January 30, 2015

Formation of a Task Force on Ensuring a Positive Climate for the Campus's African American Community

We at UCI pride ourselves on our commitment to inclusive excellence, and have repeatedly emphasized that this goal is fundamental to our mission. This past year, we took strong steps to improve further our efforts to reenergize our commitment. Among these are:

In the area of faculty recruitment, we instituted a requirement that all applicants submit with their application materials a statement indicating their past and/or potential contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This past year, six African American faculty were successfully recruited, an historic high for UCI.

In cooperation with student government, the Academic Senate initiated a review of UCI’s General Education Category VII Multicultural requirement to ensure that existing and future courses fulfill the purpose of the requirement.

UCI hosted or sponsored a number of workshops for students, faculty, and staff that focus on race, ethnicity, and gendered identities. These included “Identifying Micro-aggressions” and “Race Talk and Other Differences: The Psychology of Talking Across Differences,” sponsored by Student Affairs. The Provost’s Office hosted “Fostering Inclusive Excellence: Strategies and Tools for Deans and Chairs.” Eighty campus faculty leaders learned about and gained a better understanding of implicit bias and its impact on departmental/campus climate.

We supplemented our staff that supports campus diversity initiatives with two new hires in Student Affairs. The Vice Chancellor established a new position, Special Assistant for Cultural Affairs, to assist with major programmatic initiatives to address race, gender, and identity. In addition, the Student Outreach and Retention Center added a program coordinator to address the specific needs of our at-risk student population.

We stepped up our efforts to recruit a new cohort of UCI students that more closely reflects the diversity of our state. Our most recent admissions cycle resulted in a 7.1 percent growth in African American California-resident applications, outpacing the growth of the total state resident pool by 1.7 percentage points. In addition, we received more Chicano/Latino California-resident applications than any other UC campus. We anticipate becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution in two years. UCI achieves the highest graduation rate for underrepresented minorities in the UC system, making us a national leader.

We are proud of the progress but there is still work to do. Our commitment to being a leader in inclusive excellence requires us to resist complacency with our current policies and practices.

One area of focus is the campus climate for our African American student community. Recent survey data revealed that our African American students generally feel less welcomed and engaged in campus life and activities than do students as a whole. These results are not consistent with our aspirations, and we intend to improve.

In response to these results The Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture & Inclusion formed a special work group focusing on the “African American Student Experience.” The work group has been busy in the last two years initiating and sponsoring an undergraduate mentoring program, events that celebrate African American culture and arts, and a project to develop an undergraduate orientation program that addresses the harmful effects of racial biases. This is important work that will lead to improving our recruitment of African American students and cultivate a better climate for all of our students.

In an effort to accelerate and extend the group’s progress, I am announcing the formation of a Task Force on Ensuring a Positive Climate for the Campus’s African American Community. The Task Force will be chaired by Dean Gregory Washington, and will be comprised of the following members of our community:

  • Ayana Baines, Undergraduate Student in Political Science
  • Joseph Bell, Graduate Student in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
  • Kaleen Cole, Undergraduate Student in Sociology
  • Lisa Cornish, Executive Director, Student Housing
  • Dawnita Franklin, Senior Investigator, Equal Opportunity & Diversity
  • Diane Geocaris, Chief Campus Counsel
  • Kaaryn Gustafson, Professor of Law
  • Douglas Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Marcelle Holmes, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Wellness, Health & Counseling Services
  • Nicole Mitchell, Professor in Music
  • Tiana Otubuah, Underrepresented Minorities Coordinator, Admissions
  • James Pratt, Graduate Student in Criminology, Law & Society
  • Judith Stepan-Norris, Vice Provost for Academic Planning
  • Rameen Talesh, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students, Student Life & Leadership
  • Alan Terricciano, Professor in Dance
  • Joseph White, Professor Emeritus, Social Sciences
  • Reza Zomorrodian, ASUCI President
I will also augment the Task Force with two members of the Black Student Union. The Task Force will be staffed by my Chief of Staff Michael Arias and by Vice Chancellor Parham’s Chief of Staff Edgar Dormitorio.

I am charging the Task Force with providing a comprehensive review of our existing practices that impact the climate for the campus’s African American community, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of those practices, and making recommendations for further improvements. Areas of interest should include, but are not limited to, our hiring and recruitment practices, the structure and content of student orientation, campus infrastructure for supporting a positive climate, housing programs, and recruitment and promotional materials. I am asking the Task Force to consult broadly within the UCI community and explore best practices at other institutions. The Task Force’s report is due to me before this year’s undergraduate Commencement in June.

I want to thank our colleagues who have agreed to take on this important responsibility, and thank our entire community for helping ensure the success of this endeavor.

Chancellor Howard Gillman