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Regents hear comments on pro-Palestine protest response, nurse schedule changes

Regents Richard Leib, Michael Drake and Janet Reilly (left to right) sit at the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday at UCLA. During public comment, members of the public spoke about the UC’s response to pro-Palestine protests and changes to float pool nurse scheduling. (Zimo Li/Photo editor)

By Sam Mulick

June 18, 2024 10:57 p.m.

The UC Board of Regents heard public comment from community members Wednesday about the University’s response to pro-Palestine protests at UCLA and plans by hospital management to change float pool nurse scheduling shifts at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

The board held a special meeting Wednesday at the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, where it appointed Julio Frenk as UCLA’s next full-time chancellor and Darnell Hunt as interim chancellor. The day also included a meeting of the regents’ Health Services Committee.

[Related: Chancellor-designate Julio Frenk answers media questions after his appointment]

Kye Shi, a doctoral student in mathematics, said police officers disrupted a final exam he was about to proctor June 10 during a protest organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA. Protesters had barricaded themselves inside the Kerckhoff patio – which is located near Moore Hall, the location of the exam.

Shi said police officers locked his students in the classroom, yelling and pointing less-than-lethal weapons at them after they pleaded to be let out of Moore Hall. He added that the university is wrong in blaming student protesters for exam disruptions as he believes the police are at fault.

“It was the police threatening our lives, not the students protesting peacefully against a genocide,” Shi said. “It was my students pleading for help, breaking down in tears; my students who, over the past few weeks, were beaten up, hospitalized, jailed; my students whose families who are getting murdered in Palestine – a murder being paid for with your money.”

27 people, including UCLA students and faculty, were arrested June 10 during pro-Palestine protests at Dickson Plaza, Kerckhoff patio and Shapiro Courtyard. Protesters called for the UC to divest from companies associated with the Israeli military, as well as for amnesty for students arrested at previous pro-Palestine protests.

[Related: Pro-Palestine protesters arrested following protests, encampments on campus]

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo, the external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, said they believe the UC restricted free speech on UCLA’s campus through its response to recent pro-Palestine protests and consideration of Item J1, which would restrict the publication of political statements on the homepages of departmental websites.

Many UCLA departments posted statements on their homepages condemning the administration’s response to the first Palestine solidarity encampment at UCLA.

“You lot are holding yet another important meeting during finals week, making it inaccessible for students,” said Nuñez-Verdugo, a rising fourth-year cognitive science student. “I have witnessed firsthand police and private security brutalizing my peers.”

[Related: UC Regents tables discussion on Item J1 to future meeting]

Alicia Verdugo, the USAC Cultural Affairs commissioner, said USAC also voted to implement Boycott, Divest and Sanctions on student fees and freeze any transfers to endowments that serve students until the UC divests from companies associated with the Israeli military.

“Our university is providing research, weapons and money to this genocidal state. What about our consent?” said Verdugo, a rising fourth-year education and social transformation and sociology student. “We will escalate for Palestine, and there will be no business as usual amidst genocide.”

[Related: USAC freezes transfer of funds to endowment until UC divests]

Hudson Roddy, a rising second-year mechanical engineering student who is Jewish, asked the regents to provide clearer information in response to recent protests, adding that he hopes law enforcement will respond quickly when laws are broken on campus.

Siobhan Braybrook, chair of the UCLA Faculty Association and associate professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology, said the UCLA campus has become an unsafe environment for people to exercise free speech and asked the regents to hold each UC campus accountable to its individual campus safety plan. On June 3, UCLAFA – a nonunionized organization representing UCLA faculty on issues of employment and academic freedom – filed an unfair labor practice charge against the UC.

“This is not a safe campus today. This is not a campus I recognize,” Braybrook said. “This is not a place that I feel comfortable working or teaching or encouraging the next generation to exercise their free speech rights in all aspects.”

[Related: UCLA Faculty Association files unfair labor practice charge against the UC]

Dr. Ryan Aronin, a member of the Jewish Faculty Resilience Group at UCLA, condemned a guest lecturer who led medical students in pro-Palestine chants and called on the university to take a stronger stance against such protests, which he said were antisemitic.

Aronin added that UCLA needs to better utilize funding from the UC intended to ease campus tensions regarding the Israel-Hamas war. He added that he disagreed with instructions from the David Geffen School of Medicine that he alleged would prohibit faculty from recording what he believed were antisemitic lectures.

Elina Veytsman, a member of the Jewish Faculty Resilience Group, asked for the regents to respond to instances of alleged antisemitism at UCLA, including a course that she said contained antisemitic content.

“Tangible improvements, however, have yet to be seen, despite funding received from President Drake (UC President Michael Drake) for a so-called dialogue across differences,” said Veytsman, the director of clinical services at the UCLA Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills clinic.

Some employees brought up recent labor problems to the regents.

Tayler Loyd, a perinatal registered nurse at UCLA, said hospital management ignored the concerns of a group of float pool nurses when they communicated the negative impacts of proposed nurse scheduling changes. She added that she believes the proposed changes will negatively impact patients as much as it will nurses.

“We wouldn’t put a Band-Aid on a broken arm to fix it, so why are we doing the same with public tax dollars to people’s livelihoods?” she said.

On May 29, around 70 registered nurses and community members rallied outside the medical center to protest changes by hospital management to float pool nurse scheduling shifts, which nurses said would negatively affect their scheduling conditions and work-life balance.

[Related: Nurses protest Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s proposed schedule changes]

David Ramirez, the 2023-2024 chief of staff of the USAC Office of the External Vice President, said he believes the UC failed to hold those who attacked the first Palestine solidarity encampment April 30 accountable.

On April 30, pro-Israel counter-protesters attacked the first Palestine solidarity encampment at UCLA with fireworks and tear gas, which led to 25 hospitalizations, according to a spokesperson from the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA. Since then, UCPD has arrested one person in relation to the attacks.

“After witnessing my peers being beaten and shot at with rubber bullets, I had to wake up the next morning on Tuesday at 8 a.m. for my final like nothing happened,” said Ramirez, a 2024 geography/environmental studies alumnus. “That is what it’s like to attend the No. 1 university.”

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Sam Mulick
Mulick is a news contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a third-year sociology student from northern New Jersey.
Mulick is a news contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a third-year sociology student from northern New Jersey.
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