UC Berkeley News


Moving forward on equity and inclusion
As the search for a new vice chancellor progresses, diversity-related efforts on campus continue on multiple fronts

| 14 March 2007

By midsummer, if all goes as planned, Berkeley's first vice chancellor for equity and inclusion - having been issued a campus e-mail address and UC employee number - will begin to lead and coordinate Berkeley's wide-ranging diversity-related efforts.

The search process for that position is well under way. A 15-member committee chaired by Chancellor Birgeneau, which started work in November, has gathered input from varied constituencies - deans, faculty, staff, graduate students, undergrads, and directors of several campus equity and inclusion programs - on the most important professional and personal characteristics the new VCEI should embody. They have also taken stock of the major diversity-related opportunities and challenges facing the campus in the next few years.

Toward a more inclusive academy
March 22 conference to explore avenues for institutional change

Discussions of "diversity" often begin and end with a body count, when in fact this complex issue demands probing conversation and concerted scholarly attention. That's a premise behind a daylong University of California conference, "Changing the Culture of the Academy: Toward a More Inclusive Practice," to be held at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union on Thursday, March 22.

Designed for graduate students, faculty, staff, and undergrads from throughout the UC system, the conference intends to "go beyond numbers to examine our own practices and what we can do to make this a more attractive and welcoming place to students and faculty of all backgrounds," says Gloria Chun, diversity director for social sciences in the College of Letters and Science and co-organizer of the conference, along with Elizabeth Gillis, coordinator of the Campus Community Initiative.

The intended tone, Chun says, "is not, 'Let us tell you how to do it' but 'How do we make this a more inviting place for everyone?'"

The day's lineup includes keynote addresses by Professor of Sociology Troy Duster and UCLA doctoral student Maria Ledesma, UC student regent for 2006-07. Also speaking will be Berkeley Academic Senate Chair William Drummond, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, representatives from the National Science Foundation, and UC Acting Assistant Vice President for Academic Achievement Sheila O'Rourke. There will be more than 85 panelists and workshop leaders from throughout the UC system. The academy's system of rewards, how boundaries between disciplines are defined, and the types of research questions that are considered legitimate are just a few of the topics up for discussion.

The conference grew out of an extended conversation that a diverse, interdisciplinary group of graduate students, mainly in the social sciences, began about a year and a half ago. Some were troubled by feelings of alienation in their academic departments, difficulties navigating the culture of the academy, even overt hostility from faculty or fellow students in some cases. "The conversations were candid. People spoke from experience but also read a great deal," says Chun. Members of the group helped design the conference and will be among its panelists and moderators.

Organizers plan to hold a meeting with stakeholders, including graduate deans, the day after the conference to sort through recommendations that emerge from it. "We want to create an organizational infrastructure to make sure that the conversation will continue for years to come and that we follow up with action items," Chun notes. "This is the first UC systemwide conference of this type; we hope this tradition will continue as the conference rotates from campus to campus." 

Sponsors of "Changing the Culture of the Academy" include the UC Office of the President, Chancellor Birgeneau, and the National Science Foundation. The day opens with breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 5:30 p.m. Registration is required.

For a detailed schedule and to register, go to cci.berkeley.edu/news. For information, contact Gloria Chun or Elizabeth Gillis. — CC

This input is helping to inform the national search, assisted by Greenwood and Associates, a firm chosen for its experience in recruiting for similar positions in higher education. The committee now has in hand a "rich and robust candidate pool" and is reviewing candidate files, according to Assistant Chancellor Beata Fitzpatrick.

While there's much anticipation regarding the new vice chancellor position and how she or he may help the campus move forward on equity and inclusion, the work to change the culture of the university in fact is many-tentacled, and a variety of initiatives are in motion, at this writing, throughout the campus and the UC community.

"We're doing everything that we can to keep things moving so the new VCEI can really hit the ground running," says Angelica Stacy, associate vice provost for faculty equity. "What I'm hoping is that the campus is ready to start looking at disparities more deeply - not just at the surface level of numbers, but trying to understand what all the underlying causes are."

Ongoing diversity-related initiatives, in fact, reach all the way from the UC Regents' boardroom to program offices in the Chávez Student Center that work to support diverse groups of underrepresented undergrads. Here is an overview of some of the work in progress.

UC Board of Regents and UC Systemwide
At the urging of student regent Maria Ledesma, the UC Board of Regents recently formed a Study Group on University Diversity, charged with fact-gathering on the status of diversity at the university and the effects of Proposition 209, which since its passage in 1996 has prohibited the university from using affirmative-action type tools in its admissions process. This charge is being addressed by four work groups, focusing respectively on UC's undergraduates, graduate and professional students, campus "climate" issues, and faculty. The hope is to have an interim report sometime in May.

"The main point of this exercise is to make recommendations to the regents about what they can do around these issues," says Professor of Astronomy Gibor Basri, who chairs the systemwide faculty-diversity work group (made up of UC regents, members of the Academic Senate, and representatives from UC's Office of the President). Basri notes that the UC Academic Assembly, the chancellors of all 10 UC campuses, and UC President Robert Dynes have all endorsed a statement of principles on diversity, which identifies diversity as intrinsic to the core mission of the institution. The statement "acknowledges the acute need to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of talented students, faculty, and staff from historically excluded populations who are currently underrepresented."

"We want to get the regents to sign; then the entire University will stand unified on the high priority that increasing diversity has, with the implication that clear strong action is needed to address it," he says.

