Over the last year, many have said that UCLA is on the decline as a university and this seems to be the general feel among people on campus. This sentiment is just wrong. UCLA is headed in the right direction, and its future looks bright.
It is true that the budget cuts led to a few fewer classes that are generally a bit larger and pink slips for many non-tenured faculty members. The fee hikes also left a hole in our pocket book. And the pain of the University of California budget crisis seemed to really hit home when that other L.A. school passed us in the U.S. News rankings, which is the gold standard in rankings no matter how much we bicker about methodology.
All of this left a bitter taste in our mouths, and many have begun to question if UCLA is headed in the right direction. But it is time for everyone to stop sounding the alarms that UCLA is going downhill. Not only is UCLA as good as ever, its future is nothing to worry about.
Even with the slashed budget, our responsibilities as a public institution are increasingly being met, our level of education and research are still amazing, and we still play host to great visitors. UCLA is going in a good direction and university leadership is taking the steps to guarantee a great future for the campus. The alarmist need to realize that there is no reason for Chancellor Gene Block or UC President Mark Yudof to do otherwise.
Many, including the 100 or so protestors on campus Thursday, think that UCLA’s mission as a public institution has been compromised recently because of budget cuts. But the number of low-income students admitted actually increased from the year before, and the UC recently expanded the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which now pays all fees for students with family incomes less than $70,000.
Our new tuition is still $100 less than that of the University of Virginia, considered one of the best public schools. It is hard to argue that access to the university is an issue.
Further, we are moving our public mission to another level by instituting Volunteer Day, which although imperfect, is a step in the right direction by getting students excited about community service.
Students who worry that UCLA’s public image in the community is being tarnished or that UCLA is not “public” enough should go to volunteer.ucla.edu or visit the Community Programs Office in the Students Activities Center to find out how they can get involved.
Many have also argued that the level of education at UCLA is falling. Classes are larger and teaching assistants are rarer. Yet the bigger picture is being missed: UCLA is and has been a large public research university, not a small private.
Worries that fewer classes are being offered are misplaced. Looking at the schedule of classes shows that of five popular departments, only psychology is offering fewer classes this year than in 2003 (and that, too, only by one).
If a department starts teaching one introductory class of 300 students instead of two lectures of 150 ““ probably a more drastic change than we are actually experiencing ““ it won’t change the education students receive. At both sizes students will not get much individual attention.
But that is the trade off we all knowingly made by coming to a large school. We get great professors who are leaders in their fields, but we have to share them with more students. These teachers make themselves available, but it is up to us as students to take advantage of office hours, stay after class to ask questions or reach out to professors about research and internship opportunities.
Further, these professors are still doing phenomenal research. Last year we received more than $1 billion of research money including a really important grant to redo the architecture of the Internet. This proves that UCLA is still on the cutting edge of research, budget cuts considered.
Last month, UCLA played host to the mayor, the governor, a Supreme Court justice and the presidents of Chile, the Dominican Republic and Croatia. They were all here to speak on campus or to sign deals of future plan for joint efforts with UCLA. Friday, Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton are going to be holding a political rally on campus.
These people do not come to UCLA to pity its decline. They come here because it is a great place and because UCLA will play an ever larger role in the globalizing world. Students worried about the decline of UCLA should attend these events as they show how great UCLA still is and will continue to be.
UCLA has made it through budget cuts in the past, and students and campus leadership are working to ensure that UCLA only improves.
Like wine and cheese, UCLA only gets better with time.