BY Anees Hasnain
Leaving UCLA for breaks has always been bittersweet for me as I have tried over the past three years to consider this community, this university, this campus and these buildings my home.
When I boarded the flight to come back from Thanksgiving break, I was sad to leave my friends and family but eager to return to Westwood. My flight landed around midnight, a friend picked me up and I went straight to Kerckhoff Hall to study. At 8 a.m. the next morning, I was on my way out of the restroom on the fourth floor when I noticed a flier posted on the Vietnamese Student Union’s banner on their bulletin board. As I read the flyer, the words and their implications hit me and I felt numb.
A character in Sarah Dessen’s book, “What Happened to Goodbye”, says “Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
UCLA is considered a home both figuratively and literally by many people: students, staff, faculty and administrators alike. But how can this be our home, a place of residence and refuge, if we cannot feel safe here?
How can this be our home if my peers who bring such a rich variety of personalities, perspectives and backgrounds do not feel safe here?
My freshman year, I lived in Delta Terrace and there was a case of attempted rape. I called my dad in tears, terrified of the campus I was living on.
My sophomore year, I watched the “Asians in the Library” video, posted by a UCLA student on YouTube. I called my dad bewildered that a student on this campus could be so ignorant and have such a lack of empathy. Later that year, when Osama bin Laden died, a fellow student felt it was appropriate to joke that the Pakistani side of my family and myself were upset because a “family member” had died. I was shocked and had no idea how to respond.
My junior year, there were racial slurs posted on the door of an apartment only blocks from campus. There were hateful posts on social media sites during the student government elections. During Palestine Awareness Week, fellow Muslim Bruins were called “terrorists” and told they didn’t belong on this campus. I was infuriated.
Now, during my senior year, there are hateful messages being posted around campus. My fury from last year has turned into determination.
These instances of hate speech have been occurring both publicly and privately since I stepped onto this campus. As a senior, it pains me that future Bruins will likely have to deal with events like these as well.
These are issues that affect everyone on this campus regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual identity and socioeconomic status.
This is a campus climate issue, and as such it will take all of campus to address it. It is up to all of the undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff and administration to speak up and take action.
It is up to us as individuals to analyze our own actions, whether that is taking steps to use gender-neutral language, to report incidences of bias and hate, or offering to listen and provide comfort to disheartened peers.
It is up to us as a community to shed light on these issues when hate crimes and hateful incidences occur. And, as Internal Vice President of the Undergraduate Students Association Council Andrea Hester pointed out to the council in an email on Wednesday, it is up to us as a community to identify those who are promoting a healthy campus climate and help them in their efforts.
By reaching out to and working with each other, the UCLA community can work toward a campus that is safer, more welcoming and more accepting for all Bruins. We can, moment by moment, brick by brick, build ourselves a home.
Hasnain is a fourth-year sociology student and community service commissioner for the Undergraduate Students Association Council.