Commitment to Take Action – A Letter to the UC Hastings Community

Dear UC Hastings Community,

On May 31, I wrote to you to share my outrage and anguish over the horrific killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and to express my hope that this traumatic moment might yet bring us together as a school community—united by our values, aspirations, and responsibilities as guardians of the law. Since then, I have taken to heart the reactions of members of our community, including both positive feedback and constructive criticism of what I said or did not say.

I write today to state unequivocally that I stand with the Black community at UC Hastings and with all Black Americans who have witnessed and suffered the marginalization, violence, and unbearable killings of their community members.

Many in our community and beyond are hurting; people are exhausted. This is especially true among members of our Black community, and I am sorry that you have had to summon the energy to make your needs known at UC Hastings. I want you to know that I hear you, that I am listening, and that I am taking action to make UC Hastings a leader in the anti-racism and anti-bias movement.

Although founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, the legacy of higher education in America has been one of systemic and pervasive discrimination. Universities and colleges reflected and aggravated the prejudice that has imbued society throughout our history as a nation. UC Hastings did not escape that history. Founded in 1878 by a Chief Justice who contributed to, and profited by, the genocide of Native Americans, UC Hastings has too often been a product of its historical times. Women were not admitted to our school when it first opened. The great Clara Foltz sued the school and, prevailing in the California Supreme Court, opened our doors to women students the very next year in 1879. Yet, women still constituted a tiny proportion of our classes until the 1980s. Many other groups similarly suffered discrimination in higher education, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Most telling, people of color are almost wholly absent from UC Hastings photos of students and faculty for a large proportion of the twentieth century.

We are at an inflection point in American society and higher education generally, and law schools in particular, must meet—indeed they must lead—at this moment. With profound sadness, however, we have reached this point because of the tragic killings of innocent Black Americans; because of the explicit and implicit biases that result in economic, health, and employment disparities inflicted on Black Americans; and because of a police and criminal justice system that has failed us all, and has systematically victimized people of color by normalizing mass incarceration.

The streets today overflow with people of all backgrounds and identities demanding justice, demands that can largely be met only with systemic legal reforms and systemic institutional reforms.

This painful historical moment thus presents me and the College as a whole with an opportunity to acknowledge our blind spots, to examine our biases, and to take deliberate and concrete action to align our actions with our values. Over the past week, many of us across the school have engaged in important conversations about how we can build on existing work to become an antiracist community. I particularly want to thank Loren Hampton and Marcus Kennedy-Grimes from the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Maddie Miller and Kameelah Sims-Traylor from ASUCH, the student leaders of the Rainbow Coalition, and Professors Alina Ball and Shauna Marshall from the Center for Racial and Economic Justice (CREJ) for sharing their views and recommendations with me, as well as other senior administrators and the Board of Directors. I know there are also important conversations happening among the faculty and across multiple departments, including the Academic Dean’s office, Student Services, Communications, Advancement, Enrollment, LEOP, and Operations. I am deeply grateful for the good-faith engagement occurring in every corner of the UC Hastings community.

Through these discussions, a preliminary action agenda has emerged. Below is a summary of the initiatives I will be prioritizing over the next several months. Some are new while others build on existing efforts. I commit to taking action on all.

