In the spring of 2020, Dean Jennifer Mnookin sent two messages to faculty, staff and students in response to challenges to the school's goal of fostering an environment where people of all backgrounds feel welcome. The first message was issued April 14, 2020. Below is the message sent May 4, 2020.
Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,
In my April 14 note to the community, I referenced several incidents that led me and other members of the UCLA Law faculty and leadership team to engage in constructive conversations with students, student organizations, and our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
One common thread of these conversations was the observation that these incidents link to a broader set of concerns about aspects of our learning environment. I am writing now to share a set of concrete and specific efforts that the law school – including the EDI Committee, the Office for Students Affairs, and the Dean's office – will be taking, working together with faculty, students and student organizations, to help make our learning environment stronger and more inclusive.
Students have already played an invaluable role in this process. I thank the Black Law Students Association for its leadership, thoughtful conversations, and advancing several forward-looking proposals. Those proposals are supported by our other affinity organizations, as well, and I also thank APILSA for its support for inclusive pedagogy at UCLA Law. Thanks, too, to the EDI Committee for its proposals and ideas, as well as for the work its members will pursue over the summer and beyond.
I would like to announce several initial developments and initiatives:
- The EDI Committee and the Office for Student Affairs will work to establish clear, accessible procedures for students to provide feedback on the classroom environment and to file concerns or complaints regarding violations of community norms of equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as a process for addressing those complaints in a timely manner. The goal is to share those procedures at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
- The EDI Committee will organize several faculty workshops and small group meetings relating to themes of inclusive pedagogy beginning this summer. The committee also plans to create a faculty sourcebook and other materials on inclusive teaching, and to have early iterations of some materials by the beginning of fall semester and to develop them further during the next academic year. These workshops and meetings will also continue into the 2020-21 academic year, and students may participate in some of these future workshops and presentations.
- The law school will plan a half-day faculty retreat during the 2020-21 academic year to focus, collectively, on equity, diversity and inclusion issues. The EDI Committee will play a lead role in developing the agenda for this retreat.
- At the end of this semester's exams, the Office for Student Affairs will begin working with student organizations and the Student Bar Association to develop a Students' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The goal is to begin this work and create an initial draft this summer.
- This summer, the EDI Committee will work with the Office for Student Affairs to coordinate several small-group meetings with students and alumni who wish to offer additional input and strategies for improving the learning climate. These meetings will inform the EDI Committee as it considers additional proposals for action.
I want to thank everyone for their participation in this important set of projects, and I recognize that progress on these proposals will not end our collective work or our introspection. It is also not lost on me that the burden of responding to these issues often falls disproportionately on our students of color, and sometimes forces a painful dilemma between devoting time and energy to academic work versus laboring to ensure a sense of belonging in an institution. And engaging with these issues and incidents during this pandemic only further highlights this challenging dynamic, especially given that the health and the economic effects of crisis are not distributed equally. We see both within our own community and well beyond it how this crisis has especially pervasive costs to communities of color and indigenous communities, as well as to those who may be undocumented, disabled, low-income, or facing other health and economic disparities.
UCLA Law has rightly earned a reputation as a place where people from all backgrounds can thrive. Over the past 70 years, this school has built our community by affirming our values and by attracting exceptional and talented individuals from an enormous range of backgrounds to work and learn here. But we also build community by holding ourselves accountable whenever we fall short of those values. I am enormously proud of this institution, and I deeply believe in both our present and our future. As I talk to many of you about what you love about UCLA Law – and about what you find frustrating – I am heartened by your commitment to our school, by your appreciation for what we do well, and by your desire to make us better tomorrow than we are today. I hope – and I believe – that these initiatives are a meaningful step to do exactly that.
Dean and Ralph and Shirley Shapiro Professor of Law