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UCLA administrators discuss campus safety, COVID-19 pandemic

UCLA administrators and the executive director of the Ashe Center met with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board on Tuesday to discuss campus safety, pandemic-related learning policies, basic needs and racial justice. (Courtesy of Genesis Qu)

By Danna Castro Galindo

Sept. 26, 2021 10:18 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Mary Osako’s name in a sentence.

This post was updated Sept. 27 at 11:52 a.m.

Chancellor Gene Block met with the Daily Bruin Editorial Board on Sept. 14 and discussed concerns about students’ return to campus after 18 months of primarily distance learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Block was joined by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Monroe Gorden Jr., Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Anna Spain Bradley, Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications Mary Osako, Advisor to the Chancellor and Chief of Staff Yolanda Gorman, and Executive Director of the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center Dr. Chaitali Mukherjee. Together, the panel spoke about campus safety, the COVID-19 pandemic and new COVID-19 safety protocols for in person learning, changes to online learning, students’ basic needs programs such as the Community Programs Office and Counseling and Psychological Services and racial justice.

Campus safety – fires

In response to recent fires in the Los Angeles County area, UCLA has implemented new Air Quality Index air monitors throughout campus and launched UCLA AirQual, a website on which community members can track campus air quality and get real-time data.

  • Beck said that there is a decision matrix on UCLA AirQual that lets the UCLA community know what action UCLA will take at each respective level.
  • In the event of a poor air quality scenario, UCLA will likely implement a shelter In place order instead of evacuating students from campus, Beck said.
  • In the event of a fire occurring close to campus, UCLA has an agreement with the City of Los Angeles Fire Department so as to protect students via a defensive plan, anticipating that it might not be feasible to evacuate 15,000 students, Beck said. He added that if a fire came close to student housing, all students would meet in Pauley Pavilion and the LAFD would ensure that the fire does not reach the facility.
  • Beck emphasized the importance of students verifying their phone numbers associated with MyUCLA so that they can receive timely BruinAlert communications in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Campus safety – intruders

When asked about steps being taken to ensure that students’ safety is protected, Beck said UCLA primarily relies on threat detection intelligence when preventing threats by intruders with weapons and/or vehicle attacks.

  • Beck said that UCLA uses a system that scans social media looking for specific threats and specific words and works closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Beck added that UCLA has a team dedicated to looking at workplace violence and providing potential aggressors with mental health resources. He added that the team also uses legal resources such as temporary restraining orders and search warrants to prevent and address potential violence.
  • Gorman said the independent commission assigned to investigate Jackie Robinson Stadium being used as a facility to detain protesters in June 2020 will release a report in the coming weeks. She added that the report is intended to highlight the issues that the campus will need to address going forward.

Community Safety Plan

The University of California released a community safety plan that acknowledges that systems of policing and law enforcement have not protected people equally. UC chancellors have formed campus-specific task forces to work with their communities to re-envision campus safety and policing.

  • Gorman said UCLA has yet to create a task force that will implement the recommendations outlined in the Community Safety Plan unveiled on Aug. 16. The community safety plan emphasized community-based solutions and more detailed guidelines for the police.
  • Beck said UCLA has focused on adding more professionally trained, unarmed Community Service Officers on campus since the unveiling of the Community Safety Plan recommendations. The university is in the process of developing certification accreditations for CSOs and is working to improve transparency.

COVID-19

With regard to possible future COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, UCLA created the COVID-19 Pivot Decision Making Matrix. The university will rely on the matrix to determine if or when a change to remote learning will be needed, Beck said. The decision-making criteria outlined in the matrix are based on Los Angeles County and UCLA-specific public health conditions, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Beck said UCLA does not expect to return to entirely remote learning this year based on data from the UCLA School of Law and David Geffen School of Medicine, which are on semester schedules.
  • UCLA is promoting proper mask wearing, frequent testing and vaccinations in the greater Westwood community, said Beck. Osako added that UCLA will have educational booths in the Westwood Farmers Market to emphasize the importance of these measures.
  • Osako said the UC Vaccination Policy is one of the best measures UCLA can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its surrounding community.

