UC to evaluate racial discrimination policies in wake of UCLA complaints

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In response to complaints among UCLA faculty that the campus inadequately addressed incidents of racial discrimination, the University of California will create a task force to evaluate, improve and standardize policies for responding to racial discrimination at each UC campus.

The creation of the task force was precipitated by a report by an independent committee at UCLA that found that the policies and procedures designed to deal with cases of racial discrimination at UCLA were inadequate and that they failed to act as a deterrent.

The committee, led by former California Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno, made a number of recommendations for changes in UCLA’s policies and procedures, including instituting a discrimination officer and standardizing procedures for responding to incidents of racial discrimination. The committee also suggests UCLA review diversity efforts in admissions and hiring.

“Our campus can and must do a better job of responding to faculty reports of racial and ethnic bias and discrimination and take steps to prevent such incidents from ever occurring,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a statement emailed to faculty and administration.

The UC task force will consider the report’s findings and recommendations.

UCLA sociology professor Darnell Hunt said he was not surprised by the findings of the report.

“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet; there’s a combination of things that need to be done,” he said. “If (the recommendations) are implemented in a constructive way, I think they will work together to greaten the likelihood that we’ll make a dent in the problem.”

Hunt added that he had heard of a number of cases in which victims of racial discrimination left the school altogether. Because incidents are not well-documented, he said, some faculty members were unaware of racial discrimination.

“Every case was handled in isolation, such that nothing was ever learned from any given situation,” Hunt said.

UCSD professor Emily Roxworthy, chair of the committee on affirmative action and diversity at the universitywide Academic Senate, said there are procedures at all campuses set in place to handle cases of racial discrimination. Although the procedures are “particularly decentralized” at UCLA, she said, the problem of racial discrimination is not specific to the campus. She added that many other campuses already have discrimination officers.

“We want to make this as consistent across the system as possible,” she said.

Roxworthy said establishing the task force was one of the first things UC President Janet Napolitano did upon taking office. She said Napolitano has indicated that she would like conclusions from the task force, which is composed of members of the UC Academic Senate and campus administrators, by the end of the year.

“(The grievance process) should be more streamlined so people don’t feel intimidated,” Roxworthy said. “As the Academic Senate, we obviously don’t think that our step in the process is the place the bottleneck is getting jammed up, but we’re going to look at that as well.”

According to campus professor of city and regional planning and urban design Elizabeth Deakin, who is the chair of UC Berkeley’s Division of the Academic Senate, Napolitano has asked the chancellor of each campus to report how his or her campus handles discrimination and hostile environments.

Deakin said the UC Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate will be evaluating UCLA’s report and UC Berkeley’s own campus practices over the next few weeks. She will be gathering feedback from various committees within the senate.

“We continue to work on policies and practices that help create a climate that is comfortable, fair and equitable for everybody,” Deakin said in an email. “There is still work to do.”

Contact Tahmina Achekzai at [email protected].