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UCLA community reacts to Gene Block retirement announcement

Pictured is Gene Block speaking at commencement. (Courtesy of UCLA Media Relations)

By Christopher Buchanan and Dylan Winward

Aug. 15, 2023 12:46 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 20 at 9:32 p.m.

Members of the campus community expressed surprise following the announcement of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s retirement.

Block announced that he would retire in summer 2024 on X, formerly known as Twitter, and through a campuswide email announcement. He has served as chancellor of the university since 2007 after arriving from the University of Virginia.

[Related: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announces 2024 retirement]

Saksham Makin, a rising second-year data theory and economics student, said Block’s retirement was a shock, particularly since the chancellor was so well known for having improved the university’s position in national collegiate rankings.

“All of us sort of expected him to keep on forever,” he said. “Under him, UCLA has grown as one of the best universities in the country.”

Héctor Osorio, a class of 2020 alumnus, also said he reacted emotionally to the news of the chancellor’s retirement. He added that while working on an initiative researching UCLA’s history to celebrate its 100th anniversary, he looked through the archives of UCLA’s history and thought Block was one of the most impactful chancellors of the university because of his focus on transfers and other marginalized students such as himself.

Block understood the challenges faced by disadvantaged students because he was a first-generation student in his family, Osorio said. He added that he believes Block will be remembered as an important part of UCLA history.

Osorio, who works as the office assistant to the chair of chemistry and biochemistry, also said he hopes Block will receive some form of dedication around the campus to commemorate his time at the university.

Brad Gilbert, who graduated from UCLA in 1989, said he wasn’t surprised that the chancellor was retiring because he had been at the university for so long. He said he felt the chancellor had done a good job running the university, adding that UCLA’s high academic ranking has been a source of pride for alumni.

“It really felt like the academic program was very much tightened up under Dr. Block,” he said. “Ascending past Cal for No. 1 public university was one of those most prideful moments for some of us alum with Cal friends.”

[Related: US News & World Report ranks UCLA as No. 1 public university for 6th year in a row]

Pictured is Block surrounded by UCLA students. (Courtesy of UCLA Media Relations)
Pictured is Block surrounded by UCLA students. (Courtesy of UCLA Media Relations)

Block was also witty and charming to meet, Osorio said. Makin added that many of the students he knows found Block to be an approachable member of the faculty community.

Gilbert also said he felt Block will leave a good, stable foundation for the university’s sports programs. For him, Block’s sense of school spirit was what really made him popular with students, he said.

“I noticed him coming out when the kids were lined up for a big basketball game. I noticed him as the football team paraded in through the tailgating,” he said. “I noticed him in those places where it seemed like he was enjoying being a Bruin as much as I was.”

According to the chancellor’s email announcement, the search for the university’s next chancellor will be conducted by the UC Office of the President.

Osorio said he hopes the next chancellor will work to enable resources for disadvantaged students by funding community resource centers and engagement programs.

He added that after the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, the selection of the next chancellor is particularly important. Although UCLA is not affected by the ruling because affirmative action has been banned in California since 1996, it is expected to change the national landscape of diversity in higher education.

[Related: UCLA community expresses dissatisfaction with the end of affirmative action]

“I want a chancellor who’s able to navigate through this type of law so that we can not only focus on enhancing diversity but also focus on … meritocracy for those who have struggled in life,” he said. “If other students can have the same opportunity like me, that’s the chancellor I want.”

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Christopher Buchanan
Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
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