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Reagan does not deserve honor by university

By Daily Bruin Staff

May 3, 2000 9:00 p.m.

About two weeks ago, the university made a decision to name the
UCLA Medical Center after Ronald Reagan. This naming opportunity
didn’t come cheap: friends and supporters of the former
president and governor of California spent $150 million to put
Reagan’s name on the building.

Nowadays, buildings are no longer named for honorable figures
who contributed greatly to the university and the social good;
rather, they are named after the highest bidder. This recent
example demonstrates the irony of naming buildings after people
with fat wallets, for a closer examination of Reagan’s past
reveals that immortalizing his name on our medical building is
nothing but a disgrace.

Gerald Levey, dean of the medical school and provost of medical
sciences, explained that the Reagan money would eventually
contribute toward funding for medical concerns such as AIDS
research. This marks a perfect example of the irony in naming the
building after Reagan.

When Reagan began his first term as president, the Centers for
Disease and Control discovered AIDS and immediately warned the
Reagan administration. Instead of increasing funding for more
research or making a statement to the American public about the
epidemic, Reagan chose to ignore it. Why? Well, at the time, the
AIDS virus was killing mostly people in the gay community, a
lifestyle that ran contrary to Reagan’s call for
“morality.”

It was not until 1987 that Reagan finally chose to address this
major disease. This was because fellow actor Rock Hudson announced
he was HIV positive. It was only then that Reagan finally mentioned
the word “AIDS” for the first time.

Meanwhile, between the years 1981 and 1987, 32,000 to 40,000
people had died of HIV- or AIDS-related diseases. While Reagan
himself could not have single-handedly stopped the epidemic, surely
an announcement to the public from the president of the United
States could have increased awareness, and efforts to combat what
would become one of the greatest health crises in history could
have been made at an earlier time. Given Reagan’s sordid
history with AIDS and medical care in general, it’s ludicrous
to name a medical center after him.

And the irony doesn’t end with his presidential term.
Let’s recall his terms as governor of California, from 1966
to 1974, and specifically his stances toward the University of
California. During the latter half of the 1960s, the civil rights
and the anti-war movements were taking place, and they were largely
centered around university and college campuses. This was a time
when students spoke out against the injustices perpetuated by the
government and the inequalities in our society.

Yet Reagan wanted to clamp down on this movement. During his
State of the State address on Jan. 6, 1969, he labeled student
protesters “criminal anarchists” and “latter-day
fascists.” He demanded tougher laws and the expulsion of
students who participate in “repugnant acts, such as
displaying the North Vietnamese flag on campus” (The Daily
Bruin, Jan. 7, 1969). I suppose Reagan, despite his appeal for
“lesser government,” was willing to compromise the
right to free expression when it came to questioning authority.

Reagan also stated that the government should lecture less and
listen more. Yet in May, 1968, during a Vietnam Day Commencement
held by the UC Berkeley Campus Draft Opposition, Reagan threatened
to call out the National Guard to silence student voices.

But nothing can be more repugnant than Reagan’s moves to
increase the cost of receiving a public education in California.
Even though he called education his “No. 1 priority”
during his first week as governor, Reagan immediately announced a
10 percent budget cut from the University of California while
proposing the implementation of tuition, which hitherto was
non-existent in the California public educational system.

Still when it came to public education, Reagan maintained that
California was the most generous state in the nation. Again, one
only needs to examine his policies to know that this is complete
fallacy.

A report by the Los Angeles Times during that period found that
while Reagan continued to call for budget cuts in education, the
other major states increased their spending on institutions of
higher education. While Reagan asked for overall cuts of $64
million for fiscal year 1966-1967, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller
requested a $54.7 million increase. Similarly, Minnesota’s
Gov. Harold Levander asked for a $56.4 million raise while
Michigan’s governor wanted a $11.1 million increase.

Eventually, by 1970 and 1971, the university received $286
million from the state, $44 million less than the 1969-1970 budget
and “23.5 percent less than the requested $374 million”
(The Daily Bruin, Feb. 18, 1970). This is representative of the
drastic consequences of Reagan’s stringent budget cuts.

Moreover, in 1968, the Association of College Professors
calculated that “90 percent of the state budget cut for
1968-1969 (came) from the state’s colleges and
universities.” (The Daily Bruin, Feb. 18, 1970) So much for
education as Reagan’s No. 1 priority.

Even though Reagan justified these cuts in the name of the
California taxpayer, UC President Charles J. Hitch showed
“the cost to the taxpayers of educating a single student had
only risen $10 between 1958 and 1967, from $1,080 per student to
$1,090″ (The Daily Bruin, Feb. 18, 1970).

From the beginning of his administration as governor, Reagan
vigorously fought for tuition in institutions of higher education,
despite 101 years of a tuition-free public education system. He
even stated, “Free tuition is not a right: it is a privilege
of the deserving” (The Daily Bruin, Feb. 18, 1970).
Obviously, Reagan had no concern for the lower-income families or
middle-income families who did not qualify for financial aid, both
of which generally struggled to support their childrens’
educations.

One also cannot ignore Reagan’s continued distaste for
student demonstrators. In a press conference two weeks after his
tuition proposal, he stated that tuition would help “get rid
of undesirables. Those there to agitate and not to study might
think twice before they pay tuition ““ they might think twice
how much they want to pay to carry a picket sign” (The Daily
Bruin, Feb. 18, 1970).

In a sign of solidarity, 10,000 professors, students and
taxpayers displayed their contempt for the governor’s tuition
proposal at a demonstration in front of the Capitol building on
Feb. 12, 1967.

Interestingly, among the crowd were three former California
governors: Edmund G. Brown, Goodwin Knight and Earl Warren. Still,
Reagan continued his relentless pursuit to make education an
elitist institution, and on Feb. 20, 1970, the UC Board of Regents
imposed tuition, or what it called an “educational
fee,” on all registered students.

Based on Reagan’s past, the university has no rational
basis for naming one of the most prestigious medical schools in the
nation after a man who displayed such antagonism toward medical
care and the UC system. If Reagan supporters truly cared about our
university, then they should donate their money without expecting
anything in return. What we should do is accept the money, but deny
Reagan’s friends the privilege of buying renown for their
hero on one of our buildings. In fact, $150 million is nothing
compared to the millions of dollars that Reagan cut off from the
university and the burden that students were forced to pay due to
tuition and rising costs.

Reagan deserves no honor or place on our campus. His severe
policies reveal that while he certainly owes us, we owe absolutely
nothing to him.

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