Basri also chairs the systemwide University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity (UCAAD). In May the Academic Assembly - the systemwide faculty group that shares in the governance of the university - is set to consider giving the chair of UCAAD a permanent position on the Academic Council, in recognition of the centrality of that committee's concerns to the mission of the university.

UC conference on 'Changing the Culture of the Academy'
A systemwide conference on diversity and inclusion, initiated by graduate students, will be held at Berkeley on March 22 (see sidebar, page 1, for details).

Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative (BDRI)

Denise Herd (Deborah Stalford photo)

Faculty recruitment is in motion for three new interdisciplinary research clusters designed to investigate the nature of multi-cultural societies and the ways in which such societies can best flourish. The three projects - focusing on racial inequities in urban public schools; the root causes of health disparities based on class, ethnicity and other social factors; and how liberal democratic principles and practices adapt to an increasingly diverse population - were initially awarded two faculty FTEs each by the BDRI.

Recruiting for the six faculty positions are in varying stages, reports Associate Professor of Public Health Denise Herd, who co-chairs BDRI's executive committee with Professor of Ethnic Studies José Saldivar. "We expect the first new faculty member, in the democracy project, to come on board in July," she says. "The clusters are all pretty energized. We hope to see two or three new faculty come on board next year." (For more about the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, see bdri.berkeley.edu.)

Departmental equity advisers
For a number of years the campus has had a faculty equity adviser in each department assigned to sign off on graduate-student admission and fellowship matters. Currently that role is being expanded. Gibor Basri notes that these equity advisers, in the past, were never given a formal charge or information to help them in their tasks, nor has there been a network in place to allow them to share best practices.

To begin to remedy these shortfalls, more than 40 equity advisers met in the fall for a workshop that was part "meet and greet," part dissemination of materials, and part group discussions of problematic scenarios that have arisen for students and faculty, he says. "They need to know the legal constraints and the legal opportunities." In a subsequent series of lunches, smaller groups of equity advisers have been discussing what their role should entail; those ideas are now being formulated for presentation to the upper administration. While various faculty members, including some assistant and emeritus professors, currently hold these positions, Basri hopes that in the future it will be mandated that all be active tenured faculty.

Berkeley Initiative for Leadership on Diversity (BILD)
Launched last spring, the Berkeley Initiative for Leadership on Diversity (BILD) aims to foster an inclusive workplace environment and to advance staff diversity to better reflect the demographics of California and the Bay Area. Its steering committee, currently chaired by Acting Registrar Walter Wong, is charged with helping the campus find innovative approaches and partnerships toward these goals.

According to Wong, the committee plans to hold information sessions this spring; it will then solicit proposals for projects "that reach unmet or under-met needs in groupings, units, or departments in the arena of diversity and inclusion," with partnership, access, inclusion, and staff development as the priority areas to be addressed. Co-sponsored by the chancellor and the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, BILD is on a very tight timeline, Wong adds. "The goal is to solicit proposals this spring for projects that can be implemented in 2007-08." (For information, see cci.berkeley.edu/projects/#BILD.)

Student recruitment, retention, and development
The campus has numerous ongoing programs to recruit, retain, and support underrepresented students, such as the American Indian Graduate Program, which this season will be doing outreach to potential graduate students at the Berkeley and Stanford powwows and is working with Native American Studies to plan the annual Native American graduation. On another front, 75 African American students, most of them freshmen and sophomores, recently held a weekend retreat on campus-climate issues. "We're looking at the whole person: campus life and home life and how these impact experiences here," says Nzingha Dugas, coordinator of the African American Student Development program.

Meanwhile, Stiles Hall, a nonprofit private agency located on Bancroft Way, is expanding its successful "Experience Berkeley" program and helping to build the campus's black-alumni network. The program brings underrepresented students to campus for three days during the summer, with funding provided by Pacific Gas & Electric and other private donors.

For last summer's program, about 500 high-school students applied, some 350 of whom had a 3.5 GPA or higher. "It belies the myth that there aren't black students out there who are competitively eligible in large numbers," notes Stiles Hall director David Stark. Seventy students were selected - receiving transportation to campus, a stay in the residence halls, visits to classes for a "first- hand experience of what Berkeley might be like, the good and the bad," as well as feedback on their personal statements for applications to UC.

Stark says that 92 percent of last summer's participants chose to apply to Berkeley and about 40 percent were admitted. He plans to bring some 120 African American and Chicano/Latino high school students to campus this summer, and hopes for a 60 percent admit rate next spring.

Working with the California Alumni Association, the Black Alumni Association, and the Level Playfield Institute, Stiles Hall is also helping to organize happenings to energize African American Cal alums and to tap their assistance on recruitment, outreach, and retention of African American students. In the works is an African American alumni event at San Francisco's Museum of the African Diaspora (on Saturday, May 12, with Chancellor Birgeneau and Rep. Barbara Lee to appear); Black Senior Weekend, which brings African American high-school seniors to campus during the third weekend of April; and outreach events to black, Latino, and Native American community-college students who may interested in transferring to Berkeley.

Community-college transfer students, Stark notes, often tend to be "a lot more mature and focused" than undergrads coming directly out of high school, and frequently "go on to be terrific leaders."

Diversity website
The Campus Community Initiative is in the process of building and testing a single website on the programs summarized in this article, and a number of others. Information on these programs "is currently on a wide variety of unconnected websites," says Elizabeth Gillis. "This will allow you one entrance, but will essentially take you all over campus." The new site is expected to go live in mid-April, at diversity.berkeley.edu.

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