As always, In Focus: The UCLA Student will feature articles on an array of outstanding programs and individuals who help to make a “UCLA education” such an exceptional and richly productive constellation of experiences in our students’ lives. This issue offers highlights ranging from student community involvement to the crucial importance of our donors in these difficult times, and I commend each of these excellent features to your attention as bright windows into the complexity of UCLA’s world.
However, the events of the past months have, in large measure, overshadowed the ongoing activities and processes that constitute our normal co-curricular programming. The dual impact of budget reductions and student fee increases has been keenly felt by our students and families, including a number of students who find their educational futures in jeopardy because of financial difficulties. Students have been active and vocal in protests related to these issues, the most emphatic of these demonstrations involving a Regents’ meeting at UCLA in November that, in some instances, tested the good will of protestors and the UCLA Police Department.
Much more recently, two of our sister campuses have been rocked by incidents of unconscionable intolerance – a series of incidents of racism on the UC San Diego campus and homophobic vandalism against the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center at UC Davis. These incidents generated new protests throughout the UC system, including student actions here at UCLA that show the deeply felt impact of these deplorable events on our UC communities.
While the types of issues that have moved our students to action are different in their origins and proposed remedies, they are very similar in terms of emotional content and the critical need for empathetic, creative, result-oriented dialogue among all campus constituencies. In regard to fee increases, we must understand that higher fees will have a much more profound impact on certain student populations than on others, and we must be prepared not only to reach out to the most affected students, but to give full credence and consideration to some of the broader student concerns about long-term access for undocumented or under-represented students, and the impact of other budget-related variables.
The incidents on the San Diego and Davis campuses have been denounced by our University’s leadership, and UCLA is moving ahead on a number of fronts to reassure affected student groups and our entire community that we will do everything possible to ensure the well-being of all community members. We are committed to decisive responses when needed, to on-going dialogue with concerned students, and to multi-faceted educational efforts that will help us all understand the positive, unifying power of respect: inclusiveness, and constructive engagement versus the destructive effects of intolerance and bigotry.