Napolitano recommends implementation of 5 measures to increase transparency in discrimination cases

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In the wake of an investigation concluding that UCLA policies on discrimination and bias among faculty were “vague” and “inadequate,” UC President Janet Napolitano has called on the system’s chancellors to adopt measures that will spur a more transparent system for dealing with diversity issues.

The recommendations, released Jan. 24, respond to the findings of an October report investigating several incidents of racial bias and discrimination at UCLA. Napolitano has recommended the implementation of five measures to increase transparency — should they not exist already — including a mandate for each to produce a detailed annual report on all perceived acts of discrimination, bias and harassment.

“The report was a clarion call on diversity issues at the university,” Napolitano said at last week’s UC Regents meeting. “We are taking steps necessary to heed it.”

Other measures recommend campuses appoint a lead officer who will oversee all responses to complaints of discrimination; an official to act as an impartial intermediary to provide confidential advice for victims of discrimination; a comprehensive website compiling policies regarding discrimination, harassment and diversity; and a forum for community members to submit anonymous complaints.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the size of the university necessitates these uniform measures.

“We are the third-largest employer in the state of California, so inevitably, problems will arise — it’s just the nature of the beast,” Klein said. “The first step is to initiate a framework and get everybody on the same page letting them know that these are the steps we need to follow.”

Klein said the measure requiring each campus to publish an annual report compiling complaints and ensuing campus responses will create a more transparent system.

UC Berkeley has a Title IX officer at the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination — an position dedicated to overseeing and responding to complaints of discrimination — as well as intermediaries for staff and faculty members at the Staff Ombuds Office.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that it will be a few weeks before the campus can comment on the recommendations.

Some faculty members from other UC campuses have commended Napolitano’s recommendations. UCSD professor Emily Roxworthy, chair of the committee on affirmative action and diversity at the university’s Academic Senate, said in an email that many faculty believe that a “culture of impunity” exists within the university when considering discriminatory behavior.

“Better record-keeping and some means of publicizing these records (while maintaining the confidentiality necessary for personnel matters) would create transparency and also, perhaps, warn faculty that these sorts of behaviors will have strict consequences that could include dismissal from the university,” Roxworthy said in the email.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block released a statement the same day of Napolitano’s recommendation, applauding her commitment to combating discrimination throughout the university. In December, after the report’s publication, Block announced the creation of a vice chancellor of equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA, a position that already installed at UC Berkeley.

Elizabeth Deakin, chair of the Berkeley division of the Academic Senate, said in an email that she believes UC Berkeley has basic measures in place. She added that the senate will discuss details of the implementation of other mandates, such as the clarification of reporting responsibilities, in its next few meetings.

Chase Schweitzer covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ChaseSchweitz.