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Editorial: ResLife admin shred constitution, instill fear in student employees

By Editorial Board

Oct. 24, 2018 11:50 p.m.

UCLA Residential Life’s tagline is “Where community happens.”

This week, though, we learned what else happens on the Hill: fear.

Student employees on the Hill fear losing their housing. They fear professional staff. They fear proposing new programs for student residents. They fear getting on the bad side of administrators and being forced to resign.

Worst of all, they fear speaking out about the problems they witness.

The Daily Bruin reported Tuesday that administrators overhauled the On-Campus Housing Council this summer, reducing the number of elected student positions from about 10 per building to three. OCHC, a student-elected council, commands nearly $50,000 in student fees to put on programs for those living on the Hill. ResLife, however, succeeded in replacing many elected positions with hourly paid programming assistants who are appointed by administrators.

The way UCLA puts it, student leaders on the Hill wanted the change. Student employees, however, told The Bruin that the revision blindsided them and may have violated the OCHC constitution.

These students spoke under the condition of anonymity. They feared losing their jobs and their housing.

That’s quite a sense of community.

Under other circumstances, this story would be about UCLA continuing a trend of undermining student governance. We saw as much nearly six months back when UCLA Student Affairs administrators interfered in the 2018-2019 undergraduate student government elections, bullying Bruins into allowing candidates who had committed voter coercion to rise to positions of power.

Had Josh O’Connor, ResLife assistant director of leadership and involvement, not contradicted himself when arguing the OCHC constitution change was supported by student leaders, it might have even seemed acceptable for there to be a council overhaul in light of how low turnout for UCLA Housing student government elections can be.

But the truth is, student ResLife employees are intimidated by O’Connor and other professional staff, having concluded that speaking out against administrators results in their being blocked from coordinating future programs or being hired for positions on the Hill.

The upshot, these employees worry, is that UCLA Housing can act without accountability. It’s no wonder residential assistants and other students working on the Hill fear speaking to The Bruin on the record for other stories – glowing ones too – even anonymously.

Sure, not all students working on the Hill may fear for their jobs or be afraid to speak out against the ResLife professional staff they work with. But some student employees clearly do. Considering the act they’re speaking out against is an administrative takeover of ResLife student government, we can only wonder what other things the Hill has been doing behind students’ backs.

UCLA’s OCHC debacle paints a picture of a campus department so consumed with saving face and satisfying its residents that it’s willing to commandeer student institutions and let its student staff feel intimidated, if not pressure them into compliance.

ResLife’s erasing of democracy from OCHC’s constitution is a troubling development on the Hill, but students have a bigger problem on their hands: The residential assistants, OCHC members and student employees tending to them live in a community of fear.

That’s not the UCLA they signed up for. And it’s certainly not the community they want to have on the Hill.

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