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Editorial: CARE director severance ignores student needs, undermines resources

By Editorial Board

May. 19, 2019 10:45 pm

UCLA has a new motto for student services: If it’s not broken, break it.

The saying derives from the latest chapter of UCLA’s student services mishap – this time about its Campus Assault Resources & Education program, which provides resources to sexual assault survivors and advocates against sexual violence.

The university announced earlier this month it wasn’t renewing Alicia Oeser’s contract as director for the 2019-2020 academic year. The administration plans to place Nicole Green, the executive director of the Counseling and Psychological Services center, as the interim director.

As if she didn’t have enough problems to deal with already.

It’s hardly good judgment to put Green in charge of another program that provides critical services to vulnerable populations on campus. CAPS is an ailing institution with no dearth of clerical problems, and having Green also manage CARE, which is shifting toward also providing clinical services to students, is foolhardy.

Anyone worth their salt would know tasking Green with CARE is dooming it and CAPS. After all, it’s ludicrous to think there is no other qualified individual on this 80,000-person campus to head UCLA’s sexual violence resource program – other than the executive director of an eroding counseling center.

We shouldn’t forget: UCLA is in a counseling crisis. Students have complained about monthlong wait times and half-hearted support from counselors once they find a way into the counseling center. Staff have highlighted the lack of personnel, low pay and difficult working conditions. And administrators have forsaken mental health at the nation’s top public university.

Moreover, terminating Oeser’s contract and appointing Green – who already has her hands full – as the interim director of CARE is itself a sign of how little administrators seems to value essential campus resources.

UCLA’s decision comes at a time when the Greek life community has closed off from the campus, despite the string of recent sexual violence incidents – some even involving the highest level of national fraternity leadership. CARE’s sexual assault awareness and prevention training for campus organizations are all the more crucial in shifting the culture of how UCLA and campus leadership perceive and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Yet the program’s leadership shake-up runs contrary to this trajectory. Per student accounts, Oeser has been instrumental in shaping the organization, with many members of the community speaking highly of her. Her contract termination has justifiably inspired student ire and only adds to the narrative that Murphy Hall knows little of the services students have come to rely on.

This is not to say the failure here is in administrators’ decision to not renew Oeser’s contract. There might be legitimate reasons even a well-liked and competent director may no longer be the right fit. But the fact that UCLA chose to appoint an already overworked administrator who can barely manage her own department to lead another critical program shows the university simply doesn’t care to provide students with quality services.

Mental health services at UCLA already are in shambles. And its leadership – Green included – has shown a lack of transparency, a misunderstanding of student needs and a lack of trust from the community. CARE, from student accounts, has transparency, community understanding and community trust.

UCLA just jeopardized all that.

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