Justin Park is a first year student majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology with a minor in Spanish. He is a member of the campaigns committee and spends his time outside GlobeMed as a pharmacy technician, a camp counselor for UCLA Recreation, a violinist in UCLA Symphony Orchestra, and a brother of Theta Chi fraternity.
When I arrived at UCLA as a freshman, I was under the impression that I finally found a safe space where I could comfortably discuss and receive different points of views and ideas and always put them forward with the upmost respect, regardless of how radical they were. After spending about a year here, I conclude that while the general political atmosphere of the campus is agreeably liberal and diverse, there still could be much more work done. When we look at a typical day on the Bruin Walk, many students walk indifferently past the ambush of flyers for the advocacy of different relevant issues and mingle within their own segregated ethnic groups. I believe this indifference has for too long been cultivated and encouraged by coaxing words such as those of Chancellor Block’s recent mass e-mail.
Recently, Chancellor Gene Block sent an e-mail to the UCLA student body addressing the controversy over the incident of a vandal posting hateful stickers and graffiti around the campus. These posts, by whomever, represented a backlash to the social movements around Freddie Gray. As the Daily Bruin reports, Chancellor Block should be held accountable and thus “release a statement saying it is the students’ responsibility to fight racism on campus.” I understand that Block attempted to do so with his e-mail. However, I do not believe his message does justice in leading our campus in a progressive direction.
While Block mention that Bruins “must do better” and need to “acknowledge the humanity of others,” I must ask how exactly are we to expose ourselves to this “humanity” he describes, especially when the minorities of UCLA face a suppression of their struggles everyday? To put into perspective, a staggering 74% of black students that begin their studies at UCLA actually graduate. Many drop out due to the lack of financial aid and resources for them to succeed on campus. They seem to be already set up for failure in the real world, leading to the very real consequences of increased incarceration and less education. The problem I have with the administration of UCLA is the apparent indifference they have towards these kinds of issues, leaving them to decay into a larger problem. How do we expect our student body to “find ways to work together and drive the conversation in productive ways” if the administration board is hypocritically unwilling to initiate the same?
This is why we observe the incidents such as the Los Angeles Riots of 1965 and 1992 or even the current riots in Baltimore. The “conversation in productive ways” is a two-way dialogue, and when one side of the conversation fails to listen, the other must resort to more unfortunate tactics to make its voice heard. This entails the “provocative images” as Block titles them: the protests and demonstrations on our campus, the riots on our streets for racial equality, and even the outraged commenters of the Daily Bruin articles regarding the Freddie Gray sticker incident. So what if occasional “belligerence [defines] … our community?” From the way I see it, this reflects more on our school’s faulty authority rather than our students themselves. The problem lies in UCLA’s administration, who is constantly attempting to patch up the social flaws of our community and pretending that we are all perfect, leaving us to accumulate our interpersonal tensions to the breaking point.
In the words of S.B. Treadwell, “the more wicked the deed, the more self-complacency must be assumed to soothe that never-ceasing corroding of conscience.” In an attempt to appeal to the majority and preserve the “perfectness” of our school, I believe Block has lost sight in pursuing a more morally just campus.
At UCLA, GlobeMed to me is more than just a nonprofit that sends charity work to central Uganda. It is a group of young and fiery students who radiate their passion for equality, whether it is health, gender, race, sexuality, etc. Resources in central Uganda or even on campus are rights entitled to every person on this planet. A person who lives in a developing country deserves just as much medical attention as does a person privileged with affordable care in America. Similarly, a Bruin should enjoy the same access to financial aid, representation, and a fair education as any another fellow Bruin. As a student and an active member of GlobeMed, I feel the responsibility of bringing to light this problem of passive advocacy around our campus and taking the initiative in encouraging active debates and in educating of our students of prominent social issues today that Chancellor Block fails to address. In his words, “We are at our best when we acknowledge the humanity of others, appreciate diverse viewpoints and respond with empathy,” but we can only accomplish so when everyone participates in this conversation, in contrast to only select minority groups and political protestors we see as we walk to class each day.