This diary won’t be popular, but it needs to be said. This past weekend, UCLA finally finished up the school year. Bill Clinton was supposed to have come spoken at Commencement for the College of Letters and Science. However, because of a labor dispute between the UC and AFSCME, Clinton ended up not speaking. Now, the replacement was Ariana Huffington. But she too backed out at the last minute because of the labor dispute.
Note: There was NOT a strike going on. It hadn’t gotten to that stage. They’re still in negotiations for a new contract. But the union requested that speakers cancel their commencement speeches.
Read below the fold to see how things went downhill.
So this past year, the mood on campus was one of excitement and anticipation at hearing Clinton speak at Commencement, even though most students here were supporting Obama. The former President is still the former President. Graduation tickets were incredibly hard to come by this year as a result. So you can imagine the disappointment in many students and their parents when they found out that Clinton would not speak at UCLA.
There was a Facebook group placing the blame on the UC officials for messing up graduation that drew a couple hundred students. So the support for the unions is real on campus.
Now, had that been it, it would have been simply disappointing that Clinton didn’t speak at graduation for the Class of 2008. But… it got worse on graduation day.
Even with Clinton not coming, the union heads decided to tell their workers to picket the graduation ceremonies. So as students are lining up to go into our basketball arena Pauley Pavilion for Commencement, taking photos with their friends and family, the workers are marching next to them chanting “No contract! No peace!” Here are two photos I took as I passed by.
It became quickly obvious that the protest put a damper on the mood of the students. They already knew Clinton wasn’t coming. They already understood the reasons why. But this… it just felt like the union was rubbing it in their faces. I know that wasn’t their intent, but hey, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s how it came off.
Inside Pauley, when one of the speakers mentioned that Clinton and Huffington would not be speaking, a shower of boos rang out all over Pauley. The students and their parents were obviously not booing Clinton or Huffington. But the feeling you got at the ceremony was that they were now equally blaming the UC and the union for messing this up. What should have been a lot of sympathy for the union was dramatically decreased as a result of their visible protest, IMO.
Note: I was not in Pauley to witness the booing. I later confirmed this from talking to people who were in attendance, and got their moods and reactions. And the people I talked to were hardly anti-union types. But they tell me the mood inside Pauley had decidedly turned against the union. And that much was already obvious to me just walking by outside and seeing the looks on the faces of the students as they looked on at the workers protesting next to them. Looks of disgust. Looks of “WTF?”
Now, call those students selfish, call them egotistical, whatever. In a lot of their minds, the union helped ruin their graduation ceremony.
It was not a good day for the union or the UC. When the anger should have been focused on the UC for not resolving the contract dispute for almost a full year, instead, both sides came off looking petty in a lot of people’s eyes.
And that’s my report from what happened at UCLA last week.