During our last Dismantling Systemic Racism town hall meeting on July 21st, we described the working group process for supporting the campus grassroots effort to tackle systemic racism and factors that contribute to an anti-Black culture on our UCI campus.

On August 24th, Vice Chancellor Haynes announced the launch of the Black Thriving Initiative (BTI), which recognizes and responds to anti-Blackness as an existential threat to our mission. The Initiative is an excellent launching pad for our efforts and demonstrates a substantial commitment to our goals in ending systemic racism on campus. The grassroots effort will leverage this commitment and, where feasible, use the initiative as a framework for our strategic planning. 

I am very pleased to see that Vice Chancellor Haynes and Chancellor Gillman have both been vocally supportive of our efforts to tackle anti-Blackness on campus. During our last town hall on July 21, Vice Chancellor Haynes addressed our community and committed to investing in the outcome of the grassroots process. Similarly, Chancellor Gillman, in his message to the campus on August 6th on public safety, also acknowledged our “End Racism” initiative as an example of how UCI is answering the call to support the African American Community, which he shared in his initial message on May 31st. We are clearly all in this together.

I am delighted to report that after extensive discussions, the working group topics and guiding questions have evolved to form a clear framework for making progress. The working groups and their guiding questions (not exhaustive) are listed below. Individuals who volunteered to participate in the process will be emailed their group assignments shortly.  I look forward to working with the community in the coming months to advance the goals of the initiative and provide support to working group leaders and members.

Feedback on this process of course is always welcome. Please feel free to email me at


In solidarity,

Michael A. Yassa, Ph.D.
Director, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory


Working Group Descriptions

Group 1: Representation: Recruitment of Black faculty 

  • Why are Black faculty underrepresented at UCI? 
  • What policies and practices inhibit the representation of Black faculty at UCI?
  • How can we leverage programs or initiatives (e.g., President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program) to increase the number of Black faculty?
  • How can we better recruit Black Americans (and other URMs) to join our faculty?
  • How can we better advertise our FTE searches to be more attractive to Black scholars? How can we write better job ads to this end?
  • How can we improve the search process to support our recruitment goals? Do search committees and units undervalue contributions to diversity when searching and hiring? 
  • How can we train search committees to avoid implicit bias and use holistic assessment to generate more inclusive short lists?

Group 2: Representation: Recruitment and Outreach to Black students 

  • Why are Black students underrepresented at UCI?
  • What policies and practices inhibits the representation of Black students at UCI?
  • How can we partner with programs or initiatives to increase the number of Black students at UCI?
  • Why do Black faculty and students choose to pursue an education or career at UCI?
  • How can we increase the pipeline of Black PhD students and attract them to come to UCI?

Group 3: Campus Culture: Retention, Persistence and Thriving in the Academy

  • What policies and practices help or prevent Black faculty, staff, and students thrive at UCI?
  • What policies and practices can help retain Black faculty, staff and students once we’ve recruited them here?
  • How can we leverage programs or initiatives to enhance Black faculty, staff, and students’ experience at UCI?
  • How might we better evaluate the campus climate, and be more honest and completely transparent in our reporting (ie: disaggregating by race, asking the difficult questions, reporting all data, even the uncomfortable truths).
  • How do seemingly neutral evaluative standards/criteria, practices, and processes that are routinely employed in faculty searches, merit/promotion reviews, and created by the Academic Senate, AP Office, and CAP reduce African-American faculty representation, cultivate a culture of anti-Blackness and, in general, undercut diversity efforts and initiatives throughout the university?
  • How might changes to the evaluative criteria, practices, and processes increase the number of and improve the campus climate for African-American faculty members and students? What policy changes would be required?

Group 4: Evaluating Faculty Contributions to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Academic Review

  • How do we evaluate and reward contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion in the academic review?
  • What guidance from departments, schools and administration is necessary in these efforts and how do we communicate it?
  • What kind of broader education and culture change efforts would support faculty to more widely engage in contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • How can we learn from future faculty to help them be set up to integrate contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion as part of their life as academics?
  • To what extent is cultural competency, as demonstrated through research, teaching, and service, integral to evaluative assessments of faculty member qualifications and performance? 

Group 5: Curricular Culture and Pedagogical Structures

  • What are the structural elements and cultural assumptions inherent in our university undergraduate education curricular structures that perpetuate anti-Black racism? 
  • How does the tension between the university’s perceived role as an enforcer of academic standards and its role as an educational entity with the goal of enriching student’s lives and supporting them in achieving their highest potential result in these structures?
  • How do traditional narrow definitions of excellence impact how students are selected and create barriers to many students and prevent them from achieving at their highest potential?
  • How can we transform curricular structures and assumptions to work towards positive change?

Group 6: Implicit Bias and Anti-Racist protocols, education, and policies

  • What protocols/procedures can we introduce to limit the impact of implicit bias at the level of graduate students, faculty, scientists, postdocs? 
  • What procedures can we put in place for alleviating the impact of implicit bias for faculty search, hiring, and/or promotion?  
  • What kind of metrics can we use to document that procedures are implemented, effective and produce results?
  • What training or other form of education can be proposed to faculty, students to bring awareness about these issues, engage participation and open discussions? 
  • How can we assess where we stand now (climate survey?) and what are our goals for the future over what time frame? What do we plan to achieve and can we establish metrics for documenting that we reach our goals?