COVID-19 protocols funding

The university’s COVID-19 protocols have large upfront and continuing costs, such as testing, providing isolation quarters and contact tracing.

  • Beck said the funding for UCLA’s COVID-19 testing comes from a federal grant the university received, noting that the testing is probably the most expensive part of UCLA’s COVID-19 protocols.
  • The university housing designated as isolation quarters for those who test positive for COVID-19 will result in a reduced income stream for UCLA, but the campus housing program is expected to make up the lost revenue over time, Beck said.
  • In the 2020-2021 academic year, UCLA lost almost $300 million in revenue from the housing program due to restrictions on the amount of students that could be living on the Hill. UCLA Housing is financially self-sufficient and has not relied on the campus to fill those losses, Beck said.

COVID-19 Protocols Enforcement

With regard to the enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols such as wearing masks indoors, Beck said UCLA will leave engaging with noncompliant students up to faculty members’ discretion and has recommended that faculty members engage with students in a very limited manner.

  • Faculty members can request that students wear masks properly or leave the classroom if they fail to comply, Beck said. However, he added that UCLA recommends that faculty members turn noncompliant students’ names over to Student Conduct for investigation and discipline.
  • UCPD will not respond to issues regarding students’ improper mask wearing, Beck said.
  • Beck also said faculty who do not comply with COVID-19 safety protocols will be disciplined by the Academic Personnel Office disciplinary process, and staff will be disciplined by their respective human resources’ disciplinary process.
  • Block and Beck both said that they anticipate the majority of students will comply with COVID-19 regulations.

Online learning

With regard to a petition signed by the Disabled Students Union and other students that calls on UCLA to eliminate in-person learning and teaching requirements, Gorden said disabled students, immunocompromised students or students who contract COVID-19 should go to the Center for Accessible Education and request appropriate academic accommodations.

  • Students with qualified disabilities will retain all their accommodations, both Gorden and Beck said.
  • Students needing financial support should contact the Economic Crisis Response Team, Gorden said.
  • Beck said it is not technologically feasible for UCLA to broadcast every course on campus.
  • UCLA is not actively planning on using virtual learning methods to increase the number of applicants who can be accepted into the university, Block said when responding to a question from the Editorial Board about the possibility of UCLA expanding its enrollment.
  • Block added that the Academic Senate will be making decisions about students’ accommodations going forward since fall quarter will be held predominantly in person and is similar to the university’s traditional learning environment.

Community Programs Office

When asked about UCLA’s response to student accusations of the Community Programs Office creating a hostile work environment that has negatively impacted student leaders’ mental health, Gorden said the university has created offices that will hold anyone that does not act appropriately accountable. The Mother Organizations coalition has also voiced concerns regarding CPO’s financial transparency, as CPO programs are funded by student fees.

  • Gorden said one of UCLA’s main priorities in the upcoming year is to support students in prioritizing their mental health. UCLA has seen a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth services and CAPS this past year. UCLA will continue to provide telehealth services but also add in-person services on campus, Gorden said.
  • UCLA hopes to expand the mental health tracker the Depression Grand Challenges team created in order to better see the real-time needs of students, Gorden said.
  • Gorden said he created a majority student advisory board set to commence in the fall that will help increase financial transparency within the UCLA community.

DACA

In July, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs was unlawful. Spain Bradley said UCLA is highly disappointed with the ruling and stands with students, colleagues and neighbors who are undocumented.

  • Undocumented students at UCLA can access the UndocuBruins Fellowship Program that was established last winter, Spain Bradley said. The fellowship can provide students with up to $5,000 per academic year for training and research projects.
  • Spain Bradley also said UCLA offers free legal services for undocumented students and their family members. She added that the university hopes to hire more staff to increase services.
  • Undocumented students are a national resource, Block said, stating that UCLA has to keep pressing hard on legislators in order to create a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

Racial Justice

In response to a question about what resources UCLA offers to Black, brown and Indigenous students to make them feel welcome on campus, Gorden said the Black Bruin Resource Center will be opening up in person within the next week. Gorden also said the Black community space on the Hill will remain a space for student activism.

  • Gorden also said that while there are places designated specifically for underrepresented students, these students should be able to utilize all spaces on campus.
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Danna Castro Galindo
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