A year later, UCLA administration fails to meet promises following 16-day sit-in
The Murphy Hall sit-in is pictured. Participants said the UCLA administration has yet to follow through on many promises made at the conclusion of the sit-in over a year ago. (Daily Bruin file photo)
March 12, 2023 9:17 p.m.
Over a year after the longest sit-in in UCLA history, organizers and participants say the UCLA administration has yet to follow through on many of its promises.
The Murphy Hall sit-in began Jan. 31, 2022, and ended 16 days later on Feb. 16. Protesters called for universal access to hybrid learning and improved resources for the Disabled Student Union and Mother Organizations Coalition, a group of student organizations advocating for historically marginalized communities within the UCLA student population. The sit-in also received support from Undergraduate Students Association Council leaders, some of whom joined the sit-in and called for the administration to meet the protester’s demands, including former USAC president Breeze Velazquez.
The sit-in concluded after administrators offered promises in response to several demands. UCLA agreed to write a letter endorsing hybrid learning options, begin a third-party investigation into the leadership of student retention programs, and increase support for potential and existing identity-based resource centers, among other agreements.
However, as of the end of February, students said despite taking some new actions, UCLA has yet to follow through on most of these agreements signed by Chancellor Gene Block.
DSU demanded at the sit-in that UCLA hire an additional Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer, said Quinn O’Connor, a co-founder of DSU and a sit-in participant. O’Connor added that the administration was not supposed to place the officer within the Center for Accessible Education or Student Affairs office.
The university announced the appointment of ADA compliance officer Yonit Kovnator on Oct. 26, eight months after the sit-in.
UCLA also committed to and did hire more CAE specialists, said O’Connor, a theater alumnus who graduated in 2022.
The American Indian Student Association demanded the establishment of an American Indian Living Learning Community, which the administration agreed to create. UCLA later established the American Indian and Pacific Islander Living Learning Community in September.
DSU advocated for administrators mandating that every class at UCLA offers a virtual option to decrease the risk of infection during the pandemic, especially for disabled and immunocompromised students. The administration said that such a mandate was outside their authority under Academic Senate shared governance, a concept unique to the University of California which gives faculty input on coursework, teaching and research.
Administrators instead agreed to write a letter to the Academic Senate endorsing a hybrid option for all classes. The Academic Senate later agreed to sign on to this letter, telling organizers that they encouraged faculty to make recordings and live streams available for students absent because of COVID-19.
However, it took over a month and a half for the Academic Senate to send the letter via BruinPost on April 4. DSU had to push for meetings with the Academic Senate to finalize the letter, O’Connor said.
“It also exacted a lot of my and another DSU leader’s energy in scheduling meetings with the Academic Senate after the sit-in ended to push them to get this language out,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said the administrator and faculty response was disheartening, adding that organizers were also handling heavy course loads and midterms alongside advocating for increased accessibility.
The MO coalition also collectively called for an external investigation of the Community Programs Office, which houses several student-initiated programs offering retention support and other resources to students from underrepresented communities.
Leaders previously called for UCLA to fire CPO Director Antonio Sandoval and Associate Director Thuy Huynh, alleging that CPO had created a hostile environment for students of color fraught with harassment and retaliation.
“The CPO director had formally gave ASU (Afrikan Student Union) spaces and cubicles away in the Student Retention Center and the SIOC (Student Initiated Resource Center),” said Samone Anderson, who served as chairperson of ASU during the sit-in and is now project director of the ASU Academic Supports Program. “We formally have been kicked out from there. We have formally been denied resources from there.”
Administrators agreed to a third-party assessment of CPO with an anticipated completion date of Sep. 1, 2022, according to a release about the response to sit-in demands signed by Block. The assessment is underway, but a report has not yet been released, Anderson said.
“They’re kind of playing hot potato with the accountability, and we really haven’t gotten much,” Anderson said.
The administration also agreed to house ASU’s projects within the Black Bruin Resource Center instead of within CPO, Anderson said, adding that this has not yet occurred.
Multiple groups at the sit-in also demanded that the administration hire additional student recruiters to aid with retention for their communities, including a Native recruiter and two Pacific Islander recruiters. The administration refused to hire another Native recruiter, instead agreeing to develop new programs to recruit Native students and train recruitment staff on working with Native students. The university also declined to hire Pacific Islander recruiters, instead agreeing to hire a diversity recruiter to work with the Pacific Islander Student Association in outreach to potential applicants.
“Retention work continues to be an extremely high priority for not just the work of specific positions but across UCLA,” university spokesperson Katherine Alvarado said in an emailed statement. “We continue to focus on the important work of retaining our students while also exploring the ways in which full-time staff positions fit into our strategy.”
Student leaders said they were unsurprised by the lack of follow-through from the administration.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised,” Anderson said. “I mean, this is kind of how they do. They make it seem like they’re working with us, and they try and wait people out.”
ASU has met with the UC Office of the President regarding the climate of CPO and the BBRC, and UCOP will meet monthly with the student union until the issue is resolved, Anderson also said.
“I hope Gene and (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) Monroe (Gordon) take that very serious because UCOP is very serious, and we are not above escalating this,” she added.
O’Connor said they feel that the university likes to promote diversity without actually supporting communities on campus.
“It’s really discouraging that a university that holds the No. 1 public university standing … is so dysfunctional and so against actually supporting the quote ‘diverse’ communities that they tried so hard to retain and they try so hard to brag about,” O’Connor said.