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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Justice Movement

The Online Edition: The Adjustment Show

By Omar Said

April 7, 2020 7:29 p.m.

Here at the Daily Bruin, we’ve all experienced the same issues that have taught people around the country remote work just isn’t the same. After taking some time to collect our thoughts, we’ve come together to bring you the first episode of a new podcast, featuring stories from all five of our content sections. We’ll be here each week, highlighting some of the stories we’ve written and the things we’ve seen. Here’s episode one of “The Online Edition,” which we’re calling The Adjustment Show.

 

Omar Said: Hey, is everybody online?

Molly Wright: Yup.

Lucy Carroll: Yup.

Kristin Snyder: Yeah.

David Gray: Uh huh.

Sam Connon: Yup.

OS: Alright, it looks like we’re ready to get started.

Just like everyone else, editors at the Daily Bruin are still figuring out how to make things work as we shelter in place, or stay “safer at home,” as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti prefers to call it. Bruins have now mostly scattered, leaving Westwood for their homes across America and the world. With unprecedented changes to the world, work and education, everyone is now finding new ways to do the things they once did every day.

OS: Here at the Daily Bruin, we’d been planning all sorts of things. Just a few weeks ago, we were planning on sending Sports editor Sam Connon to the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament. Soon after that would come March Madness, and after opening up 2020 as one of the worst teams in the nation, it looked like UCLA might actually qualify this year. UCLA women’s basketball was prepping a tournament run of its own, and we were preparing a special insert to preview both teams’ prospects on the upcoming national stage. We were planning an insert about campus safety and security for a few weeks later – with arguments about how it should be improved. But those plans – all our plans – were dashed week 10, when UCLA suspended in-person classes on March 10 and migrated to online instruction through the second week of spring quarter. Two days later, the Pac-12 and the NCAA canceled their tournaments, and the day after that, UCLA extended the move to online classes through the end of spring quarter. Suddenly, so suddenly, everything just stopped.

OS: Since then, we here at the Daily Bruin have been finding ways to keep doing our jobs in the middle of all this change. Bruins have found themselves taking online classes from homes in other states, other countries, and even just their dorms and apartments in Westwood – albeit much more lonely than before. That’s why for the first time, I’m Omar Said, the Daily Bruin’s head of podcasts, recording from under a blanket fort around my desk at home in Rancho Cucamonga, California – about an hour east of UCLA in good traffic.

DG: I’m David Gray, the Daily Bruin News editor, and I’m recording from my closet at home in Pasadena, California.

LC: I’m Lucy Carroll, the Daily Bruin Opinion editor, and I’m recording from my closet at home in Healdsburg, California.

KS: I’m Kristin Snyder, the Daily Bruin Arts editor, and I’m recording from my closet at home in Orange, California.

SC: I’m Sam Connon, the Daily Bruin Sports editor, and I’m recording from my grandparents’ second-floor storage closet in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.

MW: I’m Molly Wright, the Daily Bruin Blogging editor, and I’m recording from my closet at home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

OS: Now, we’re all sitting in these weird places because the clothes in our closets and the blankets around my desk are absorbing sound – forming makeshift recording studios so that we can make this show about the one thing all Bruins are doing now: adjusting, and learning how to keep our lives moving, at least in some way, like they used to before.

OS: From the Daily Bruin, this is “The Online Edition.” I’m Omar Said, and today, we’re bringing you our first episode: The Adjustment Show. Stay tuned, we’re bringing you stories about Westwood, UCLA and Bruins – and the way they’re all adjusting to our newfound situation.

 

12 Stories, 5 minutes

Omar Said: Page 1: 12 Stories, 5 minutes. We’ve been under shelter-in-place orders for 17 days now in California, as we record on Sunday. Being trapped inside that long has left many people stir-crazy. Some have put that energy into playing Animal Crossing, which came out March 20 – just hours after California’s order to stay at home went into effect the evening of March 19. Others, like the Daily Bruin’s News editor, have put that energy into less wholesome activities, like messing with their staff. Here with me now is News editor David Gray, who has decided to create a unique challenge for two of his assistant editors: In five minutes or less, they’re going to tell 12 News stories chosen by him about changes made as a result of COVID-19.

