Friday, May 29

Undergraduates, graduates, union representatives meet with Chancellor Gene Block about financial crisis

Chancellor agrees "˜conditionally' to town hall forum, but dates still to be confirmed

About 30 students held signs outside Murphy Hall on Tuesday to protest recent budget cuts, two weeks after the faculty walkout swept UC campuses. Carolyn McGough

A familiar scene was brought to the steps of Murphy Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

Not far from where they met only two weeks ago, a group of undergraduates, graduates and union representatives congregated at 3 p.m. to hold a press conference following a long-sought-after meeting with Chancellor Gene Block.

The meeting with Block was held earlier in the day at 11 a.m. It was organized after the UC-wide walkout that occurred on the first day of school, bringing more than 400 protesters from Bruin Walk straight to the doors of Murphy. A smaller group of about 30 attended the press conference.

Cinthia Flores, the Undergraduate Students Association Council president, greeted the crowd. She was one of 13 undergraduate, graduate, faculty and staff representatives to meet with Block and Executive Vice Chancellor Scott Waugh.

“Fee increases are now directly affecting the quality of UC education,” Flores said to the audience.

She continued, “We cannot allow external factors to comprise the … vision of the UC system.”

Miguel Lopez, a School of Education student, was among the graduate student representatives. He and Alejandra Cruz, School of Law student, spoke to the crowd.

Lopez and the other speakers said they understand the financial crisis at hand, but they are looking for a “reliable partner.”

“The first day of school’s events sent a strong message,” he said, adding that students have the responsibility of voicing their opinions to the administration. Lopez said he has mixed feelings regarding the walkout.

“He gave us the time and met with all of us together, that I think is an accomplishment,” Lopez said. “To the extent that all we were asking for was him to agree to a student-run town hall, I don’t think that was too much to ask.”

Block agreed “conditionally” to a town hall, according to Cruz, a representative who spoke at the press conference.

Though Block was not present at the meeting, university spokesman Phil Hamton was there. Hampton released a statement on behalf of Block after the meeting.

“Over the past year, I and other members of campus leadership have participated in multiple town hall meetings to brief students, faculty and staff on the ongoing budget challenges we face,” Block said in the statement. “I look forward to building on that dialogue.”

Lopez said that Block may or may not be attending the town hall forum, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20, 21 or 22. He still has to confirm.

Lopez said the students, faculty and workers would continue mobilizing, “with or without Block.”

“We stressed to him that we’re looking for a reliable partner. It comes from Yudof saying the state is not a reliable partner for the UCs; we want to make sure that (Block is) a reliable partner with us,” he said.

Teresa Avendano, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, spoke on behalf of union workers at the press conference.

She said she was not pleased with how the meeting with Block went, explaining that she previously worked at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center for seven years and had been fired four months ago because of budget cuts.

Avendano said she entered the meeting hoping to be allies with Block.

Avendano said she did not believe the chancellor fully valued the concerns expressed to him at the meeting, especially due to his lack of commitment to the town hall forum.

“Unfortunately, the chancellor took the other road,” she said. “He is not our ally.”

Rita Kern, a union representative from University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119, said four faculty members were at the meeting, though none could be present at the conference due to class conflicts.

A number of activities will be held in the upcoming weeks to continue allowing Bruins to voice their opinions.

A faculty “teach-in” is scheduled for Oct. 15, the town hall forum is to be held the week of Oct. 19 and a “picket picnic” is to be determined for the week of Oct. 26. The picnic will be held to spread information to students who wish to know more information. All events lead up to the Nov. 16 UC Regents’ Meeting, Cruz said. The meeting will be at UCLA.

Block, too, is hoping to continue discussions, according to his statement.

“I am confident that through shared sacrifice and honest discussion of our priorities UCLA will emerge from these challenges a stronger institution,” he said in the statement.

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