawned a series of community salons, intimate dinner discussions and educational exhibits that have given Bruins from different backgrounds a chance to share perspectives on the forces that shaped them as individuals and the challenges that face their communities.
UCLA strives to create a respectful and healthy learning environment where scholars from all backgrounds can flourish. Our campus — and our broader Bruin community — should be distinguished by mutual respect, the resilience to be self-critical and the courage to recognize that facts matter. As we seek to appreciate the complexities and commonalities among us, it is critical that we provide our students, staff and faculty with the tools they need to better connect with diverse communities and elevate our shared humanity.