David Gray: Hi, Omar. So, to start things off, I’d like to point out that this is not just a challenge – it’s a competition. I’ll be choosing a winner at the end, based on a secret set of factors only I can ever know. With that being said, I’d like to introduce assistant news editors Kate Nucci and Marilyn Chavez-Martinez.

Kate Nucci: Hello.

Marilyn Chavez-Martinez: Hey!

DG: Alright, so we flipped a coin before we came on the air, and Kate gets to go first. Omar, can you put 5 minutes on the clock?

OS: The clock is set.

DG: Alright, on your marks, get set, go!

KN: First up: After UCLA announced the move to online classes, more than 80% of students living in dorms on the Hill have moved out. The university has also set up a system for students who left UCLA without their stuff but still just want to cancel their housing contracts and expects more students to move out over time.

MCM: To help ease the pressure students are feeling, the UCLA Academic Senate voted to let students avoid changes to their GPAs by taking multiple classes pass/no pass for spring quarter. The UC is also relaxing its admission requirements – high school seniors applying to the UC this fall won’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores, and all high school students will also be able to take their required classes on a pass/fail basis for this year’s winter, spring, winter and summer sessions, no matter when they apply.

DG: Alright, you did undergraduates and high school students, so now you have to do one about grad students.

KN: Graduate students are still facing cost-of-living issues. UCLA graduate students are considering whether to go on strike without the support of their union. Grad students are once again hoping for a union-backed strike, but many are planning to launch a strike with or without the union’s support, including UCLA Graduate Students Association President Zak Fisher.

MCM: Meanwhile, to counter cost-of-living issues caused by the financial impacts of COVID-19, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a ban on evictions across the state through the end of May. Newsom credited Los Angeles for putting in place a similar moratorium, issued more than a week earlier by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.

DG: Points to Marilyn for a good transition.

KN: Speaking of LA, a new boat has arrived in the city from Naval Base San Diego – and not just any boat. This is the USNS Mercy – a Naval hospital ship that is now docked at the Port of Los Angeles to help hospitals struggling with capacity issues because of COVID-19 by taking care of patients who’ve tested negative for the coronavirus to free up beds.

DG: Don’t forget to mention how many people at UCLA are sick.

MCM: Fourteen members of the UCLA community have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 5. While the cases are increasing, most of the more recent cases were likely contracted off campus. Last month’s decision to suspend in-person classes will likely hamper further cases from spreading at UCLA, which has now extended online instruction through at least Aug. 28, the end of summer session A. No decision has been made yet about summer session C, which ends Sept. 11 – six months after online instruction first began at UCLA.

DG: Okay, now do a story that ties into online instruction.

KN: UCLA students experienced “Zoombombing” during their first few days of spring quarter classes when internet trolls interrupted Zoom classes with racist messages and slurs. Zoombombing was a common issue in classes across America this week, including at USC. UCLA has made a commitment to fix the issue, announcing two days later that it was working with law enforcement to identify those who verbally attacked students in class, while Zoom has made changes that make it more difficult for trolls to hijack classes.

DG: You’re doing great David, now bring it home.

MCM: We interviewed students who lost their jobs on campus as a result of COVID-19. Many were planning to return to work at UCLA during spring quarter – a decision that’s now out of their hands. Meanwhile, student employees on the Hill are mired in uncertainty – unsure whether to stay and work jobs that might not last, or to head for the relative safety of home. Three days after that, the University of California announced a commitment not to lay off any of its career employees because of COVID-19, though that won’t help students much.

MCM, KN: DONE!

OS: And, that’s time. Good job, you both just made it. So David, have you decided on a winner?

DG: Ugh, wow you guys both did a great job. I can’t pick a winner so, you guys both win.

MCM: Lame.

KN: Yeah.

DG: That’s my choice.

OS: Alright, that’s it for this absurd little game show we’ve set up. We have to move on now. Thank you all.

 

Humans of UCLA at home

Omar Said: Page 2: Humans of UCLA at home. In the midst of all this, it’s been hard for a lot of people to maintain their routines – without rigid schedules to stick to or places to be. That’s also created a great opportunity for people who are trying to do something different as a way to make isolation more bearable. With me again is Opinion editor Lucy Carroll – who decided a routine change is just what the Opinion desk needs right now.

