Meet David Carreon Bradley, Occidental’s new vice president for equity and justice

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David Carreon Bradley, vice president for equity and justice, in his office in Berkus Hall at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 23, 2021. Dinah Day-Booth/The Occidental

A search committee consisting of Occidental administrators, faculty and students selected Dr. David Carreon Bradley as the college’s new vice president for equity and justice (VPEJ) and chief diversity officer (CDO) in June 2021. According to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Rob Flot, the VPEJ/CDO is responsible for leading equity and justice efforts across campus and promoting a diverse faculty, student and staff body.

Carreon Bradley said he was drawn to the Occidental community’s passion for diversity, inclusion, equity and justice.

“The purpose of a vice president for equity and justice is to help the college move forward toward the goals it sets in those areas,” Carreon Bradley said. “For that to happen, you need the majority of folks on campus to believe in that work.”

Prior to Nov. 2015, Occidental only had a CDO position. The CDO position was promoted to a vice president position, VPEJ, as a result of the 2015 student protests and the Occupation of the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC) to advance the interests of marginalized groups on campus. The position has been controversial, and students and alumni were often at odds with the first CDO and VPEJ Rhonda Brown, calling for her resignation. Brown eventually resigned in April 2019.

Before his hiring, Carreon Bradley went through an initial resumé reading, a second interview round by the committee in March and a final four-candidate community meet-and-greet in April, according to Sharla Fett, American history professor and search committee member.

According to Carreon Bradley, his extensive experience with liberal arts colleges played a part in Occidental’s decision to hire him. He was the vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity at Smith College in 2018.

According to Fett, part of the reason Carreon Bradley stood out was his intersectional identities.

“His personal experience as a first generation, Mexican American, gay diversity and equity officer makes him able to empathize across multiple groups,” Fett said. “That personal story doesn’t substitute for his expertise and experience, but it does make them very effective.”

Before Smith College, he taught physics and chaired the Committee on Inclusion and Equity at Vassar College between 2014–2018, a group that examines diversity and equity issues and develops guidelines that address these topics at Vassar. When Carreon Bradley was an undergraduate at Grinnell College, he double majored in physics and gender and women’s studies. Carreon Bradley said his training allows him to view justice and equity both from an individual and systems perspective.

“I’m very data-oriented. Equity and justice plays itself out not just from an emotional and human perspective, which is essential, but also from an engineering systems perspective,” Carreon Bradley said. “How does everything fit together and work with one another? This [perspective] is important to have to effect organizational change at the college level.”

According to Carreon Bradley, during his first few months as the VPEJ and CDO, he plans to connect with different groups on campus to better understand equity and justice at Occidental.

“My role requires that I connect with a vast number of people and learn as much as I can about the context of Occidental, the community, the history,” Carreon Bradley said. “I know this position was borne out of important student activism — the occupation at the AGC.”

Carreon Bradley said he will focus on community diversity, especially among faculty.

Sanjana Singh (senior), treasurer and co-president of the South Asian Students Association (SASA), said she and other students of color could benefit from a more diverse faculty body at Occidental.

“I feel like a lot of the professors on campus who are Black and brown have a lot of load, because they’re the only ones that students [of color] can go to and feel comfortable with,” Singh said. “There’s no professor that I could go to for me to be like, ‘Hi, I want South Asian support specifically.'”

According to Carreon Bradley, the VPEJ position requires a focus on expanding access for marginalized groups.

“Equity and justice, to me, are about, ‘What are the opportunities for access and success?’ and ‘Are those opportunities equal across all the different kinds of people we have?'” Carreon Bradley said.

Elizabeth Hagopian (senior), president of the Armenian Students Association (ASA), said she hopes there can be more intercultural opportunities connecting the various cultural groups on campus, like the Taste of Oxy event where clubs sold specialty dishes from around the world.

“As much as having support for individual cultural clubs is really important, I also think celebrating them together is something that a lot of people would value.” Hagopian said.

Carreon Bradley said he went to the Involvement Fair Sept. 8, and has identified a list of student organizations he will connect with soon. He also plans to work closely with the Associated Student of Occidental College’s (ASOC) Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) and the Intercultural Community Center (ICC). Carreon Bradley said he will be accessible to students during office hours and a reception is also being planned for October 2021, where student members will be able to connect with him, President Harry J. Elam Jr. and other college administrators.

Still in his first few months at the college, Carreon Bradley said he is focused on learning as much as he can about Occidental and its students.

“My number one plan for right now, so early on in my tenure here, is to listen and learn as much as possible. To really connect with all the different constituencies, because students are the number one priority,” Carreon Bradley said.