Study faults UCLA’s handling of faculty’s racial bias complaints

UCLA’s policies and procedures are inadequate to deal with increasing complaints of racial bias among faculty — nearly all of whom surveyed said they had experienced some level of discrimination, according to an internal report obtained by The Times.

The report also found that allegations of overt racism were not investigated and, if they were, they rarely resulted in sanctions or punishments.

The review, which was launched by Chancellor Gene D. Block in 2012 after he was approached by a group of concerned faculty, found that university policies regarding racial bias and discrimination were vague and insufficient. It found that the university’s procedures for addressing such complaints were practically nonexistent and that the university had “failed to adequately record, investigate, or provide for disciplinary sanctions for incidents which, if substantiated, would constitute violations of university nondiscrimination policy.”


In a letter to faculty and administrators Friday, Block said he took the report’s findings seriously and would adopt many of its proposals. Among the first steps will be the appointment of a full-time campus discrimination officer to investigate allegations of bias.

“Rhetoric is no substitute for action. We must set an example for our students. We cannot tolerate bias, in any form, at UCLA. I sincerely regret any occasions in the past in which we have fallen short of our responsibility,” Block wrote.

Block declined a request for comment through a representative.

The report was compiled by a five-member panel headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and included attorney Connie Rice, former UC Davis professor Dr. Maga Jackson-Triche, UCLA professor emeritus Gary Nash and Bob Suzuki, former president of Cal Poly Pomona. The panel interviewed 30 administrators and faculty members.

Nearly every faculty member of color had achieved tenure and professional success at the university, the report said, but they were still upset by the incidents of perceived bias, discrimination or intolerance they had experienced at UCLA.

Nearly all of them said they felt that the offending parties were never forced to face consequences for their actions.

The report states that UCLA’s reaction to such complaints has consistently been to attempt to placate the injured faculty member without repercussions to the offending party.

In 2012-13, African Americans made up 3% of faculty, while Latinos represented 6% and Asians made up about 17%. Whites made up about 73% of the faculty, according to the report.

Two current faculty members alleged that their department, which was not identified, is divided along racial lines and that a “clique” of white male professors was “in charge” of the department and used racially or ethnically insensitive language.

Another faculty member, who is Latino and works in health sciences, described an incident in 2008 when a “senior faculty member” in the same department loudly called him a racial epithet in front of students.

The professor said he went to the assistant dean of his department, but was advised against going further because it “would cause more trouble,” the report said. The faculty member said he feels threatened by his colleague, who is still at UCLA.

A fully tenured white professor said he has spoken out against inappropriate conduct. He said, however, that he was retaliated against by his department chair, who refused to recommend him for a merit pay increase. The professor later retired from UCLA.

Most of the cases detailed by faculty members involved hiring, advancement and retention decisions. Many said they felt they were denied advancement as tenured professors, passed over for leadership positions or treated differently than their white colleagues.

There appears to be a simmering resentment toward minority faculty among some of their white colleagues — probably over efforts to add diversity to their ranks, said Rice, a civil rights attorney and former advisor to UCLA Chancellor Charles Young.

Administrators and department heads must be aware of the racial tensions among faculty as academic institutions continue to become more diverse, Rice said.

“It shouldn’t be happening and it shouldn’t be happening without a response, clearly,” she said. “You have to pay very serious attention to this stuff and you can’t leave wounds festering for this long.”

The report comes three months after Dr. Christian Head, a former surgeon at UCLA’s medical school, received $4.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents.

Head alleged that the university failed to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation against him. The head and neck surgeon alleged that he was retaliated against for filing complaints through normal channels and was denied teaching opportunities.

Head, 51, also alleged that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event.

Block said he is committed to helping transform UCLA into a fully inclusive community.

“No one should ever have to deal with anything less than mutual respect and equal consideration from their colleagues, particularly in a learning environment,” he said.

Times staff writer Larry Gordon contributed to this report.