By Donna Hemmila
|David Ritcherson (left) and Fnann Keflezighi, co-chairs of the UCSD Black Student Union, and Victor Sanchez, president of the University of California Student Association, address the UC Regents.|
After a candid and passionate discussion of recent racial incidents at University of California campuses, UC Regents pledged today to take responsibility for stamping out intolerance.
They also voiced support for strategies to increase diversity throughout the UC system, including a drive to raise more scholarship donations for underrepresented minorities and a review of admission processes to expand the use of holistic review of applicants.
UC President Mark Yudof and regents said they were committed to putting recommendations into action over the next few months.
"The question is who is going to be held accountable for progress at the end of the day?" said Regent Monica Lozano. "We are the body that has to be accountable."
During a three-hour meeting, regents heard from the chancellors of the Davis, San Diego and Irvine campuses, Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley and students about a series of incidents that occurred on campuses last month. Those incidents included racist symbols and hate speech at San Diego, anti-gay graffiti and swastikas at Davis and disruption by protesters at a talk from the Israeli ambassador at Irvine.
The chancellors each reported on actions they have taken to investigate student conduct and promote campus values of tolerance and civility.
Edley, a national authority on civil rights issues, was appointed special adviser to Yudof and Chancellor Marye Anne Fox to monitor campus climate and progress on addressing the racial incidents at UC San Diego. Edley said he was impressed with both the campus leadership and the students who have been working to resolve racial tensions and craft initiatives to improve campus climate. The issues San Diego faces are present throughout UC and the nation, he said, and rooting out bigotry will depend on a strong commitment to implementing change and monitoring progress.
"This is not rocket science. It is harder than rocket science," Edley said.
Dozens of UC students traveled to the regents meeting at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus during their spring break to participate in the diversity discussion. Regent's Chairman Russell Gould extended the public comment time from 20 to 40 minutes to allow a frank discussion on the incidents.
"I deeply regret that any member of the UC community had to endure such disgusting displays of bigotry," Gould said. "Whether they were perpetrated out of ignorance or hateful intolerance, such actions have no place at the University of California. They are a disgrace to the values of this institution and of the individuals sitting before you."
Students told regents that there have been studies on UC diversity issues in the past but they have seen no progress. Now they want more than recommendations and studies, they said.
"At UC San Diego, this is an issue of safety for students," said David Ritcherson, a member of the UC San Diego Black Student Union. "The campus climate cultivated this toxic environment."
Student Regent Jesse Bernal said he saw the same kind of outrage over intolerance in 2001 when Muslim students experienced bigotry in the aftermath of 9/11. But then the passion lost its momentum, he said, and he didn't want that to happen now.
Yudof assured students that actions would be taken and progress aggressively tracked: "It's time for the vast majority of us, for those of us who revere diversity and tolerance, civility and respect — the true values of this university — to stand up and say ‘enough.'"
Yudof said he wasn't interested in studies that are going to sit on a shelf.
He outlined strategies to build tolerance throughout the system and to increase the number of underrepresented students at UC.
"It's incumbent on every one of us, on every single member of the UC community, to visibly and vigorously challenge expressions of bigotry wherever, whenever and however they occur," Yudof said.
Yudof also called for alumni and friends of UC to come together to raise funds for scholarships for underrepresented minorities. Too often talented students go to private universities that have more dollars to support them, he said.
He also requested a systemwide review of undergraduate admissions procedures.
"I want a system that more effectively considers multiple factors beyond test scores and GPA," Yudof said. "I want one that has a larger pool of applicants that will be considered." Both of these goals should be met, he said, by the new undergraduate eligibility requirements approved by the Board of Regents last year and scheduled to take effect with the incoming class of 2012.
Yudof said he has asked the Academic Senate to consider revisions in the current policy to require that campuses adopt consistent processes of so-called holistic review of applicants and to adopt the best practices in place now. Holistic review allows for more flexibility in considering students' life experiences, as well as their test scores and grades, in the context of the opportunities and challenges each student has faced. This allows campuses to do a better job of assessing the whole student and his or her potential for success.
Yudof said he has confidence that the chancellors were taking steps needed to address the climate on their specific campuses and taking appropriate disciplinary actions when needed. He has asked each campus that experienced incidents of bigotry to give him a full report and to cooperate with authorities in ongoing investigations. He also promised to continue working with students in an effort to develop appropriate campus hate crime legislation.
"We do not shy away from examining our own problems, from acting decisively and with dispatch to address them," Yudof said.