It has been documented here that Gene Block believes the public face of UCLA is not athletics, but rather the medical center. It appears that UCLA's PR team has done a pretty decent job in keeping a story regarding discrimination in the workplace out of the local (and perhaps national) news.
As reported in the Times on 4/20/12:
A UCLA physician has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents, alleging that he was routinely publicly humiliated and once was depicted as a gorilla being sodomized in a slide show presentation during a resident graduation event.
In a 40-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday [4/17/12], Dr. Christian Head, a head and neck surgeon, accused the university of failing to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
The Times' article is quite short and doesn't go beyond very general information, mostly from the PR guy from UCLA and select quotes from the plaintiff Dr. Christian Head, an African-American surgeon in the Head and Neck Department and associate professor in the medical school. Dr. Head elected to bypass a meeting with the Academic Senate committee regarding the alleged workplace mistreatment and instead filed a lawsuit against the Board of Regents and two specific UCLA Medical School faculty members, Marilene Wang, a tenured professor, and Gerald Berke, the department chair.
The available details around the incident are disturbing and Gene Block's alleged lack of action around it raise more questions about his ability to lead UCLA.
The only other article I could find regarding the story is from the Los Angeles Wave. It details most of the story from Dr. Head's perspective, including short tales regarding the discrimination he's faced throughout the years at UCLA. The article can be found here, and I suggest you read it if you want to learn about some of the information in the lawsuit. What appears to be the last straw in the alleged long line of discrimination is what follows:
At the end of each year, the UCLA Head and Neck Department and its resident class holds a closing ceremony and party attended by the faculty, staff, chairmen/women, residents and spouses at which the residents put on a year-end slide show under the supervision of Berke. One such ceremony and party featured a slide show in which Dr. Head was the unfortunate star.
The show consisted of about 30 or 40 slides, of which about half were reportedly about Dr. Head, and one in particular plowed new fetid ground that led directly to this lawsuit. It was a picture of a big, black hairy gorilla that had Dr. Head’s face Photoshopped on the gorilla, who was being sodomized by a white man wearing Berke’s Photoshopped face. "When this slide was shown, Wang and others in the crowd laughed that Dr. Head was ‘being screwed by his boss,’" the lawsuit states.
There were about 200 people at the event but everybody didn’t find it funny, though. Dr. Joel Sercarz, professor of surgery, was still so offended by "The Gorilla Slide" that he sent an email to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block after he made a stirring campus-wide call for "tolerance, civility and respect" last month.
In my opinion, this is pretty awful. To boot, it appears Block didn't have the decency to respond to Dr. Sercarz (emphasis mine):
"I appreciate your concern about diversity and tolerance," Dr. Sercarz wrote, "But why allow my colleague, Dr. Head, an African-American physician to be depicted at a UCLA event with his head superimposed on the body of a gorilla? You are aware of this, aren’t you?" Dr. Sercarz has received no reply to his March 10 email to Chancellor Block.
If Block doesn't respond to a colleague's complaint or concern about discrimination taking place in the "public face of UCLA" (note that the email was allegedly sent over a month before the lawsuit was filed), how can the alumni and current students expect the chancellor to respond to their concerns about athletics, a department that isn't even remotely on Block's radar? Just a thought.
By the way, there appears to be a video and petition here calling on Gene Block to clean up the alleged discrimination.