With the Inaugural Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in place since 2015, UCLA is vigorously entering a new era in the area of Diversity, and the Division of Humanities is ideally positioned to play a leading role. Humanities proudly stands on a longstanding tradition of intense intellectual inquiry, with a pronounced preference for question marks and a talent for dismantling fallacies, no matter how entrenched. Humanists are skeptics. Doubts arise for us whenever we see “truths” too pristine or resounding. If we were painters (and some of us are), we might paint in the intricate, overcrowded style of Hieronymous Bosch or with a simplicity full of implied questions and critiques. Humanists don’t believe in self-evident realities or transparent truths. As one of my sons said to me the other day, “Humanists don’t solve problems; they find them.” Our ability to engage problems—in other words, to see into reality and the challenges it poses—is severely compromised when we cling to simplistic or monolithic approaches.
Diversity, on the other hand, is not only indispensable to humanistic inquiry and the basis of its critical multi-perspectivism: it is also the reality of our country, and specifically of the State of California, whose population UCLA serves as one of its public institutions. In her recently published book, Manifesto for the Humanities. Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times (2016), Sidonie Smith points to “the notable decrease in the percentage of students from undeserved communities who access higher education” (8), and alerts us to the fact that “this sobering decrease […] occurs as major shifts in demographics of the U.S. population point to a time in the near future (projected at 2044) when the United States will become a majority-minority nation (with less than 50% of the population designated as non-Hispanic whites).” In fact, California is already a majority-minority State: the population figures published by the Census Bureau in 2014 show that “as of July 1, 2014, about 14.99 million Latinos live in California, edging out the 14.92 million whites in the state” (http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-census-latinos-20150708-story.html).
Diversity, again, is not only the reality of our state and country; it is also the core value that sustains the modus operandi of the Humanities. Thus with the collaboration of the newly created Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and the divisional Faculty Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion that I chair, our Division has vigorously undertaken a number of initiatives, such as (a) increasing diversity throughout the professorial ranks and the administrative cadre; (b) improving the retention-rate of diverse faculty; (c) carefully and routinely assessing and remedying salary disparities; and (d) strengthening the mentorship system for assistant professors, associate professors, and graduate students, in coordination with the new Office for Faculty Development.
Two additional initiatives deserve further attention. The Division was recently awarded a $5,000,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for EPIC (Excellence in Pedagogy and Innovative Classrooms—2016-2021). Under the leadership of Dean David Schaberg as principal investigator, with myself and Professor Kathleen Komar, acting director of the Office of Instructional Development, as project leaders, the EPIC Initiative will research and implement inclusive class room pedagogies throughout the division, and enhance the Humanities Transfer Pipeline Program (TAP) with Santa Monica College (SMC) to increase diversity among our undergraduate student population.
Finally, the Division is officially initiating an ongoing conversation on diversity, race, and immigration and inviting a series of distinguished speakers to campus. “President of Swarthmore College and former faculty member of the Department of English at UCLA, Professor Valerie Smith, recently gave a lecture as the inaugural speaker of The Humanities Forum on Diversity, Race and Immigration.
Associate Dean, Diversity and Inclusion
Professor, Spanish and Portuguese and Germanic Languages