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Gene Block discusses meeting demand for mental health services, addresses ongoing issues

Chancellor Gene Block met with the Daily Bruin March 11 to discuss administrative decisions and issues affecting the campus community. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)

By Kate Nucci

March 18, 2019 2:46 am

Correction: The original version of this article misquoted Jerry Kang.

This post was updated March 29 at 10:38 a.m.

Chancellor Gene Block meets with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board every quarter to discuss issues affecting campus and to explain administrative policies. At the meeting March 11, Block, who was joined by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Monroe Gorden Jr., Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang and UCLA Veterans’ Affairs liaison and former dean of the UCLA School of Law Jonathan Varat spoke about the administration’s response to increasing demand for psychological services, the Centennial Campaign, equity and diversity in hiring, sexual violence, and transportation.

Counseling and Psychological Services

  • Block said he thinks UCLA is addressing the stigma surrounding mental health on campus. He said more students are seeking help from CAPS, but added it is challenging for CAPS to accommodate the increasing demand for mental health services.
  • Gorden said the university has dedicated resources to bolster counseling services; he said half of the annual student services fee goes to CAPS.
  • Gorden said CAPS is losing counselors and psychologists to outside jobs that are less demanding and better-paying.
  • Gorden said UCLA relies on the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior to provide long-term care to students. When the Semel Institute is backed up, it leads to overcrowding at CAPS, Gorden added.
  • Gorden added administrators are working with UCLA Health to dedicate some staff to working with students.
  • Gorden also said CAPS would expand its hours to meet students’ needs.
  • Gorden said all these efforts still cannot meet the full demand for mental health services. In response, he said administrators are developing a resiliency spectrum, intended to provide students with other faster mental health services that provide options such as online programs.
  • To retain counselors, Gorden said, the administration may encourage current UCLA students in psychology and mental health fields to work at CAPS after graduation. He said this also would increase diversity in the psychological services staff.
  • Beck said the administration increased counselors’ pay last year.
  • Gorden said it is necessary to limit the number of CAPS counseling sessions students receive per year because CAPS doesn’t have the capability to provide unlimited counseling for all students. He said students often were seen beyond three to six times per year when necessary, and added CAPS also refers students to outside clinicians.
  • Block said the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge serves as an opportunity to research more effective methods of providing mental health care to students. He said effective mental health care requires a combination of electronic monitoring, online cognitive therapy, artificial intelligence and hiring more counselors.
  • He said UCLA does not plan to use Centennial Campaign funds to pay for psychological services, but CAPS did receive funding from donors. He said even unlimited funding could not solve the issues facing mental health on campus.
  • Gorden said limited space also prevents CAPS from providing students with unlimited care. He added, however, UCLA is considering expanding CAPS’ programs and other student program centers in central campus.
  • Block said he believes UCLA has an obligation to provide as much mental health support as possible to students.
  • Block said he supports switching from the quarter system to a semester system to reduce stress on students.

UCLA Centennial Campaign

  • Block said the campaign has raised around $517 million for student scholarships. He said he still hopes to reach his goal of $1 billion.
  • Block said he had allocated university resources to match donor grants for student scholarships, but they had been used up. He said he hopes to find more funds to continue matching.
  • Block said certain donors want to donate to specific areas. He added the administration does not take donations in areas that do not need support. He also said some donors begin donating in “gateway” areas, such as healthcare and athletics, but later expand donations to other aspects of campus.
  • Gorden said the university proposed the construction of the Mo Ostin Academic Center for Student-Athletes.
  • Gorden said he envisions expanding the John Wooden Center in the central campus area to focus on more areas of wellness.
  • Administrators are surveying students and consulting student government officials to decide which central campus projects to build first.
  • Despite being several hundred million dollars short on the student scholarship fundraising goal, Block said students should be confident administrators are completely committed to fundraising for student scholarships. He added $1 billion is an aspirational goal, so he considers reaching $500 million already successful.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment

  • Gorden said he thinks accountability reforms within the Interfraternity Council are on the right track. He added the goal is to eradicate all sexual violence on campus.
  • Kang said the administration has to consider the balance of shared governance with the IFC.
  • Kang said all organizations on campus are investigated under the same sexual violence and sexual harassment policies.
  • Kang said while he does not intend to leave groups unchecked by the administration, he acknowledged that many campus organizations, including fraternities, are only loosely supervised by the administration.
  • Gorden said he thinks trainings on sexual harassment and sexual violence can be improved by becoming more engaging. Students do not benefit much from the trainings because they do not pay attention, Block added. He also added simply showing up to a training should not be considered the same as actually engaging with a training.

