UCSF Advances Focus on Diversity, Inclusion

By Kristen Bole

The UCSF Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion launched July 22 with a team of 30 campus leaders committed to ensuring that UCSF becomes a better place to work, study and teach.

In launching the committee, UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, PhD, gave a nod to the strong commitment to diversity she had inherited as chancellor, as well as the “passion” for it that exists at UCSF, and called upon the group to aim for even higher standards.

“We are the melting pot that is San Francisco and is the world, but above and beyond that, I don’t think we are perfect,” Desmond-Hellmann said. “We can always do a better job at managing diversity.”

The council is one of 10 such committees initiated system-wide by UC President Mark G. Yudof in response to the student incidents of intolerance that occurred on three UC campuses early this year. Yudof called upon each campus to create a committee chaired by the chancellor to ensure that each campus has a place and room for dialogue, as well as oversight on inclusion that will prevent such events from recurring.

During the first meeting, Desmond-Hellmann recalled the sentiment at the Board of Regents meeting this spring, when students from those campuses gave testimony on what it felt like to be a student of color at UC.

“I think there was no one in the room who didn’t ask ourselves, ‘What’s it like at our campus?’,” she said.

Desmond-Hellmann emphasized that this initiative goes beyond traditional definitions of diversity and ethnic ratios to truly focus on inclusion and equity, as well as on creating an environment in which everyone can thrive.

Among the immediate actions Desmond-Hellmann will take is to recruit a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach at UCSF, to oversee such issues on the campus. That position was based on the recommendation of a report this summer by the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Academic Diversity led by Bobby Baron, MD, associate dean for graduate and continuing medical education. The committee also is addressing a request by UCSF students for a diversity center in which they can meet.

UCSF has several diversity committees reporting directly to the chancellor, including one that serves as a national model for medical schools in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender programs. Yet because those advisory groups formed independently over many years, Desmond-Hellmann urged the committee to assess where the various efforts overlap or are redundant and what gaps need to be filled.

The UCSF group includes faculty, staff, students, postdoctoral scholars and leaders across every school on campus and the UCSF Medical Center.  One of the student members is the newest Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles, Jr. The council is charged with providing ongoing evaluation of campus climate conditions, practices and policies; suggesting measures that will support the goals of inclusion and community, especially those reflecting promising practices from elsewhere in UC and the nation; coordinating its analyses, recommendations and other work with related efforts of any entities created by faculty, staff, students, postdoctoral scholars or neighboring communities; fulfilling other campus-specific responsibilities as identified by the Chancellor; and responding to queries and suggestions from the President’s Council, which reports to UC President Yudof.

The UCSF council is chaired by Desmond-Hellmann and with Baron and UCSF Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, as co-chairs. UCSF Vice Provost of Student Academic Affairs and Special Assistant to the Chancellor Joseph Castro, who is also a member of the committee, represents UCSF on the system-wide council. To see the full list of council members, visit the chancellor’s website.

Castro said the UC council will monitor the efforts on each campus and plans to create metrics during its October meeting for assessing progress at each campus. That council also will identify successful practices to share system-wide.

The UCSF council will meet monthly and will issue a report twice a year to UC President Yudof. A final public report of activities at all ten UC campuses will be presented to the Board of Regents in June 2013.

Desmond-Hellmann emphasized that this committee is not a substitute for federal affirmative action or equal opportunity compliance at any campus, but goes beyond those to provide the overall vision and strategy to create and nurture a campus climate that is welcoming, regardless of where someone is from and who they are.

“I don’t want this to be a box-ticking exercise,” she said, urging the council to use this forum to make its aspirations a reality. “What would we like to say about our campus in 2013?”

Related Links

UCSF Advisory Council