UCLA Promises More Resources and Support for Black Students

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - UCLA's leaders promised the campus community today that the university would create a more inclusive environment and offer more resources and support for Black students, as well as reconsidering the role of campus police.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter sent a letter outlining plans for a Black student resources center, new faculty positions, fellowships, fundraising and research support for the Black community on campus.

“The ongoing principled protests around the nation -- and around the world -- calling for racial justice have been inspiring and humbling. In this moment we rightfully have been moved to ask what more we can do to make UCLA a community where all will know that Black lives, Black intellects, Black aspirations and Black experiences matter,'' the letter began.

Plans were first proposed to concerned faculty on June 18 and June 26, according to the letter.

Block and Carter committed to act by the end of the summer to appoint a special faculty adviser in the chancellor's office to advise on issues of concern to Black faculty, staff and students.

A Black student resource center will be added, and the university will provide funding in the coming academic year for programs and staffing. A location for the facility in the center of campus has not yet been identified, but it will be established in an existing building, according to the letter.

The administration plans to meet with student leaders from the Afrikan Student Union and Black Graduate Student Association to review the options.

“We will expand the intellectual community devoted to Black life and racial equity issues across the entire campus,'' Block and Carter wrote. “We will work closely with the leadership of the Ralph J. Bunche Center and the Department of African American Studies in implementing programs to expand the ranks of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.''

Those efforts will include:

-- 10 summer graduate fellowship awards each year beginning in 2021 -- for at least five years -- for research, teaching and service related to Black life;

-- five postdoctoral positions focused on Black experience, each renewable for a second year, will be funded for at least five years starting in 2021;

-- 10 additional faculty members to be recruited over the next five years whose teaching, mentoring and/or research addresses issues of Black experience; and

-- a dedicated staff member in external affairs to provide fundraising support focused on issues related to Black life.

UCLA is also rethinking its police force and considering how some roles -- like responding to mental health emergencies -- might be better handled by other professionals, according to the university. A public safety advisory council will look at issues of racial bias and racial profiling, effective de-escalation techniques and data transparency to address concerns raised by the community.

The campus police force has already banned the use of carotid holds, a practice the chancellor said hadn't been used in more than 15 years. However, the school will identify additional use-of-force policy changes.

To more broadly support and promote racial justice at UCLA and beyond, the administration will also commit $250,000 for seed research grants on racial inequities and racial justice, including campus climate issues, each year for at least the next five years.

Advisers will be identified to represent administrators and staffers working at UCLA Health to improve the environment for workers and advise on diversity and inclusion, something that already exists for academic faculty.

A member of the university's strategic communications team will be dedicated to “amplify the voices of faculty, staff and students of color and others whose work involves challenges to racism and structural inequality.''

The university also plans to bolster leadership roles that ethnic studies centers -- like the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, the American Indian Studies Center, the Asian American Studies Center and the Chicano Studies Research Center -- play on campus and look for more opportunities to recognize Bruins of color.

“Our work to fight racism will not end with these steps. More changes will be coming to challenge the structural racism that exists in our education system, from kindergarten through graduate school, including at institutions like UCLA,'' Block and Carter's letter says.

That includes working to recruit a diverse student body, something the administration said would be easier if Proposition 209 -- which bans the consideration of race in admissions -- is repealed. The proposed repeal will go before California voters on the November general election ballot.

“At this historic moment, every institution is being challenged to help create a society that is genuinely just and truly equitable, and that values the lives of all its people. With the partnership of our Bruin community, UCLA will rise to that challenge,'' the letter concludes.

Photos: Getty Images

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