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"To Bear Witness": The Black Lives Matter Movement and Improving Campus Racial Climate at the University of California, Los Angeles

Walter R. Allen
Last modified: 2021-07-06


Walter Allen, Tracy Johnson, M. Ines Boechat, Azeb Tadesse, Chantal Jones, Gadise Regassa and Denise Ortiz


ABSTRACT (July 2021)

In 2012, concerned faculty contacted the UCLA Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost (EVC/P) regarding persistent racial bias, discrimination and intolerance at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Racist actions, targeting Dr. Christian Head, a Black Professor of Medicine, highlighted a negative campus climate, bias, and discrimination against Faculty of Color. In response to these grave concerns and documented patterns of racial harassment/ discrimination, Chancellor Gene Block authorized EVC/P Scott L. Waugh to establish an independent, Blue-Ribbon Committee to investigate “ongoing diversity challenges.”

The Moreno Committee, chaired by retired California Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Carlos Moreno, conducted interviews and gathered information on UCLA policies and procedures to investigate the UCLA campus racial climate. The Moreno Report was submitted October 2013 and offered recommendations to address bias and discrimination against Faculty of Color.  California Attorney General Kamala Harris met with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on January 10, 2014 to discuss the University’s plans to implement recommendations from the Moreno Report.

The Moreno Recommendations Implementation Committee (MRIC) was created to monitor and assess UCLA’s activities, progress, and challenges regarding implementation of the Moreno Committee recommendations. MRIC provided detailed information to assist the Chancellor, the EVC/P, Senior Leadership and the wider community develop a comprehensive approach to faculty equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA. The MRIC Report documents areas of success and challenge, offers ideas for consideration, evidence of "Promising Practices and Initiatives," and recommendations for continued progress towards achieving “Inclusive Excellence” at UCLA. Our recommendations are based on analysis of the University faculty landscape, institutional practices, and the narratives of Black and Latina Faculty.  This Report represents both a record and an assessment, as such its purpose is to “Bear Witness” regarding the current state of racial affairs at UCLA and to offer the promise for constructive change. Our committee also hopes this Report will provide a reflection on and a roadmap towards realization of UCLA’s core values to provide equity and opportunity for all, regardless of race or ethnicity.

UCLA has designed an elaborate system to improve campus climate for diversity and eliminate racial bias and discrimination. The critical “next step” in University transformation is to achieve efficient and effective connections, communication, coordination and accountability between all units. Success requires that the values, procedures, and outcomes associated with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion be embedded throughout UCLA. Achieving this goal will depend on long term, cohesive, committed, adequately resourced and rigorously evaluated efforts across the University. Key recommendations from the MRIC Report include:

A) Investigate racial and ethnic discrimination, mandate anti-discrimination training, and enforce accountability

B) Achieve equity, diversity and inclusion in recruitment, retention, and compensation of Faculty of Color

C) Establish a faculty advisory committee to the Chancellor on campus equity, diversity, and inclusion

D) Assess on a regular basis campus EDI to determine status, progress and challenges

E) Improve collaboration, communication and coordination between campus equity, diversity, and inclusion offices, programs and initiatives

F) Increase UCLA faculty/Academic Senate commitment, engagement and leadership We are confident that positive changes are possible with leadership from faculty and senior administration and full engagement of the campus community.

As UCLA turns 100 years old, Chancellor Block correctly frames the central issue before us: “How should our society acknowledge, counter and make amends for long - standing racism targeting Black Americans and other people of color?” Towards the end of improving campus Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, he promises “…to take a hard look at how UCLA can better fulfill its commitment to welcoming, supporting and protecting all members of our community. We will continue to champion the change that is needed to move the campus to a place of true equity, where we honor our deepest values and fulfill our highest aspirations as a public university.” (Chancellor Gene Block, “True Equity,” UCLA Magazine, October 2020). 

We conclude that while some progress has been made, and the foundations have been laid for some recommendations from the Moreno Report, much work remains to improve campus climate for diversity and to eliminate bias, harassment, and discrimination against UCLA Faculty of Color.

Since the scope, detail, and span of this MRIC Report are restricted by limited time and resources, we urge the University of California, Los Angeles to institute regular, rigorous, transparent assessments of campus Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

It is also imperative that UCLA put in place sufficient resources and a system of accountability to ensure continued progress towards the state goal of “Inclusive Excellence”.

The recent “Black Lives Matter” Movement gives additional urgency to the necessity for UCLA to acknowledge and address historical -and ongoing- racial inequities in the status, experiences and outcomes for Black and Other Faculty of Color on the campus.