Saturday, May 30

A 10-minute talk with Block

Chancellor Block holds three office hours a year. Each hour is divided into six 10-minute meetings and students are selected to attend via lottery. Columnist Scott Pearring won an appointment after six attempts over the last two years. Daily Bruin file photo

I finally won. “Congratulations, you have been selected for the Chancellor’s Office Hour,” read the message. After my sixth consecutive quarter applying for the lottery, I’m finally victorious and have the chance to speak to Chancellor Gene Block. Four years at UCLA and I managed to nab ten minutes of Block’s invaluable time. Six hundred seconds all to myself. Now what was it I wanted to talk about?

Most students would choose the topics of increased fees or inflated class sizes. The slew of trees being chopped down all around campus, the despised dismount zone or overcrowded gym are also easy go-to’s. But what particularly provokes me? How about the simple fact that out of 39,252 UCLA students, only six are allowed to meet with UCLA’s de facto CEO each quarter. And for a measly 10 minutes apiece.

That’s one student out of every 6,542. I study statistics, and our basketball team is far more likely to win the national championship than for any student to see the Chancellor. Every year, Dr. Block sets apart three whole hours to listen to undergraduates, and he accommodates an entire eighteen people. I’ve been here since 2006, and I’ve never seen the man. With these odds, it’s easy to get discouraged about the university’s apathy toward individual students. But it’s also easy to get pumped up about this grand opportunity.

But the more I thought about the appointment, the more I couldn’t think of a terribly pressing issue to discuss. Sure bikes are occasionally stolen, and we can’t run around in our skivvies during finals week, but how bad do we really have it at UCLA?

I’m also far more understanding of bothersome school policies than most students. Yes, it sucks that I need to walk my bike on campus, but I can’t think of a better suggestion to protect the numerous innocent walkers who suffer collisions each year. And I know Gayley Avenue looks horrendously bare without trees, but the university’s plan for greater student and faculty centralization is actually quite impressive. Nothing about UCLA truly infuriates me, so I’m definitely not going to waste my 10 minutes grumbling about marginally-merited topics. When it comes down to it, I really don’t have much to talk about at all.

So why am I taking someone else’s spot? Simply because I’ve spent the last two years dreaming about mercilessly grilling the Chancellor with a barrage of questions. Now that I’ve won, I’m not about to give up this amazing opportunity ““ even though I shockingly find myself suddenly content with all that is UCLA.

If it took me two years to get face time with the Chancellor, what about more zealous students? The Office of the Chancellor reports that about 500 requests are received each quarter for Chancellor Office Hours. And each quarter, the 494 shunned students are forced to find other avenues to express their opinions.

A popular choice is Chancellor Block’s Facebook page. His wall has transformed into a lengthy forum with the UCLA community. Students, faculty and fans post comments about everything from infuriating parking tickets to charities he should support to their preference for more whiteboards in classrooms.

Rather surprisingly, Block personally responds in a timely fashion, answering with professional paragraphs within the month. Since these online posts to the Chancellor are open to everyone, this is perhaps the most surefire way to get your voice heard.

We also have a publicly accountable leadership at UCLA (in theory) that responds to student concerns if something is considerably outrageous. Through organized protests, demanding e-mails or underground Facebook groups, students can easily share their concerns. This is exactly what happened with Night Powell, and it resulted in Block working with donors to reinstate the service. While students were less successful at protesting tuition hikes, I’m confident that the UC Regents actually had no better alternatives. Thus, the Chancellor’s Office Hours aren’t the only way to speak to the university, though it may be the most direct.

I concluded that larger, more pressing issues rather naturally get addressed by the UCLA leadership, while less merited complaints such as the Dismount Zone and the untimely Pauley Pavilion renovation quickly fade. And while these are trying times, my lack of specific concern proves that while UCLA isn’t perfect, we still enjoy a remarkable amount of luxury at this school.

After all this though, I am still left without a topic. But I’m totally confident that ten minutes will fly by nonetheless. Maybe I’ll spend the time talking religion or laughing at USC. Or maybe pushing for Conan O’Brien to speak at commencement. Or maybe I’ll just shake Block’s hand, thank him for his hard work, and peacefully leave the office, thankful that we have it so good here at UCLA.

If you have a worthwhile topic that should be mentioned to Chancellor Block, e-mail Pearring at

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