Diversity Clauses for UCLA

Ashley Thorne

Virginia Tech is not the only institution that urges faculty members to jump through diversity hoops. UCLA has similar expectations. In its forms for faculty appointments and advances, UCLA includes the following language in the section for merit-based increases:

UCLA Professor Data Summary Document

Under “Teaching Record”

“Please indicate courses that should be considered as contributing to the campus’ diversity priorities by writing ‘DIV’ in parentheses after the course number.”

Under “Other Teaching Activities Since Last Review”

“Please indicate activities that should be considered as contributing to the campus’ diversity priorities by writing ‘DIV’ in parentheses after the activity.”

Under “Service and Professional Activity”

“Please indicate service and professional activities that should be considered as contributing to the campus’ diversity priorities by writing ‘DIV’ in parentheses after the committee name, fellowship name, or description of the activity as appropriate below (e.g., involvement in professional associations or programs that support training of students in underrepresented groups; contributions to professional groups or publications that promote areas of knowledge that relate to diversity; developing strategies to produce equitable access and diversity in education; activities such as recruitment, retention, and mentoring).”

Download full UCLA Professor Data Summary Document >

The “campus’ diversity priorities” are elaborated at length in a 100+ page Strategic Plan for Diversity. They include goals such as

  • “provide courses and curricula that will attract minority faculty and students”
  • “retain all faculty, particularly women and minorities”
  • “increasing doctorates awarded to underrepresented students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields”
  • “enhance the enrollment of underrepresented minority graduate students”

The plan opens with a message from Chancellor Gene D. Block in which he says that at UCLA, “we struggle to truly reflect the people of California.” Actually, in 3 out of 5 racial and ethnic categories UCLA students match state demographic percentages pretty closely:

 

Racial/ethnic demographics of UCLA undergraduate student body (Fall 2008 data cited in Strategic Plan for Diversity, page 52)

Racial/ethnic demographics of California (2014 data cited by Pew Research Center)

African American/Black

4%

5.8%

Native American

<1%

<1%

Asian American

38%

13%

Chicano/Latino

15%

39%

White

34%

38.8%

 

The main difference is that there is a higher percentage of Asian Americans at UCLA than in the state, and a lower one of Latinos. Apparently that divergence needs to be hammered out, and UCLA is tailoring recruitment and retention practices to reach its desired goals (essentially, quotas).

One of the aims conveyed in the plan is to get back to faculty and student demographics at “pre-Proposition 209 levels.” Proposition 209 is the ballot initiative passed by California voters in 1996 barring racial and ethnic preferences in the state’s educational institutions. Prop. 209 requires public universities to hire employees and admit students without discriminating on the basis of race or ethnicity. It’s a straightforward anti-discrimination mandate that California citizens approved. Since it passed, however, universities in the state, including CSU-Chico, UC Berkeley, and Santa Rosa Junior College, have made strenuous efforts to circumvent the law – and UCLA is no exception.

The university continually communicates to faculty that it has made diversity a priority. As one professor described it, “One can't look at anything at UCLA without going through five pages of diversity material. It's like 'pop-up' ads.” This summer, Heather Mac Donald and Eugene Volokh drew attention to a seminar that UC president Janet Napolitano “invited” all deans and department heads to attend. They would receive training in, as Mac Donald summarized it, “overcoming their ‘implicit biases’ toward women and minorities,” and in “how to avoid committing microaggressions, those acts of alleged racism that are invisible to the naked eye.”

“Implicit bias” – or unconscious discrimination – is a conscious theme in the world of diversity officers. UCLA’s medical school last week held another event, “Examining Implicit Bias within Medicine's Meritocracy,” with the keynote speaker Jerry Kang, the UCLA Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The artwork on the flyer for the lecture shows metallic blue and yellow beads resting on two gray metal bars with a tiny opening through which only the yellow orbs are passing through. Presumably the yellow beads represent white med school candidates and the blue ones represent minorities who are being discriminated against by “implicit bias.”

Like Virginia Tech, UCLA is clear in the message it sends to faculty members: get in line with our diversity priorities or you aren’t a good fit here.

There are three problems with this agenda. First, what’s being promoted here isn’t diversity in its fullest sense. For UCLA “diversity” includes a lot of facets of personal identity, from race and sexual orientation to “geographic region”—but there’s much more it leaves out. UCLA isn’t making an effort to gain diversity by recruiting more homeschooled students, or more conservatives, or more veterans, or more virtuoso violinists. It’s not looking for more single parents, more farmers, or more entrepreneurs. Maybe the admissions department favors some of these, but the official diversity priorities say nothing about them or anyone who might bring a different kind of diversity to campus.

Second, defining diversity priorities in this way creates a new form of implicit bias – against whites and others who don’t fit the “underrepresented” mold.

Third, it threatens faculty members’ academic freedom. Asking for reports on diversity-related activities signals a strike against faculty members who aren’t involved in them though they are otherwise qualified for promotion and tenure.  

I continue to call on faculty members and others to examine their universities’ promotion and tenure forms. Do they ask for records of teaching or service that furthers “diversity”? Let me know.

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