Anna Spain Bradley, the new vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), joined UCLA in September 2020 — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a work-from-home mandate and a contentious political climate. She brings a global perspective from her experience as a human rights advocate to her role at UCLA. “I am here to encourage ways in which our community can be our best going forward. We can start by better understanding our diverse identities and deepening our commitment to valuing one another.” She continues, “This is difficult work, but it is vital if we are to create authentic community.”
Spain Bradley was previously at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she was a professor of law and assistant vice provost for faculty development and diversity. From 2007-2009, she held the position of deputy director in the Burkle Center for International Relations, and as a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law. She has served as an attorney-adviser in the U.S. State Department and as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations, where she continues to advise on racial discrimination. She is the author of the books “Global Racism” (forthcoming on Oxford University Press), and “Human Choice in International Law” (March, 2021 on Cambridge University Press) as well as numerous scholarly articles.
At UCLA, Spain Bradley leads the work of building a campus environment based on the university’s core values of equity, diversity and inclusion. She includes a fourth value as well, “Dignity, which is the principle that we all have inherent value because we are human.” UCLA is one of the world’s most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses, with students from all 50 states, mostly from California, and over 100 countries. More than half of undergraduates receive some financial assistance, and one third receive Pell Grants. She says, “UCLA has global diversity, it is a microcosm of the world. When you have that, you have the opportunity to do deeper and increasingly complex work around creating inclusion and belonging.”
The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was created in 2015 in response to a report which found UCLA’s policies for addressing discrimination inadequate. Inaugural Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang, who served for five years, recently returned to teach at the UCLA School of Law. EDI contains several teams that work together including the newly-branded Civil Rights Office, which investigates possible policy violations of discrimination and harassment against faculty and staff, and the Bruin X Office, dedicated to research-informed solutions.
Recent policy decisions at federal, state and local levels run counter to UCLA’s mandate of inclusion, and impact the work of creating a more equitable community. These include revisions to Title IX which protects people from discrimination based on sex; changes to immigration policy impacting international students; and plans to cancel, and now reinstate, DACA protections which leave many undocumented students vulnerable.
Several policy changes occurred prior to her tenure at UCLA. Spain Bradley and Mohammed Cato co-authored a response to the Title IX changes stating that UCLA will continue to ensure that people are safe on campus. She spoke in more detail in an interview with the Daily Bruin telling them, “We are absolutely committed to standing up for our Title IX protections and continuing to do so as we have for all in our UCLA community.” In our interview, which followed the November 2020 election, she said, “Every university has to comply with federal law. We’re eager to see what the future holds with possible changes to these policies.”
Last November, California voters rejected Proposition 16, upholding California’s Prop 209, which bans the consideration of race, ethnicity and gender in admissions across public higher education. The University of California Regents had endorsed the measure. Since Prop. 209 was enacted nearly 25 years ago, UCLA has seen a sharp decline in the enrollment of students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The student body still does not reflect the diversity of California’s population.
On the defeat of Proposition 16, EDI released a statement from UC Regents Chair John A. Pérez, “We will not accept inequality on our campuses and will continue addressing the inescapable effects of racial and gender inequity.” Spain Bradley affirms, “UCLA remains committed to our core values. It is incredibly valuable to have diversity in all its forms on our campus, and it is why people are attracted to, and thrive at, UCLA.”
Larger societal issues also shape campus community — the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, the college admissions scandal and the ways in which the pandemic has highlighted societal inequities. Together with the EDI team, Spain Bradley is listening to students, staff and faculty to understand their priorities. Key among these voices are the dedicated students who serve on the student advisory board for the EDI Office. “Students want to know that they are being seen and respected for who they are.”
She has also been meeting virtually with community partners, both inside and outside of UCLA, to help understand the challenges and opportunities of these relationships, and to share resources. She received an enthusiastic response from alumni, “One surprise of returning to UCLA is how eager alumni have been to reengage and be involved. It speaks to the fact that people have incredible love and commitment to the University and to all it can achieve.”
UCLA’s diverse community is home to differing points of view, however, Spain Bradley says, these discussions require an important ground rule, “entering dialogue with a commitment to our common humanity.” For Spain Bradley, this requires “acknowledging that achieving equity, diversity and inclusion require addressing the barriers that prevent those goals, such as homophobia, sexism and all forms of discrimination.”
Overcoming avoidance is key. She has found that fear can be a powerful inhibitor to progress, “Fear changes what we think by changing how we think.” She continues, “If we avoid hard conversations or difficult decisions because of fear, we are not living up to our potential.”
The pandemic has had a negative impact on UCLA’s budget, a nearly $725 million deficit according to Chancellor Block. Tighter resources mean that the EDI office is consolidating, collaborating and using what Spain Bradley calls “a people-centric approach.” She says, “I’m working closely with my team to think about ways we can improve what we do. We are determining how we can best use our resources to advance in ways that offer the biggest impact and create the most good.”
UCLA has a history of protest and activism towards creating a world with more equity and equality. Spain Bradley says, “There’s no better university than UCLA, it’s a leader in this space.” During this time when people seem to be increasingly polarized at UCLA and around the world, EDI will engage with the UCLA community, but she says this must be done with care. “What makes a community? People do, people matter. When we think about that community – do you know them, do you see them, do you understand their values? If you get people together who are willing to try the hard things, there’s nothing we can’t do.”