Lucy Carroll: This week, my assistant editors and I thought it might be a good idea to take a break from arguing to see what exactly the humans of UCLA are going through right now and how they’ve been coping with all of this. We spoke with Aidan Arasasingham, a third-year global studies student who’s the Government Relations chair for the University of California Student Association and an undergraduate representative for Associated Students UCLA. Arasasingham has been going through some rough patches with the recent isolation and remote instruction.

Aidan Arasasingham: I’m not gonna to lie, it’s been really difficult. I mean, thinking back to finals week, almost overnight, I had to move my entire life out of Westwood back home. Honestly, I miss my friends, and it’s been difficult having access to the support system that I rely on when we’re all so spread socially thin. And it’s in times like this that you need to rely on your support system the most, but we’re so spread socially distant, that it’s difficult.

LC: And it’s not just being separated from friends that’s causing problems – Arasasingham is coping with a lot of the technical difficulties that make remote work and instruction inaccessible.

AA: I know for a fact that I don’t learn as well through a screen than in person. I mean, right now, my entire family, we’re sharing the same Wi-Fi router, and I’ve been having problems all week with connection issues and with audio issues. And I’m not able to keep up with lecture or what a professor is saying when I get spotty audio and I miss entire chunks of lecture.

LC: Despite the difficulties of remote instruction and being cooped up inside though, Arasasingham has found some silver linings to the situation.

AA: I mean, I’m getting to spend more time with family, which I think is really good. And in a way, it’s forcing all of us to put so much more effort into maintaining and building our, you know, friendships and relationships right now and making sure that we can’t take friends for granted.

LC: One thing that’s made it easier for him to stay positive is a little moment that helped him see the way other people have been adapting and adjusting to what’s going on in the world.

AA: Home for me is near UC Irvine’s campus, and I was definitely, you know, it was unexpected and surprising today to be woken up by car horn after car horn, especially when I haven’t seen a car in the streets in days. And I went out and I looked and it was actually a car strike being put on by the COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) graduate students, you know, protesting for graduate basic needs and student labor support right now in the middle of the coronavirus crisis. And seeing that kind of energy and the power of student activism continue in new and innovative ways, even in the new reality we’re living in, is incredibly powerful, and we need to keep up elevating these conversations of student basic needs, of student labor support and of graduates student basic needs during this time, you know, even if we have to find new and innovative ways to do it.

LC: In that vein, Arasasingham said he thinks student political activism like that will be key as the pandemic continues.

AA: I think we need to, you know, remain vocal and vigilant to make sure we’re keeping a close eye on the way that UCLA and UC is handling the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, especially with regard to student basic needs – you know, our financial security, our academic support and, you know, support for our student workers. But at the same time, the onus can’t be on us as students to make sure that we’re pushing administration in the right direction. We need to have a much more inclusive dialogue and collaboration to make sure not only in these crisis decisions we’re included, but as we move on to the medium and longer term, as we move into recovery, students and student voices are centered in the process, and our needs are met. I’m optimistic going forward, but in the post-crisis UC recovery, students need to be at the center of this discussion, both on campus and statewide.

LC: That’s certainly something I can agree with. It was good to hear from another student in the midst of all this.

OS: What really struck me is the optimism he shows for the future, despite some of the negative things going on. Thanks, Lucy.

 

COVID-19 steals the show

Omar Said: Page 3: COVID-19 steals the show. UCLA is home to the School of Theater, Film and Television – more commonly known as TFT. The school houses 692 students: directors, editors, actors and costume designers, among other specialized fields. As a result of social distancing guidelines, those students have had to adjust to many changes, starting with the decision to put their plays, movies and film projects on hold. Arts editor Kristin Snyder tells us more.

Kristin Snyder: So, truth be told, this situation is not ideal. Not for me, and apparently very much not for TFT students. Not only are they coping with stalled movies and film projects, they’re now dealing with the fact that many of their classes require access to expensive programs and equipment that’s normally available on campus, making it difficult for them to practice editing or doing the work they normally would for their classes.

OS: And just what kind of programs and equipment is it that students need access to? I understand the need for cameras and filming equipment, but don’t they have to stop filming right now anyway?

KS: Well, aside from filming, TFT students learn a lot of other skills. Those learning to edit need access to editing software normally available to them in editing bays in Melnitz Hall. There are also students who need access to the building’s virtual reality labs in Melnitz, where they can use VR headsets. I don’t know what that all’s about, but it seems like TFT is really up to some high-tech work these days. What I do know is that VR headsets and editing programs aren’t cheap – and that a lot of students might have more pressing expenses, including rent and internet.

