UCLA commercial lacks diversity: Oversight or Intentional

A few months ago, I saw a commercial on television during a UCLA football game promoting UCLA — my alma mater — and it made me think about my experience and the changes I have witnessed first hand over the 16 years I was a part of that institution. (Click here to see the commercial) Since graduating from high school, UCLA has been my second home. It is at the Westwood campus that I spent most of my adult life. In those 16 years of study (I received both my bachelor and master of fine arts degrees), diversity at UCLA has slowly begun to diminish. Since the passage of Proposition 209 — a law that banned affirmative action practices in education and employment — the number Latino, African American, and Native American applicants and admits has diminished in numbers. The increase in tuition stemming from the California budgety crisis has done little to alleviate the problem of enrollment.

In 2009, of the 12,098 students admitted into UCLA, 1,675 were Latino (14.6%), 407 African American (3.5%) and only 55 students claimed to be Native American (.5%). Those numbers pale in comparison to the combined 74.8% of admitted White and Asian students. According to UCLA, 10,654 Latinos, 2,753 African Americans an 317 Native Americans applied to the Westwood Campus, compared to the combined 35,563 White and Asian applicants.

And so, with only 15.7% of Latinos, 14.7% of African Americans, and 17.3% of Native Americans that applied who were admitted (26.7% of Asians and 21.3% of Whites were accepted), and with the number of applicants continuing to dwindle, why has UCLA gone out and produced a video that showcases just 3 faculty of color, and all of them in the humanities? What message is the university trying to send to the general public, especially parents of students of color? Our faculty is as diverse as our student body? Of the estimated 1,682 ladder faculty at UCLA, only 151 or 8.9% of them are minority. Surely there must have been more faculty of color to showcase, especially in the sciences. Was there not one faculty member in Math, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Physics or Psychology that they could have interviewed? And how about women? Were all 49 of them too busy with work to sit down and have a brief conversation about the UCLA experience? Or could it be that maybe, just maybe, none of the faculty of color wanted to participate because they really had nothing positive to say about UCLA, especially because of the direction that it’s headed?

What I saw that day was a commercial that cared more about reflecting one image of the university instead of balancing between what is truly there and the hope of what UCLA could be, thus encouraging more students to apply so that a larger pool of candidates could help bring the number of admits up. I don’t know what the future for UCLA holds. I’m not even sure if it will ever recoup the numbers it had when I was admitted a while back. One thing I do know is that if UCLA is ever going to regain its title as one of the most diverse public universities in the nation, then a greater recruitment effort must be made to ensure that its student population and faculty do not start to look the same. Should that day arrive, I suspect that many of us who have proudly called ourselves Bruins will experience some form of shame, not just because the school lost its luster, but because it was losing it when we were students and did nothing to stop it from happening.

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