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Editorial : Westwood Neighborhood Council needs better student outreach

By Editorial Board

September 21, 2017 7:55 pm

Westwood boasts an impressive student population of about 45,000. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at the Westwood Neighborhood Council.

The WWNC is a board of community members who advise Los Angeles City Council members about matters such as construction laws, business regulation and transportation in Westwood Village. But year after year, only two students – one undergraduate and one graduate – sit on the neighborhood council. As a result, the council consistently prioritizes the needs of Westwood’s older and permanent residents over those of its student population.

Fortunately, the council created a Student Advisory Committee in July that – pending city council approval – any student not elected to the council can serve on. But, as with all city-related matters, outreach is key. If the WWNC hopes to get everyday students, not just those in student government, to join the Student Advisory Committee, it needs to work closely with UCLA to notify students of the committee’s open positions and explore all possible avenues to get the word out.

The WWNC’s current advertising strategy, however, doesn’t seem up to the task of reaching enough students.

WWNC Outreach Chair David Lorango said the council is planning to host a meet and greet at UCLA to familiarize students with its structure and the opportunity to serve on its student committee. He added the council hopes to work with UCLA administrators to help publicize the the committee.

But a meet and greet, while a good idea, isn’t enough to spread the word to students. Lengthy student outreach efforts for campus-centered events, such as student government elections, only garner miniscule audiences, and it’s naive to assume one meeting will be enough to get Bruins rushing to join a committee they have never heard of.

As such, in addition to the meet and greet, the council should flyer around campus, ask administrators to announce the committee in a campuswide email and work with student government representatives to broadcast the committee’s openings on social media.

Of course, it might seem as though more outreach is futile because ordinary students would have little incentive to join the committee. But the WWNC has real power to make a difference on issues pertinent to students, such as a lack of affordable housing and nightlife in Westwood.

There’s clearly a lot at stake with the committee, and everyday students, if informed of the opportunity, would seize the chance to give the council the student representation it has been historically been missing.

The Student Advisory Committee’s success depends on a diverse group of students sharing their thoughts about how to improve Westwood. And that can only be achieved if the council significantly increases its outreach efforts.

Failing to do so, however, would undermine the council’s goal for the committee – to represent students who, for so long, have gone unheard.

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