Tag Archives: UCLA

The Inevitable Consequences: Homeless Students

Over the last few budget cycles, the inevitable became reality.  We started spending more money on prisons than on higher education.  Tuition (oh, sorry, that’s not tuition, those are “fees”) skyrocketed as we stopped subsidizing education for the next generation of California’s leaders. Sure, we aren’t the only state doing so, but the magnitude of our cost increases should make any one shudder.

For example, as I entered UC Berkeley to get my policy degree, the school had just tacked on a $5,000 “professional fee.” That’s just another 5 grand that will be tacked on to the loans of students that really aren’t gearing up to make millions.  Sure, the federal government, over the last few years, has radically changed the student loan system in a number of beneficial ways. (Including some forgiveness for public employees)  However, the sheer amount of debt for students is becoming unmanageable.

And of course, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that we reap what we sow:

For many college students and their families, rising tuition costs and a tough economy are presenting new challenges as college bills come in. This has led to a little-known but growing population of financially stressed students, who are facing hunger and sometimes even homelessness. (NPR)

The story (listen up top) goes on to chronicle the plight of some of these students. They end up skipping meals, couch surfing through the semester, working two jobs, or being forced to drop out.  These are the choices that we are offering to our students.

Schools like UCLA will work with students to help out, but the fact that many students simply won’t talk about these issues along with the growing numbers mean that not every student will get the help that they need.

Lest anybody think that we haven’t raised any taxes, just check out the fee bills of our students. Sure, call them fees with a thousand different names, but taxes are what they really are.  Instead of using a more fair and progressive taxation structure, we’re piling on debt to the backs of our students, and really, our future.

I’m glad that the Chamber is spending so much time trying to protect their $1.5 billion tax cut they got last year.  Perhaps they can hire some of the unemployed students in their “extra time” to help out with that campaign. I hear they are looking for some jobs.

Volunteerism: getting it done at UCLA

With all the hair-pulling over health care, I thought I’d share a heart-warming story from UCLA, where last week, our freshman class, 4,300 strong, went out a few days before school started to volunteer in the community.  From painting walls, to cleaning up the beach, to clearing dry brush, this was the first time anything of this magnitude had been attempted, and UCLA plans to make this a yearly tradition.  We even got on the CBS Evening News!

And it looks like we may have just set a national record in the process, too.  🙂

UCLA Volunteer Day recap

In what is believed to be the nation’s largest-ever university-organized volunteer day, an army of 4,300 UCLA freshmen and transfer students, the size of a NATO brigade, fanned out across Los Angeles Tuesday morning to make the city a better place.

Although classes don’t start until Thursday, students are getting a lesson in community service. For UCLA’s first Volunteer Day, nearly 1,000 students began trail repair at Griffith Park, 1,000 more tackled beach clean-up at Point Dume in Malibu, and about 500 each beautified the Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles and five Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.


UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who has made volunteerism a priority since taking the reins in 2007, was joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles to applaud the 600 Bruins blanketing the campus. They scurried across the asphalt, repainting basketball court outlines and giving buildings a new coat of paint.

“This is an opportunity right at the get-go to say, ‘Service is important at UCLA,'” Block said. “UCLA Volunteer Day is an affirmation of UCLA’s obligation, as a public university, to serve the community … It’s an opportunity for our students to help out, but hopefully it’s just the beginning of a year long of service.”

All together, the 4,300 students, joined by 300 staff, faculty, alumni and older undergraduates who served as task captains, slathered on 555 gallons of paint, planted dozens of trees at schools, restored trails at Griffith Park, rebuilt fences at Point Dume and more. Across the 26 different work sites, the people who care for the campuses and parks on a daily basis told the students how much the work meant.

Here’s a short video UCLA made about the day with quotes from the chancellor and L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

And these videos show the day from the student perspective.

(Check out that awesome map at the 3:38 mark!)

There’s also a Flickr page for all the different volunteering efforts from that day.

Perhaps the most amazing and inspiring thing about this was that it wasn’t mandatory for the freshman class.  Thousands of UCLA freshmen did it because they wanted to help out.  This was pure volunteerism to better the community we live in.

So.  UCLA has now laid down the gauntlet.  As a proud Bruin alum and current grad student at UCLA, I’m issuing a challenge to every other university in the country to do the same in your own communities.  Organize this, and get your students involved in something bigger than themselves.  We’ve shown it can be done with remarkable success in just our first year, and we’ll be hopefully doing this from now on, every single year.  Every school should do the same.  Will you meet our challenge?

How to get college students pissed off at unions in one easy step

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.

Student clubs at UCLA for Presidential candidates

So here at UCLA, several student groups are springing up that support the various candidates running for President.  Our Daily Bruin has the story here.

Many have begun to show their support for candidates by donating their time, and in some cases, money, to bring the message of their favored candidates to students across the campus. To achieve the same goal, some have formed organizations, created Facebook groups, and organized meetings and discussions.

“I believe this election is arguably the most important that will happen in our lifetime, and I think a lot of students are recognizing this and want to get involved in it,” said Teddy Schwartz, a third-year political science student and founder of the Bruins for Hillary student organization.

The group, which began after Schwartz and several friends decided to act on their personal interests in favor of Sen. Clinton, is only several weeks old. But, according to Schwartz, it already has the support of over 100 UCLA students and faculty.

“People are excited to see Hillary have a presence on this campus,” Schwartz said.