OS: It seems unfair to leave that expense on students. Especially considering they’re still paying for access to those things on campus – that money is now going toward nothing. Even students who can afford to buy their own VR headsets or editing programs are essentially paying twice.

KS: It’s funny you should bring that up. A lot of TFT students feel the same way – and they want the professional fees they pay for access to this technology back. And it’s not as if the university has come up with a good alternative. Victor Rocha, a fourth-year film and television student and former Daily Bruin contributor who’s co-head of the undergraduate student council for film, told us he felt like most of TFT is now dependent on students having access to their own software and VR headsets – meaning students can’t fully and meaningfully participate in their classes without spending money on big-ticket items.

OS: Online instruction really has been a challenge – I’m sure South Campus lab courses are dealing with similar issues, albeit on a smaller scale. I think it’s clear at this point that online instruction will never be the same as the in-person instruction students would get in a classroom. For the most part, online learning really will be about students finding a way to adjust to new ways of learning skills without doing it themselves – but Zoom does offer its own perks, like its screen-sharing features, and the fact that no one has to walk to class anymore. That may not mean much to everyone – but at least it’s some version of an upside.

KS: Yeah, and it opens the possibility of inviting guests to Zoom into the classroom who wouldn’t normally be able to come to UCLA’s campus as a result of work or geography. Things will definitely be different these next few months. Here’s hoping we all figure it out.

OS: Here’s hoping. Thanks Kristin.

 

An indefinite timeout

Omar Said: Page 4: An indefinite timeout. COVID-19 has made a pretty big impact on many parts of our lives – but its effects were most quickly apparent in the sports world, when collegiate athletics around the country began to shut down in mid-March. Around the same time, professional sports – including the NBA, NHL and MLB – also shut down, leaving sports fans with no games to watch, no statistics to track and no brackets to fill out. Here at the Daily Bruin, that’s left members of our Sports desk with little to do but wait for things to return to normal. Sports editor Sam Connon takes a break from scrolling through Twitter to join me for the rest of the story.

Sam Connon: It’s been weird for sports fans these past few weeks, you know. Watching old games just isn’t the same, and I’m not used to this much downtime between heated head-to-head matchups, really . Some people have even resorted to watching marble races on YouTube.

OS: And how have you been coping with it all? Did you find something to fill your time?

SC: Well, people who know me know I’m a big movie and TV fan, so I cut through a big chunk of my watch list. I binged the second season of “Westworld” in one day so I could catch up before the new season, and I finally completed the Cornetto trilogy when I watched “The World’s End” last Tuesday – it’s absolutely hilarious, would definitely recommend. And after I ran out of movies to watch, I talked with our social and graphics teams to set up a March Madness bracket on the Daily Bruin Sports Twitter account to pick the best UCLA athlete of the school year.

OS: Were you rooting for anyone to win? Who won it in the end?

SC: Well, I was really pulling for Matt McLain, Michaela Onyenwere, Kyle Philips and maybe a few others, but it’s been clear since the beginning who the champion was going to be – Kyla Ross. We still have a few rounds left, but the field is thinning out and I can’t imagine anyone pulling off that upset. She’s just an all-time great and a total people’s champion too.

Truth be told, the hardest thing about all this has been some of the recent news from the NCAA. The people most affected by these cancellations are the athletes, and the NCAA has actually been working on a solution. It gave athletes who play spring sports an extra year of eligibility – that includes sports like baseball, softball, tennis and golf. But, unfortunately, that means winter sports like men’s and women’s basketball and gymnastics won’t make the cut – we’ll never get to see this year’s men’s basketball team play in March Madness, and we really likely would have without COVID-19. This cutoff means we won’t have a chance to see athletes like Kyla Ross and Prince Ali donning blue and gold again. Anyway, aside from that, there obviously hasn’t been much happening on fields or courts anywhere around the country.

OS: Hey, Sam, what’s that noise?

SC: Oh, I didn’t think the microphone would pick that up. I’m playing NBA 2K20. Hang on, let me turn it down. You would not believe how many hours I’ve put into this game over the last few weeks – really been getting my MyPlayer up.

