Monday, July 22

Throwback Thursday: Break out the cake, ASUCLA to celebrate 98th birthday

(Daily Bruin archives)

(Daily Bruin archives)

Throwback Thursdays are our chance to reflect on past events on or near campus and relate them to the present day. Each week, we showcase and analyze an old article from the Daily Bruin archives in an effort to chronicle the campus’ history.

Turkey season is ripe in the air. Actually, I’m vegetarian, so tofurkey season is ripe in the air.

Leaves litter Bruin Walk, the university’s iconic libraries become more and more crowded by the day and students make their way to midterms and come back zombies. Thanksgiving couldn’t come sooner to UCLA.

But before you start salivating over that sumptuous pumpkin pie that’s in store for you back home, you might want to pull out a birthday hat from your cupboard. That’s because Associated Students UCLA is turning 98 next week. You might not want to get your hopes too high, however, because the party will probably not top ASUCLA’s 29th birthday celebration.

According to a Nov. 23, 1948 Daily Bruin news story, the ASUCLA festivities included an 85-pound birthday cake, members of a national service fraternity and a lot of fruit juice. Members of the student body – who were and still are part of ASUCLA – were also in attendance.

“Strains of ‘Happy Birthday’ rang joyously … on the Kerckhoff Hall lawn as several hundred Bruins helped ASUCLA officials celebrate the 29th birthday of UCLA’s student government,” the story read.

The Daily Bruin added that it took the combined forces of then-ASUCLA President Bill Keene, then-ASUCLA Vice-President Margie Hellman and then-Graduate Manager Bill Ackerman to cut the mammoth birthday cake. It’s worth pointing out this is the same Bill Ackerman after whom the Ackerman Union is named.

Members of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity served attendees pieces of cake and cups of fruit juice, and also acted as ushers for the occasion, the Bruin wrote.

The birthday party marked the first time ASUCLA had formally celebrated its creation, the Bruin added. Keene told the Bruin the student council intended for the function to be organized each year afterward.

Of course, it wasn’t all cake and fruit juice. On Nov. 22, 1948, the Bruin ran a story detailing the financial struggles of ASUCLA over its 29 years. Gene Frumkin, then a writer for the Bruin, said ASUCLA was running a $1,220 loss at the time. In today’s financial terms, that’s about $12,300 – not a terribly large amount. Frumkin wrote that students were historically denied control over ASUCLA’s finances, and added that the appointment of Keene as the association’s president was a promising sign.

Frumkin’s hopes were rewarded. Today, ASUCLA’s board of directors includes eight student representatives who help make administrative decisions for the association. UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council has great command of student fees, which it disseminates to students and student groups.

ASUCLA doesn’t have it all that easy 69 years later, though. The association said last month that it expects to lose nearly $1 million in revenue this fiscal year. Additionally, Ackerman Union is under a lot of construction – and reconstruction – be that the installation of the Veggie Grill restaurant on its A-level or the addition of study spaces on its lower levels.

Clearly, ASUCLA is having it a bit rough these days. But, the association’s birthday celebration origin story is still something to celebrate. Ackerman told the Bruin in 1948 that he thought the yearly ASUCLA birthday celebration should become a tradition.

“I think it is a wonderful tradition that Bill Keene has inaugurated,” Ackerman said at the time. “It ought to be a ‘wow’ for the 100th year.”

Sixty nine years later, the celebrations might have to be a bit tame thanks to ASUCLA’s fiscal struggles.

That’s not to say there isn’t hope. There are still two years to go until the big 100th birthday celebration. Students still might be able to feast on a 185-pound cake in November 2019.

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Senior staff columnist

Tadimeti was the Daily Bruin's Opinion editor from 2017-2019 and an assistant Opinion editor in the 2016-2017 school year. He tends to write about issues pertaining to the higher education, state politics and the administration, and blogs occasionally about computer science. Tadimeti was also the executive producer of the "No Offense, But" and "In the Know" Daily Bruin Opinion podcasts.

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