Racism at UCLA: Prop 209,The Black Bruins Video, and the Moreno Report

What’s happening at UCLA?

White racial ethnocentrism from 1995-1996 is causing racism at UCLA in 2014.   In 1995, the conservative U.C. Board of Regents passed SP-1 and SP-2, ending affirmative in the U.C. system.   One year later, the voters of California followed suit, passing Proposition 209 which banned the consideration of race or gender in university admissions, employment, and government contracting across the state.  The result has been an unacceptable decline in African American and Latina/o enrollment at UCLA and the creation of a hostile racial climate for students and faculty of color. 

This hostile racial climate led African American law students to release a stirring video several weeks ago called, “33.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y3C5KBcCPI)

In the video, students shared their experience of being Black at a mostly white law school: “I am so tired of being on this campus everyday and having to plead my humanity, essentially, to other students. I feel like an outsider constantly. I don’t feel like at my own school I can solely focus on being a student.”

"It feels isolating. It feels horrible. It feels like there is a lot of pressure, a lot of weight. It feels like I don't belong. It feels unwelcoming and hostile,” another woman shared.  (For more details on this video, see this recent HuffPost article:


After “33” was released, Black law student Alexis Gardner received an anonymous note in her student mailbox which read:  “Stop being a sensitive N___.”

Earlier this year, African American undergrads expressed similar distress at the hideously low representation of Black students at UCLA.   Black men represent only 3.3% of the total male population on campus.  75 black males enrolled as freshmen last fall—a number that is less than the total number of NCAA championships that UCLA has won.   A brave group of African American men issued a sincere and passionate plea for greater diversity as part of the “Black Bruins” video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEO3H5BOlFk

Racism is not just something experience by students at UCLAAs reflected by the recent Moreno Report, faculty of color also endure significant racism on the campus.   Chancellor Gene Block commissioned the Moreno Report in order to investigate claims of racism experienced by faculty of color (For the full text of the report, see: http://www.ucop.edu/moreno-report/external-review-team-report-10-15-13.pdf).

Here are several disturbing selections from the report which was released on October 15, 2013:

“Two members of Department A described it as becoming polarized along gender and racial lines during the 2000’s. They alleged that a group of senior Caucasian male professors began to systematically discriminate against the minority and female faculty members in the department.  Such treatment ranged from junior faculty members of color being told that they would not make tenure, to the department’s failure to make efforts to retain tenured faculty members of color who had received offers of employment from other universities, to discriminatory remarks leveled at minority faculty members such as ‘I thought Asian women were supposed to be submissive.’  Many of these minority junior faculty members later left the university” (Moreno Report, 13).

“Two other UCLA faculty members described egregious incidents of racism. The first involved a Latino faculty member in the health sciences. In 2008, soon after the professor was hired as a fully tenured faculty member at UCLA, a “senior faculty member” in the professor’s department, upon seeing him for the first time in the hallway, asked loudly in front of a group of students, ‘What is that fucking spic doing here?’  Upset, the professor went to his assistant dean, who expressed sympathy but advised him that going to the dean of the school would only cause more trouble.  The assistant dean promised that he would talk to the senior faculty member. The professor is not sure whether the assistant dean ever did so.  The professor stated that he still feels threatened by the faculty member, who is still at UCLA, and that he believes that the man left a screwdriver in the Latino professor’s faculty mailbox in 2010.

The second incident involved an untenured professor at UCLA.  Several years ago, she received an anonymous communication that criticized her work in vitriolic terms, attacked her for focusing on race-related issues, and contained racist statements regarding African-Americans.  The professor told us that she contacted the UCLA Police Department but was told that there was nothing that could be done at that point in time.  The professor informed her faculty colleagues of the incident, but knows of no official action taken by her department or the university, such as further investigation of the incident” (Moreno Report, 14).

In response to the disturbing findings of the Moreno Report, Chancellor Gene Block sent an email out to the UCLA community this week which decrying the lack of racial diversity at UCLA and the hostile racial climate produced by Proposition 209. I’m so proud of Chancellor Block for taking a clear and unequivocal stance against Proposition 209 and its devastating effects.  In his words:

“Nearly two decades have passed since Californians voted to end affirmative action in admission to public colleges and universities. Today it is clear that we have suffered for it.  With each passing year, campuses all across our state — and, increasingly, as copycat laws are passed, the nation — fail to accurately reflect the growing diversity in our communities. Too often, many of our students of color feel isolated, as strangers in their own house. Others feel targeted, mocked or marginalized, rather than recognized and valued.

At UCLA, our students are bold, confident and among the sharpest anywhere. We are proud when they convey their thoughts, experiences and feelings — as they have done recently in several now-viral videos and by organizing town halls and rallies.

Anyone still unconvinced by the true impact of Proposition 209 need only listen to our students’ powerful first-hand accounts. Their words, of course, are much bigger than UCLA — and it’s not surprising that they have found a national audience. We need only to look at the remarkable and numerous accomplishments of alumni from now-underrepresented groups who attended UCLA before Proposition 209 to fully recognize the disservice we do to California and our nation when other talented and deserving students are absent from our Bruin family.”

Órale Chancellor Block. 

In further response, Chancellor Block has called for an undergraduate diversity requirement to be created at UCLA by the end of 2014.  Sadly, UCLA is the only U.C. campus which does not have a diversity requirement.  Conservative UCLA faculty have voted down the requirement every time it has come up for a vote in recent years.  (http://dailybruin.com/2014/02/25/chancellor-calls-for-diversity-related-ge-by-end-of-2014/).


Because of Proposition 209 and its various copycat versions throughout the nation, thousands of Black and Latina/o youth are being denied equitable access to UCLA, U.C. Berkeley, and the other premiere public universities.  Those few who do make it in are being subject to a hostile racial climate.  This is biblical injustice.   As a follower of Jesus, I have to call it out. 

I wonder what Jesus would think about this?  More on that later…

Robert Chao Romero