So, we recently wrote a Battle of the Editors, facing off to decide what UCLA’s best moment of this year was – although I don’t think we really decided on anything in the end.

Really, I think after fighting it out, we just realized how impressive so many of UCLA’s teams have been this year. Be it men’s basketball – which managed to become one of America’s top college basketball teams after capping off a seven-game winning streak with last-minute wins over Arizona and Arizona State – or gymnastics – which once again made it into the internet hall of fame with a viral Beyoncé-themed routine performed by Nia Dennis – UCLA Athletics managed to overshoot expectations in more ways than one this year. I’m just sad I didn’t get to see them do it longer.

SC: So, yeah, as you can see, my hands are anything but full. Overall, though, I’m just hoping UCLA Athletics comes back strong next year. In the meantime, I’m going back to Twitter – at least until a new marble-race video comes out.

OS: Thank you, Sam. Enjoy your marbles.

 

We’re still on Postmates

Omar Said: Page 5: We’re still on Postmates. Students are going through a lot right now, but so is the entire country. That includes Westwood businesses that many students have forgotten about while they were worrying about a pandemic, online classes and missing out on commencement. Quad editor Molly Wright tells us now how Westwood small businesses are adjusting to COVID-19.

Molly Wright: Every summer, most students pack up their things and leave Westwood, bound for home, study abroad sessions and summer-vacation destinations across the globe. This year, that exodus, or a version of it, came early as a result of COVID-19 and the resulting migration of classes online and campus closure – an acceleration that is threatening small businesses Bruins know and love in Westwood Village, like Enzo’s Pizzeria, Fat Sal’s and Espresso Profeta. While students may not have left for vacation this time, many of them are home – and that means they’re not around to spend money at Westwood businesses.

No one yet knows how long it will be before students are back in Westwood and can once again make the decision to skip 8 a.m. lectures in Royce Hall, but one thing is clear: Their absence will surely be felt by the small businesses that rely on students for most of their demand.

OS: And just how bad are things going for small businesses right now? I know there are still some students living in their Westwood apartments, or like the dorms on campus. Are the restaurants at least still getting any business?

MW: Well, a lot of the restaurants are still open for delivery, takeout, or both, which helps them make up some business, but there’s a limit to even that. The restaurants are also having to deal with the fact that the students staying behind aren’t going out – meaning there’s less foot traffic, and fewer people buying takeout. Between students leaving Westwood, and those left behind staying indoors as a result of social distancing guidelines, some restaurants have seen their business decrease by 70% in a single day.

OS: That’s really worrying to hear, and I’m sure students would hate to come back to UCLA to find their favorite restaurants closed. I know some restaurants have chosen to become small markets to make up money by selling their food stocks. That sounds like a good way to get groceries while avoiding crowded grocery stores. Is there any other way for restaurants to make money right now?

MW: Well, besides continuing to offer delivery and takeout, many restaurants in Westwood and across America also offer gift cards and gift certificates. Recently, people have been focusing on buying those as a way to help restaurants, because it gives restaurants money to pay bills now, and people can use the gift cards once social guidelines have relaxed and things have returned to normal.

OS: That’s good to know. I might try that out myself. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed my favorite restaurant manages to stay open through this pandemic. I know there are bigger things to worry about, but they really have the best poke. Thanks again, Molly.

OS: That’s our show. We’ll be back again next week with another episode of “The Online Edition.” Find us online at DailyBruin.com, where you can read more stories about UCLA, Bruins and Westwood.

 

OS: “The Online Edition” was produced and edited this week by me, Omar Said, with production assistance from Sara Hubbard. This week’s episode was fact-checked by Maggie Tully, Sara Hubbard and Saskia Lane. Special thanks this week to my co-hosts: David Gray, Kate Nucci, Marilyn Chavez-Martinez, Lucy Carroll, Kristin Snyder, Sam Connon and Molly Wright. “The Online Edition” is a Daily Bruin Podcasts production.

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Omar Said | Senior staff columnist
Said was an assistant Opinion editor from 2018-2019. He previously contributed as an opinion columnist for the section and writes about issues surrounding diversity and student life. He also manages the Daily Bruin's various podcasts.
Said was an assistant Opinion editor from 2018-2019. He previously contributed as an opinion columnist for the section and writes about issues surrounding diversity and student life. He also manages the Daily Bruin's various podcasts.
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