Dear Herb Alpert School of Music Community,
Over the past several weeks, I have received numerous letters expressing concern surrounding UCLA’s association with police including the LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium to detain protesters and process arrests. I am grateful for your valuable feedback and stand in support of your requests that our campus take immediate action including closely examining UCLA’s relationship with local law enforcement and UCPD’s practices and policies.
We must also use this time to take a critical look at every aspect of our school. We must rethink and bring forth change to our professions and to our society.
During this time, I have thought deeply and intentionally about how the School of Music can do better. Anti-racism, equity, diversity, inclusion and access must be at the forefront of our actions and central to realizing our mission.
I began by simply listening. In addition to the thoughtful responses I received from faculty, students and staff, I participated in a student community forum on June 5 with our African American students and a subsequent student conversation on June 17. I heard clear expressions of frustration and urgent calls for action – sentiments that echoed across our dean’s cabinet meetings and in letters addressed to me and to campus leadership.
This work is urgent and important. It will take time. However, we must get started and we need to do so now. Although mistakes will be made along the way, we are committed to taking responsibility and corrective action.
Together, I hope to establish a shared understanding of problems to be solved within our school and strategies to address them. Leading this work in partnership with me will be our new Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Arturo O’Farrill, a passionate advocate for equity and diversity in our society and within music. With his assistance, I hope we will work together to build a school community that promotes access and representation across its teaching and learning.
Our shared work begins by assembling an Anti-Racism Action Committee for the Herb Alpert School of Music that will critically examine our practices and offer a concrete plan of action to be delivered before classes and public programs resume this fall. This committee will include a diverse cross section of voices representative of our school community, including students, faculty and staff. Co-chairing the committee will be Arturo O’Farrill, graduate student Chloe Swindler, and Donor Relations Manager Eshon Allen. The Committee invites all who are interested in serving to contact Danielle Rosales.
The work of this committee will be embedded in our long-term strategic plan, an initial draft of which will be submitted to campus leadership in October. The group will meet throughout the summer and will share regular updates with all of us. Each of us has a role to play in this work. I urge you to continue sharing feedback and ideas, or volunteering to join in this committee’s important efforts.
To guide discussions and work in the days, weeks and months ahead, I am sharing several questions for our consideration. These reflect many of the core issues that resonated in your letters, our town halls and in the words so many of you have spoken to me personally:
How might we best access, cultivate and maintain a school climate in which every member of our community feels safe, protected, and valued as a way of actively embodying our mission, vision and core values? Does our climate feature an inclusive infrastructure with processes that assures historically underrepresented students, faculty and staff can safely share concerns with respect and openness? What would need to change in order to facilitate this?
How do we best educate our entire school community? In order to be stewards of change, we must educate ourselves on implicit bias, prejudice and discrimination, structural racism, white supremacy and cultural sustainability while upholding our individual and collective responsibility to be responsive, inclusive, understanding of differences and self-aware about our own power, assumptions and privileges.
How do we recruit, hire, support and retain a more diverse faculty, staff and student community? There is much work to be done to ensure that our community is representative and inclusive of gender, race and ethnicity. How might we improve how we attract and hire BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) candidates for faculty and staff positions, as well as how we attract and support BIPOC students?
Options may include:
- Transfer student scholarships and transfer plans intentionally designed to help us increase our percentage of first generation, low income, students from traditionally underrepresented communities.
- Our new agreement with LACC combined with this funding investment, has allowed us to increase this year’s percentage of transfer students by 21%, double the number of African American transfer students and increase the percentage of low-income transfer students by 38%. This is just a start, but how might we expand these efforts and partnerships?
How might we best offer increased financial support for historically underrepresented students, especially our African American students?
Options may include:
- Emergency funds dedicated to the support of our Bruins of Color.
- Scholarship funds that allocate a sizable portion of gift funds to support our Black Bruins.
- Continued support of dedicated scholarship funds that assist our transfer students, students from historically-underrepresented communities, first-generation students and/or low-income students.
As we move forward, I encourage you to access resources available to you should you have concerns or witness acts of discrimination amongst our community or on campus. Staff, students and faculty may reach out confidentially to the school’s ombudsman, Associate Dean Arturo O’Farrill. Any member of our community may also reach out to UCLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to report an incident or contact WeListen@equity.ucla.edu or (310) 825-3935.
The Herb Alpert School of Music unequivocally affirms that Black Lives Matter and will listen to, advocate for, protest alongside and uplift BIPOC voices.
With Respect & Appreciation,
Eileen L. Strempel