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Chancellor Gene Block discusses Trump’s executive order, ongoing issues

Chancellor Gene Block discussed the effect of President Donald Trump’s executive order on travel, housing for additional students and increasing resources for mental health services in his meeting with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board on Monday. (Frank To/Daily Bruin)

By Shreya Maskara

Jan. 31, 2017 1:27 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the university settled a lawsuit against it regarding history professor Gabriel Piterberg in 2016. In fact, the lawsuit was settled in 2014.

Chancellor Gene Block meets with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board every quarter to discuss issues affecting campus and to explain administrative policies. At their meeting Monday, Block, who was joined by Vice Chancellors Jerry Kang and Monroe Gorden Jr. spoke about President Donald Trump’s recent executive order and its impact on students, a new low-priced housing initiative, expanding mental health resources and student protests against history professor Gabriel Piterberg.

  • Block said about 150 UCLA students have been impacted by Trump’s executive order, which banned Syrian refugees indefinitely and citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.
  • Block said the university’s highest priority was to keep students and faculty affected by the ban safe. He added students and faculty from the countries targeted by Trump’s executive order should avoid leaving the country.
  • When asked about Milo Yiannopoulos’ lecture on campus being cancelled, Kang said UCLA is a state actor and is required to abide by the First Amendment and cannot suppress speech, even if it is repugnant. Block added he thinks controversial speakers can help students sharpen their point of view, but it is important to maintain a balance between such speakers and mainstream speakers because hosting them can be financially and logistically challenging.
  • When asked about the idea of holding a town hall instead of his regular office hours to meet with students, Block said he thinks town halls might help to reach out to more students, but they tend to get overshadowed due to ongoing political events. He added the format tends to be of an emotional nature for various communities, making them difficult to moderate.
  • Gorden said the administration is looking into establishing a satellite center for Counseling and Psychological Services. Gorden added that despite expanding resources for CAPS, he thinks it is not feasible for it to be the only student intervention resource, and the administration is working to increase other resources, such as online intervention.
  • Block said accommodating 750 additional students this year has been a challenge, but the university is working to provide more study spaces for students. Block added a major constraint in increasing capacity was providing more laboratory space for students.
  • Block said the university will add about 3,500 more beds over the next few years for both graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Gorden said UCLA will renovate one of its structures in Westwood to be a lower-priced housing project for undergraduate students by spring quarter. Gorden added the housing project will be open to all students, but will allocate spaces for students from various groups, including undocumented students, veterans and former foster youth.
  • In response to recent student protests against history professor Gabriel Piterberg, who was accused of sexual assault, Kang said the legal settlement finalized in 2014 limits the steps the university can take. Kang added he thinks the punishments outlined in the settlement, which mandated Piterberg resign from his position as the director of UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and suspended him for a quarter without pay, are not trivial.
  • Kang also said the administration faces a tough task of balancing all the interests of various communities affected by the incident. He added the job of the university is to ensure students who want to learn continue to have an opportunity to do so. There is a remote viewing opportunity for Piterberg’s class and his office hours will be held in a public space, Kang added.
  • In response to community members who think allowing Piterberg to teach a class compromises the safety of students, Kang said all steps taken by the university have been under serious consultation of the Title IX coordinator, Kathleen Salvaty, and safety of students has been taken into account.
  • Kang added the appointment of the new Title IX coordinator, new policies for sexual harassment and violence and new UCLA procedures for investigating faculty will ensure any future similar incidents will be treated differently by the university.
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Shreya Maskara | Assistant news editor
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