Replace UCLA CS Department Chair Eli Gafni
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This petition calls for:
- The replacement of Professor Eliezer Gafni as chair of the UCLA Computer Science Department
- Increased transparency and student input on faculty selection decisions, and commitment to find and hire candidates who are committed to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable engineering community, primarily through the recruitment of faculty members from marginalized groups in engineering
- Public documentation and student input on departmental objectives and actions regarding student diversity, inclusion, equity, and wellness
If you have had any positive or negative interactions with Professor Gafni, please consider sharing your experience: https://tinyurl.com/gafniexperiences
Earlier this month, Professor Eliezer Gafni, previously Interim Chair of the UCLA Computer Science Department, was appointed the permanent Department Chair. Although Professor Gafni has demonstrated exceptional professional achievements and excellence in his academic work, he has not exhibited the strong sense of ethical and societal responsibilities or the collaborative skills – especially with regard to clear communication and inclusivity – that are essential for this role.
As Interim Chair, Prof. Gafni demonstrated conscious disregard for the racialized experiences of people of color in the United States and explicit disdain for transparent, open communication between students and the administration in an exchange with students and faculty regarding the usage of the term “Wuhan virus” as an identifier for COVID-19. Below are some of his specific comments during this incident:
- “Using [Wuhan virus] could have been innocent. By pointing it out you make a political issue out of it. This list isn’t for political issues and not to educate ME on what terms to use...And perhaps you can email some sources in China who attribute it to the US Army.”
- “What is “sensitive” to you might feel like PC police to others. So instead of resolving disagreement about speech in public, keep it private for anybody who might have violated your sensitivity.
- “Both Dick and I have Chinese wives so I presume we might not love Xi, but we love Chinese :).”
- “I have a tenure...in order that discussion is not censored.”
- “...perhaps ‘Wuhan Virus’ term to some, has attained the celebrity of ‘hate speech.’”
Full documentation of this incident can be found in this document: https://tinyurl.com/gafnidocumentation
At the February 2020 UCLA Computer Science Town Hall, an annual open forum held by the Department of Computer Science, the Association for Computing Machinery at UCLA, and Upsilon Pi Epsilon at UCLA to provide a forum for students to interact, provide feedback, suggestions or discuss problems with the Computer Science Department, Prof. Gafni opened with the following comments:
“I was not involved too much with the undergraduate side...so I don’t know I will not participate in the town hall, because I cannot answer questions because I still learn the role and what is going on and I met some, some of you in two days ago or something, the alumni meeting which I was very gratified to see how many, how many societies there are...let the societies know each other...and help other...I so much don’t know about the department and things like that that when I was in this alumni meeting, I had to give the speech about the state of the department, but I had no idea what was the state of the department. So gracefully a speech you know like a lot of speechwriter took the position of speechwriter and gave me a speech...You should know that in the computer science department, we do not air in public our dirty, dirty laundry. As far as I know, we don’t have dirty laundry. And with this, I will continue to leave you to harass these [professors]. Thank you.”
Full video of the above incident can be found at this recorded livestream URL: https://tinyurl.com/gafnitownhall
For the full letter from student organizations to Dean Jayathi Murthy, see here: https://tinyurl.com/gafniletter
Given Prof. Gafni’s disregard for the racialized experiences of people of color in the United States and disinterest in open communication between all students and UCLA CS administration, he is unfit to serve as CS department chair. There is an urgent need for the Engineering School to engage with students and foster stronger dialogue regarding the selection of leaders and equity, diversity, and inclusion in its departments.
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