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UCLA

A Culture of Respect

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By UCLA Chancellor Gene Block

Published Oct 1, 2015 8:00 AM


We must continually advance the quest for equal justice and a multiethnic democracy on our campus.

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UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Photo by Amanda Friedman

Some of the top talent in the world — scholars, students and staff from more than 100 countries and working across dozens of disciplines — have created a vibrant intellectual, social and cultural community at UCLA. Our students hone talents here that enable them to enrich the world as alumni. That is no accident. Key to this achievement is our commitment to the UCLA Principles of Community, which charge us “to build a community of learning and fairness marked by mutual respect.” Core to my mission as chancellor is strengthening our capacity to meet that goal. We all know that we live in a world beset by conflict, and that in hard times the fabric of community can easily tear. That’s why I am especially proud of our faculty, who continually produce scholarship advancing the quest for equal justice and the building of a multiethnic democracy. But for all our marvelous accomplishments, we are not immune to episodes of bias, ethnic tensions or failure to live up to our ideals. Our worst moments, however, should never defeat our best aspirations.

UCLA must be a place where we all learn that a healthy community requires the ability to reach across lines of difference, to work through inevitable problems, to understand how we can hurt each other at our worst and heal each other at our best. UCLA is finding ways to enable our community to do just that. Staff, faculty and students have participated in training on understanding and responding to ethnic and religious bias. We have built a focus on diversity and mutual respect into our new-student orientation. And, recognizing the ways in which we can be too easily isolated from each other, we are creating novel opportunities for our campus community to go beyond labels and slogans and instead examine critical issues together and see each other in both our complexity and our commonality.

I am excited that, after a nationwide search, we have appointed Jerry Kang, a UCLA professor highly respected for his expertise on bias and the law, as our first Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Vice Chancellor Kang will coordinate our efforts to create a welcoming environment, combat gender discrimination and counter all forms of bias. I’m also pleased that our faculty have adopted a requirement that every College of Letters and Science undergraduate take at least one course grappling with the complexities of diversity to help equip them to navigate an increasingly globalized world as students, citizens and leaders.

I am gratified to see the university community coming together at every level — not just to say the right things, but to take meaningful actions that will enable us to be a model for maximizing the strengths and contributions of a diverse population.

Certainly, any human institution will exhibit human imperfections. But we must always strive to become a more perfect university, one that embraces rigorous intellectual engagement, data-driven solutions to our hardest problems, the resilience to be self-critical and the courage to be even better tomorrow than we are today.

I am proud to lead UCLA in pursuit of that vision, and I am confident that together we will make our vision a reality.

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