  • Support for the Center for Racial and Economic Justice (CREJ) – Professors Alina Ball and Shauna Marshall established CREJ last fall, to, among other things, bring racial justice issues into traditional doctrinal classes and to build a richer intellectual life on campus focused on such issues. One key initiative is already under way, bringing in visiting scholars and professors to focus on racial justice issues. An alumni fundraising campaign to support center programming kicked off this week.
  • Regular meetings between the Chancellor & Dean and student leadership – My office is partnering with BLSA leadership to ensure an ongoing dialogue as we work to achieve mutual goals for change, many of which are reflected in this list. Also, my Chief of Staff Jenny Kwon and I will be meeting regularly with ASUCH President Maddie Miller and Vice President Kameelah Sims-Traylor to ensure that we are hearing the perspectives of our students on a regular basis.
  • Efforts to increase enrollment of Black students – Senior Assistant Dean of Enrollment Management June Sakamoto, Director of Admissions Bryan Zerbe, and, most especially, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives Mario Lopez have been committed over the past several years to increasing the racial diversity of our student community, particularly in partnership with student leaders of affinity-based student organizations. While overall diversity in our student community has increased, Black representation is far below where we want it to be. Dean Sakamoto, Director Zerbe, and Associate Director Lopez will continue to explore new strategies for increased recruitment of Black students, looking for creative ways to work within the constraints of California constitutional provision “Proposition 209.” At the same time, we are continuing to recruit aggressively for our California Scholars Program, which provides generous State-funded scholarships to Californians who attended a historically black college or university (HBCU) anywhere in the country. Also, I will continue to meet with the HBCU presidents to expand on this program where possible and am actively applying for funding to do so.
  • Student Services support – In January 2020, UC Hastings hired Lauren Lofton, our first Associate Director for Student Life & Inclusion. Over these past months, Lauren has been engaging with students and affinity-based student organizations to understand their needs and leading efforts to ensure that every one of our students feels a sense of belonging at UC Hastings. One of Lauren’s priorities is to expand student training related to bias (more on that below).
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training for students, faculty, staff – Thanks to ongoing efforts of Student Services and, in particular, Associate Director Lofton, we will begin requiring diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all entering students at orientation, as well as for all continuing students in the fall. Students who fail to complete this training will not be able to enroll in spring semester courses. Academic Dean Morris Ratner is working on a parallel path to require similar training to all faculty members this fall. Anti-bias training will also be required of all staff. Further, the Law Library is adding more anti-racism and cultural-competency literature to our collection.
  • Reviewing and adjusting curriculum to address racism – I am collaborating with Academic Dean Morris Ratner, the Faculty Executive Committee, CREJ, and other faculty to identify ways to include issues of race and racism in our curriculum broadly and consistently, both across disciplines and in individual courses focused on specific important topics related to the law. CREJ has already started working with faculty teaching 1L subjects and I will help accelerate these efforts.
  • Police presence and accountability of campus security – As we work to ensure the security and safety of our campus, I have heard, loud and clear, the concerns of many students, particularly Black and Latinx community members, about racial bias exhibited by security personnel. I will not tolerate the racial profiling that exists across the nation to go unchecked at UC Hastings. No student, staff, faculty member, or visitor should feel targeted on our campus because of the color of their skin. Executive Director of Operations Rhiannon Bailard is working with UCSF to assess the anti-bias and de-escalation training received by our current UCSF PD security and police officers and to determine what more is needed to root out implicit bias and prejudices in our security program to ensure that, going forward, every guard and officer who works here treats every member of our internal and external community with equal dignity and respect. If you have a specific incident to share, please reach out to Director Bailard at bailardrhiannon@uchastings.edu. We will investigate every reported incident immediately. Also, we are exploring the possibility of creating an advisory board on police accountability comprised of students, staff, and faculty, similar to those at other campuses. I look forward to hearing from a group of faculty next week who have indicated interest in this initiative.
  • Reporting mechanism for bias incidents – Under the direction of Dean of Students Grace Hum and Director of Student Services Emily Haan, Associate Director Lauren Lofton has been exploring the best mechanism for reporting incidents of apparent bias impacting students. (Please note that our Student Complaints and Grievances procedures currently provide a process for students to bring complaints if they have experienced discriminatory conduct on the basis of race or other factors at UC Hastings.) Similar mechanisms are being developed for staff and faculty. Before implementing, I will ensure that there is a clear and timely process for responding to any submissions. In the meantime, students and other community members should continue to use our general comment boxes for reporting all concerns, located here.
  • Signaling support of our Black community through space designations – BLSA leadership has expressed an interest in seeing spaces on campus that reflect a commitment to Black lives. Suggestions included designating space for a cultural center (already in discussion), naming a classroom in honor of a prominent Black person, and creating a collaborative space for CREJ. A couple of these ideas requires us to find physical space, which is especially tight right now, with 198 McAllister out of commission. That said, I like these ideas and will be exploring options for all of them.
  • Resources for LEOP – Although not all of our Black students are LEOP students and not all LEOP students are Black, LEOP under the leadership of Director Elizabeth McGriff has a vital role to play in addressing many of the racial equity issues we are grappling with. Given decreases in state funding necessitated by the State’s current fiscal situation, we made the tough decision to cut 10% from all non-salary operational budgets. But I am exempting LEOP from these cuts. And I am eager to build on LEOP’s 50th anniversary celebration last year to engage our alumni in facilitating the tremendously valuable support they can offer to our students and the College. Going forward, I will be meeting regularly with Director McGriff, both in her capacity as LEOP Director and as our campus Equity & Inclusion Advisor.
  • Optimizing the alumni network – BLSA leadership expressed an interest in accessing alumni who can support them and other students of color, possibly through affinity-based alumni chapters. This is an idea that Director of Alumni Engagement & Culture Meredith Jaggard raised earlier this year with 2019-2020 ASUCH President Myell Mergaert and others. Now, she and Chief Development Officer Eric Dumbleton are working with BLSA leadership to turn the idea into reality this academic year.
  • Assessing faculty recruitment – UC Hastings should have a more diverse faculty, especially in the 1L curriculum. Because of the pandemic, we are entering a particularly challenging budget year—one in which we expect very little faculty hiring. That said, we will ensure an inclusive hiring process for any faculty positions we can fill. Academic Dean Morris Ratner has charged the Faculty Appointments Committee to conduct a meticulous analysis of our recruitment procedures to assess whether we are on point with best practices for recruiting and hiring racially diverse candidates into all practice areas.
  • Reviewing staff hiring practices – HR Director Andrew Scott will be reviewing staff hiring practices and protocols in collaboration with hiring managers to ensure that included among our process are best practices for attracting the most diverse candidate pools.
  • Creating paid opportunities for students supporting our efforts – It is evident to me that we have incredible student leaders who are already engaged in diversity efforts at UC Hastings. I plan to hire student consultants to help with this effort, who will be compensated for their time. If you are interested, please look out for job posts on MyHastings.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – In all of these matters, I will continue to be guided by the community as a whole as well as those people specially charged with focusing on DEI issues, including the College’s Equity & Inclusion Advisor, Elizabeth McGriff,  Associate Director of Student Life & Inclusion Lauren Lofton, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives Mario Lopez, and other members of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group.

