Dear Campus Community,

It is rewarding and inspirational to see members of UCI annually at the forefront in celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by promoting service. Their “boots-on-the-ground” efforts remind us that the legacy of Reverend King is being lived daily and our renewed energy is needed to attain the types of social justice and equity originally envisioned for African Americans by MLK and by those who sacrificed for civil rights efforts in the United States.

This great holiday provided us a moment for reflection on the hard facts that African Americans in the US were undercounted by more than 800,000 in the 2010 Census, with approximately 24% of individuals identifying as African American living in poverty at rates far exceeding the national poverty rate of 13%. While the upcoming elections and 2020 Census offer promising avenues to increase voice and funding for critical issues to improve the equity of experiences and outcomes for African Americans on campus and beyond, they are not the sole pathway forward.  We know that the efforts of Reverend King and our own actions expect no less than full engagement, representation, and promotion of the industry and accomplishments of African Americans.  There is clearly more work to do.

As we speak to the legacy of Reverend King, we are acknowledging history in action.  We know that King, gone too soon at the age of 39, had an early ascendancy to greatness.  He came from a family of ministers, led peaceful political change efforts that moved a nation to re-evaluate the harsh prejudices and discrimination in ways that brought him global attention, a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35, and a historical standard for using love as a potent tool in the fight against injustice and lawlessness.

As our campus moves forward with an inclusive excellence action plan, it would be a hollow effort if we did not acknowledge and continue to engage with all members of campus to ensure our shared responsibility to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and free speech on campus.  An important means to success requires our recognition of the rich contributions of African Americans and others on and beyond our campus as we strive now to get busy in creating richer learning environments for community, thriving, and wellness.

The upcoming Cross-Cultural Joseph L. White Lecture featuring Dr. Yusef Salaam continues to remind us about the long arc of our moral universe bending toward justice.  His presentation at UCI on January 23 will highlight a 45th anniversary celebration of the Cross-Cultural Center.  Since 1974, this center at UCI has distinguished itself as being the first multicultural center on any University of California campus.  Staff and faculty-in-residence at the Cross-Cultural Center, similar to those across the campus, have made it their professional work and personal commitment to create spaces for cultural interactions, learning, and activism.  I encourage us all to think about additional actions to take and to make the institutional recommendations necessary in order to live the legacy of service and advocacy daily for inclusive excellence.

Do you need ideas to spark your engagement to promote community, thriving, and wellness at UCI? Please visit our Inclusive Excellence Action Plan page for ideas and tell us about how you Act for Change!

Expect equity, support diversity, practice inclusion, and honor free speech.

Douglas M. Haynes
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Office of Inclusive Excellence | inclusion.uci.edu
Director, ADVANCE Program | inclusion.uci.edu/advance
Professor of History | www.humanities.uci.edu/history