Scooters and ride-hailing services

  • Beck said the administration cannot regulate the use of scooters and ride-hailing services as strictly in areas with public spaces and streets.
  • Beck added administrators secured a $5 Lyft promotion for ride-share trips within five miles of campus. The promotion ends May 31. Beck said negotiations with Uber and Lyft to renew a similar deal are ongoing.
  • Beck said student use of ride-hailing services plateaued following the introduction of electric scooters.
  • Beck said the administration is trying to balance all transportation services on campus and reduce the number of vehicles entering campus. Fewer vehicles entered campus this year than last year, he added.
  • Block said he thinks electric scooters could provide an efficient form of transportation for students if safety concerns can be resolved.
  • Beck said the administration has advertised safety measures for electric scooters and worked with scooter companies to include safety information on their apps.

Librarians

UCLA librarians are negotiating with the UC Office of the President over academic freedom and the University’s use of temporary contract positions, among other issues.

  • Beck said it is difficult to fulfill librarians’ requests because doing so would require funds from student fee increases or the state. He said the state was not providing funding, and increasing student fees was unpopular among students.
  • Beck added he thinks the librarians’ pension program is unsustainable. He added the UC offered an alternative pension plan to new employees.
  • Block said the university was negotiating in good faith, and it recognized how expensive it is to live in Los Angeles.

Academic Researchers Union

UC academic researchers applied to the California Public Employment Relations Board to create an academic researchers union. The University of California filed an objection to the Board, claiming the union had no community of interest.

  • Block said UCLA was not taking a position in ongoing negotiations between UCOP and UC academic researchers.
  • Beck said the current conflict between the UC and the union was about which positions, such as adjunct professors or visiting professors, would be eligible to join the union. He said a negotiation session was held in February, and that another is scheduled for March.
  • Beck said once those sessions were complete, the academic researchers would apply to PERB for certification. He added if the union was certified, official negotiations between the new union and the university would begin.

New Equity, Diversity and Inclusion hiring requirements

  • Kang said the UC instituted a new hiring rule in 2018 that required that candidates state how they had contributed to equity, diversity and inclusion. He said next year those statements would also be required for internal promotions.
  • Kang said hiring was generally done within departments, and that departmental search committees would consider EDI statements along with the rest of a candidate’s application when making hiring decisions.
  • Kang said he thinks EDI statements are beneficial because they make it possible to credit candidates who have helped marginalized individuals in ways that would be otherwise difficult to express in an application.
  • Kang said the university is not allowed to use political tests in hiring. He said requiring EDI statements is not identity politics because the statements focus on candidates’ work rather than their demographic information.

Retirement

  • Gene Block said he has no plans to retire. He said he would eventually return to teaching and research.

Veterans Affairs opinion piece

The Daily Bruin published an opinion column March 3 arguing UCLA’s veterans’ wellness facility and legal clinic, both located on land leased from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, were underperforming. According to an LA Times article published October 2018, more than 60 percent of land leased from the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus to various entities including UCLA, the Brentwood School and others is being used illegally or improperly.

  • He said the chancellor has committed $16.5 million of UCLA resources to veterans.
  • He said the legal clinic for veterans has published lists of organizations to which it could refer veterans if the clinic found itself over capacity. He said he thinks all of LA’s veteran legal aid foundations cannot meet veterans’ needs, so expecting UCLA alone to do so is unrealistic.
  • He said he thinks establishing the legal clinic for veterans was not intended as a university public relations move.
  • He said the clinic had limited intake hours because lawyers at the clinic needed time to prepare for representing clients.
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Kate Nucci | Assistant News editor
Nucci is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Features & Student Life beat. She was previously a contributor for the Campus Politics beat from 2018-2019 and Copy staff from 2017-2019.
Nucci is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Features & Student Life beat. She was previously a contributor for the Campus Politics beat from 2018-2019 and Copy staff from 2017-2019.
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