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Editorial: University needs to improve communication to make construction process smoother

By Editorial Board

Sept. 15, 2019 8:32 p.m.

UCLA is living up to its moniker: Under Construction Like Always.

Several construction projects are currently in the works on campus and around Westwood to keep up with increasing enrollment. A new residence hall is being constructed near the Saxon and Hitch Suites on the Hill, along with new apartment buildings on Le Conte Avenue.

Unsurprisingly, some Westwood residents said they’ve been struggling with noise and obstacles in their day-to-day routines.

But against their own best interests, UCLA has stayed silent as the racket drones on.

It’s vital that UCLA makes Westwood residents feel heard above the din. Construction projects, even very necessary ones like student housing in Westwood, generate major inconveniences for the surrounding residents. And to add insult to injury, current students won’t be around to make use of these projects once completed. But UCLA can make this process less grating for everyone with improved communication.

At the moment, information is disseminated to residents through the Capital Programs website. Up-to-date information is great, but communication through a website students and residents will hardly seek out is a one-way street.

And when problems do arise, residents have no clear method to contact UCLA. A city-provided line tells residents to contact the police, but this misses the underlying issue – it’s the university’s responsibility to answer for the problems it creates. And they’re not doing that.

Complaints often find their ways back to UCLA, but rarely yield results. This is hardly a surprise, given there is no centralized liaison to field resident concerns.

Instead, calls are bounced around from official to official in a tortuous game of telephone with no end in sight. And when problems are left to linger, the frustration only compounds.

If a resident manages to get their message through to administrators, they’re often shut down anyway. Residents have provided an array of suggestions – ranging from a one-hour pause in construction to help with noise pollution to double-pane windows.

UCLA has not budged.

And steamrolling past calls for compromise is unlikely to win UCLA any favor in the community.

Improved communication between UCLA and Westwood residents is absolutely necessary, and more importantly, it’s a win-win for both parties. After all, it’s almost inevitable that more construction projects are on the way. Good relations between all parties will make those expansions smoother in the years to come.

The university is absolutely right to invest in new housing for students, and they can’t do so without a little noise. But they also need to demonstrate their investment in maintaining good relations within the community during this process – specifically, by providing a more centralized forum for resident concerns. It’s unrealistic to expect already-inconvenienced residents to take time out of their day to play telephone with administrators who won’t give them the time of day.

UCLA is laying the groundwork for places future Bruins can call home, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of aggravating its current students and surrounding residents.

Ultimately, new housing is meant to help the community, and the university would do well to respect that.

Because when the dust settles, UCLA will have to answer to them.

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