I have asked my Chief of Staff, Jenny Kwon, and the rest of the College’s leadership team, to partner with me to ensure that we implement this agenda with urgency. We intend to offer campus updates on all of the above. Do not hesitate to reach out to Jenny (kwonjenny@uchastings.edu) or me with questions, concerns and ideas.

In my 34 years at UC Hastings, we have had many people of color in leadership positions, including as Chancellor & Dean and Academic Dean. While I am tremendously grateful for the talents and dedication of our current senior leaders, they are predominantly white. I have discussed at length with this team actions that we should take as a group in addition to pushing forward on all the initiatives cited above. I am committed to read from a recommended list of works on relevant topics and will be inviting all senior leaders to do the same. I plan to schedule facilitated discussions with senior leadership to help each of us hold ourselves accountable to doing the work of educating ourselves on these and related matters. And as hiring opportunities arise, I commit to ensuring a recruitment and hiring strategy that maximizes the diversity of the candidate pool.

I can also share that every member of our Board of Directors is committed to these efforts. They also recognize that the Board, itself, needs more racial diversity. Indeed, some of our directors, along with senior UC Hastings administrators, have made clear to Sacramento our belief that the Board needs diverse representation—particularly from the Black community. With three open seats, we are eager to see new appointments that reflect the diversity we know is needed.

I am proud of UC Hastings for countless reasons. But we must do more to live up to our values and our mission of justice and public service. I look forward to engaging with the community further. Please do not hesitate to respond to this message with your thoughts.

Best regards,
David

David L. Faigman
Chancellor and Dean
John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California Hastings College of the Law