Message from the Dean: Navigating our way forward

Dear UCLA Fielding Community,

I share the deep pain and anger felt by members of our community — as a result of the horrific violence that took place on our campus the night of April 30 against our students and UCLA community members who peacefully protested — which has compounded the hurt, outrage, and frustration many have experienced since October 7, 2023. The ever-increasing public health and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the innocent lives forever altered by unimaginable loss, trauma, and ongoing war in the region, have been top of mind for many of us. I have heard from members of our community who shared their experiences and perspectives. I am deeply concerned about the anguish and distress so many of you are experiencing.

The abhorrent violence and failure to promptly protect our students and other UCLA community members who peacefully protested on campus weeks ago is absolutely unacceptable. An independent, transparent and complete investigation is imperative to ensure that what took place will never happen again. UCLA’s Office of Campus Safety announced earlier today that the first arrest has been made; all those responsible for the reprehensible violent actions against peaceful protestors — including the non-UCLA community members who took part in the violence — must be held accountable. A safe and secure campus environment for all students, staff, and faculty is a basic requirement that must be met.

As dean, I want to reiterate that at UCLA Fielding we continue to support freedom of speech and the right to peacefully and lawfully express one’s views. We stand firm against bigotry, hate speech, harassment, and personal intimidation of any community member. There are diverse viewpoints in our school and mutual respect remains crucial. As I previously stated in a message to our community, retaliation of any kind, including academic retaliation because of a person’s views, will not be tolerated. And as an academic institution, we are committed to maintaining an environment where our students, staff, and faculty can broaden their understanding while safely continuing to learn and work.

Mutual respect, understanding, and support are needed more than ever as we navigate this challenging time that has impacted our faculty, staff, and students, and left many with feelings of anger, confusion, and fear. I appreciate the many members of our faculty and staff who continue to go above and beyond to support our students while they are struggling. To address our students’ academic concerns, the Office of the Dean communicated to all faculty and instructors earlier this month about the need for academic accommodations and flexibility for our students this quarter. Separately, students were notified about FSPH’s grievance process for any student who has experienced retaliation or retribution so that the issue can addressed promptly. Academic retaliation will not be tolerated.

We are working to heal our community, but the process will not be swift or simple. In recent months, FSPH conducted workshops for faculty and staff on navigating difficult conversations, including sessions held immediately after the recent violence on campus. The workshop series is expanding; one for students will be held soon. Our school is committing resources to all academic departments for the development of educational enrichment activities and other learning opportunities that focus on the role of public health in addressing crises, such as the humanitarian and public health crisis in Gaza. Each academic department’s community members will work together to determine how best to achieve goals and address needs. This department-led effort is part of a larger school-wide initiative to increase learning and build awareness of social justice issues at the intersection of public health. Formulation and strategy for this initiative will begin in earnest next month, with plans to launch in Fall 2024. The intention is for these efforts to provide new paths for us to gather, learn, share, create and sustain community.

Ongoing dialogue and action are required for our students, faculty, and staff to recover and rebuild. I am committed to our school doing all that we can to increase healing and understanding as we move forward together.   

Ron Brookmeyer
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health