In addition to Bruins for Hillary, several other university-recognized student groups related to the upcoming elections have been formed, including Bruins for Obama, Bruins for Kucinich, and Ron Paul 2008.

Issues such as the war in Iraq, health care, higher education affordability for college students, and foreign policy, among others, have moved many of these groups to campaign for their candidates.

For Curtis Whatley, president of Bruins for Obama, it was Sen. Obama’s positions on the issues that has caused the public’s enthusiasm and support for the Illinois senator’s campaign.

“This campaign is about changing the political dialogue in America, and we are going to take it out of the gutter,” Whatley said.

Though the group is fully self-funded, it claims the support of over 500 UCLA students coming from varying backgrounds and levels of involvement.

If I actually had the time, I’d set up a Bruins for Edwards group.  But alas, my schedule simply doesn’t permit that.

We’re also hearing that the Daily Bruin will create a specific primary “beat” to cover the primary season in more depth.

BTW, some more perspective on UCLA college students.  Last night, I was with the Bruin Democrats at our debate watching party.  One of Edwards’ strongest lines in the debate was this:

All of us are going to be fine.

The question is: Will America be fine?

Here’s the video from that part of the debate.

Now, that line was deeply impactful for many on the blogs.  But at the party, most of the students started laughing at that line, mocking him for how corny it sounded.  Maybe we’re just the “coastal elites”, and the line works better among the middle and working classes.  But I was surprised at the disconnect between those of us who are progressive.

Hungry for Security? How About Food Security?

Yesterday, I saw this in The Register. And as soon as I saw this, I was stopped in my tracks.

Roughly 2.5 million low-income adults in California can’t afford to adequately feed their families, resulting in health problems and household stress, according to a UCLA report released this week.

The report measures food insecurity, which can range from reduced quality or variety of diet to skipping meals because of costs. In 2005, 30 percent of low-income adults statewide reported choosing between food and other basic needs, according to data from the California Health Interview Study. Among them, 9 percent experienced a disruption in eating habits or skipped meals. The study did not include the homeless.

In Orange County, the UCLA report says an estimated 190,000 low-income adults struggle to buy food, and about 36,000 people sometimes go hungry. The numbers don’t include children.

Oh my goodness! 2.5 million people in California can’t afford to feed their families? And 190,000 of them are in “wealthy” Orange County? 145,000 of them in San Bernardino County? 740,000 of them in LA County? What’s happening to these people who can’t afford to eat? Why is this happening? And what can we do to solve this problem?

Follow me after the flip for more…

So why exactly is this happening? The UCLA report offers a harrowing answer:

“Food expenditures are the most flexible item in household budgets and are frequently squeezed when income dips or unemployment strikes.”

So these people are having to give up food as they try to scrape up the cash to pay for the mortgage or the rent, as well as the electric bill, and the heating bill, and the water bill, and all those other expenses. They’re having to forgo one of the most basic human needs in order to provide for other basic human needs. Doesn’t this seem disturbing? This shouldn’t be happening. No one should be going hungry. Not in this nation, not in this state, not in any of our communities.

After all, this creates huge societal problems. Hunger does not only cause a growling tummy. So what can happen when people can’t eat? Oh, the children just can’t get educated while the adults don’t get proper health care.

Back to The Register:

According to the research, children living in households without a sufficient food supply miss more school and experience more emotional problems. Adults are more likely to feel anxious or depressed. Additionally, families are more likely to forgo medical care and filling prescriptions, which affects their overall health.

While it may seem counterintuitive, adults living in households with a shortage of quality food were more likely to be overweight, according to the brief. As a solution, the report recommends helping households receive federally funded help, such as food stamps and child nutrition programs.

We all know the value of education. We know the value of good, preventive health care. We all know the value of good mental and emotional health. This is why we can’t all these poor folks go hungry. Their hunger only contributes to greater problems for them, and for others.

So what can be done about this? What can we do to help these people afford something to eat? Well, maybe can support something like the NOURISH Act. The report suggested that the federal government step up its aid for these poor people who can’t help themselves in providing food for the family table. Well, Rep. Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino) has come up with a solution here.

Now I may not always see eye to eye with Joe Baca, but this time he’s totally right on:

“We have a moral obligation to feed the hungry. The NOURISH Act includes many provisions to expand assistance to families and improve access for eligible underserved populations. I also propose increasing funding for food banks which provide important help when government programs are not sufficient to meet the rising demands of American families facing hunger.”

We really need to do something about this hidden crisis. The US is supposed to be the richest nation on earth, and California is supposed to be one of the richest states in this nation. And yet, some 2.5 million people struggle to afford feeding their families. This just shouldn’t be happening.

The NOURISH Act sounds like a good start toward solving this problem. Perhaps we should thank Joe Baca for this good legislation. And maybe, we should write our representatives, and urge them to support Baca’s legislation. We just can’t let any more people needlessly go hungry.

Wesley Clark to hang out at UCLA for the semester

Now, as some of you know, I go to Berkeley’s Public Policy school.  However, I have no problem congratulating UCLA for picking up an occasional guest lecturer with an excellent history, Wesley Clark.  The former (and future?) presidential candidate will give occasional lectures and spend a lot of time in our fair Golden State.

Wesley K. Clark, a former NATO commander and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, will join UCLA this fall as a senior fellow, university officials plan to announce today.

Clark, who is expected to arrive on campus about Oct. 1, will teach occasional seminars, publish policy papers and organize and hold an annual conference on national security, officials said.(LA Times 9/18/06)