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Op-ed: As a UCLA parent, I denounce Gene Block’s negligence toward our children’s safety

By Cassandra Nelson

May 4, 2024 3:16 p.m.

This post was updated May 5 at 8:42 p.m.

Dear “Chancellor” Gene Block:

As the mother of a senior who is on the cusp of graduation after four tumultuous years, I watch with utter horror from across the country. We, as parents, entrusted our most precious children in your care.

I truly cannot fathom the broken judgment and decision-making failures that allowed this horror and travesty to occur at UCLA these last few days.

This cannot be the first time in UCLA’s long and storied history that idealistic students decided to publicly voice their protest as a collective group. There is no doubt that protocols and plans are in place to mitigate the violence and potential harm to the students and the greater community at large.

On Tuesday night, security and UCPD passively watched a group of clearly identifiable outside agitators to instigate mayhem with impunity. On the next night, you approved the aggressive attack in full riot mode on your own beleaguered students – our children. It was truly the worst crisis management that the students, our nation and the world have had the misfortune to bear witness to.

To act with such callous brutality and disregard against a large segment of your own student body, are you aware that this current movement is actually grounded in peace and compassion?

My son and his peers were born out of the darkest shadow of 9/11 and started college during a worldwide pandemic. He should be celebrating a beautiful spring quarter – his last on campus. Instead, his body has been beaten by a billy club and shot at. And more importantly, his heart has been utterly broken. He watched friends bleed as they locked arms in solidarity to bravely show the world that they care and want the deaths of countless women and children to end – regardless of ethnicity, religion or geography.

As a parent, I could not be prouder of these kids and the power of their convictions. However, it cannot go unnoticed that you failed them during this crisis. You have failed their families, and I hold you personally responsible for trying to break their spirit.

I am aware your departure as the current “chancellor” is imminent. This is fortunate, as clearly you have showed that you are simply not up to the task. Other universities have shown peaceful engagement is possible.

A preeminent university of UCLA’s caliber – its literal job is to educate the minds of students and encourage their passions and beliefs so they may go out into the world to do great things. It is also to protect them at all costs while they are there. I am embarrassed by UCLA’s utter failure in this regard by its current leadership and brokenhearted that you have betrayed the trust we bestowed. Yes, the community is in “deep pain,” which was exponentially exacerbated by decisions you and your administration made in real time.

In lieu of criminal charges or disciplinary expulsions, I pray you take full responsibility for these inexplicable choices and apologize to your students, their families and to the “Bruin community” at large.

A furious mother,

Cassandra Nelson

Cassandra Nelson is a parent of a fourth-year student at UCLA.

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