There’s something happening in Bruin Plaza every day. A few weeks ago, the plaza was packed with organizers promoting Mind Well Week, Volunteer Appreciation Week, Issues Awareness Week and Earth Day. This week, the area is buzzing with activity because of Undergraduate Students Association Council election campaigning.
As UCLA students, we are accustomed to seeing a flurry of activity in Bruin Plaza. Sure, it’s where the Bruin Bear is located. But Bruin Plaza also has a clear “ecosystem” of sorts, and it’s fair to say that it’s the center of student life.
Mojo wanted to find out how it all started, so we got in touch with the Center for Student Programming, which is in charge of scheduling Bruin Plaza for registered campus organizations and helps plan activities. We spoke with the center’s director, Mike Cohn, about the evolution of Bruin Plaza throughout the years.
Surprisingly, Bruin Plaza has not always been the go-to venue for speakers, food sales, concerts and elephants. Yes, you read that right.
It seems that Meyerhoff Park, the small grassy area in front of Kerckhoff Hall, was the place to be before 1994. But after the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, however, Meyerhoff Park underwent some renovations and was blocked off.
Bruin Plaza, then called “Westwood Plaza,” became its temporary replacement. Since then, the plaza has evolved into a hub of student activity.
Here are some bizarre and significant events that have happened in Bruin Plaza throughout the years:
- In 1984, the USAC internal vice-president, who was involved with Bruin Republicans, brought a live elephant onto campus, walked it through Bruin Plaza, up Bruin Walk and into Meyerhoff Park to support Ronald Reagan and the Republican candidates. Cohn, who was an undergraduate at UCLA at the time, said he remembered students’ jaws dropping when they saw the elephant.
- A few years ago, a student group wanted to land a hot air balloon in Bruin Plaza. The center rejected the request.
- A peace group once released 1,000 doves from the area.
- Rev. Jesse Jackson once spoke in Bruin Plaza.
- Bill Clinton delivered his acceptance speech in Bruin Plaza in 1992 when he secured the Democratic nomination for president. More than 5000 people were present.
With more students living on the Hill, in the apartments and the Greek houses, Cohn said Bruin Plaza has become a central walkthrough to get to campus.
Here’s how Bruin Plaza’s layout has changed recently:
Last year, the plaza was split into two designated areas: one for food and another for student entertainment and booths, to meet the demands of student group requests, Cohn said.
Now when you walk through Bruin Plaza, you can munch on some snacks from a food sale by the Bruin Bear while enjoying a concert playing on the McClure stage.
In April, the UCLA Volunteer Center hosted a Volunteer Appreciation event by the stage while Chicanos Latinos for Community Medicine held a food sale by the Bruin Bear.
Jesse Landeros, a fourth-year biology student and a member of CCM, said his group decided to host the event at Bruin Plaza because it’s at the heart of the campus.
“If you go to North or South campus, you get a good amount of students,” Landeros said, “But everyone has to cross Bruin Plaza some point during their day.”
Nowadays, hosting an event in Bruin Plaza is more complicated than you would think. Cohn gave us a bit of insight into some of the regulations and policies for using Bruin Plaza.
Here are some policies for Bruin Plaza that we didn’t know about:
- Requests are granted on a first come, first serve basis but CSP staff tries to provide programs that support the needs and diversity of the entire campus.
- Only certain set-ups are allowed.
- Any food sales or giveaways need to be approved by the UCLA Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Any “kitchen” set ups also have to be approved by a fire marshall.
- The “X” through the middle of the Plaza has to remain open to allow a vehicle to reach the Ashe Center in case of emergencies.
- Amplified sound is only allowed between 11:50 a.m. and 1 p.m. No amplified sound is allowed during 10th and finals week.
- Registered campus organizations can reserve the plaza for two non-consecutive days each quarter.
- There is now a weight restriction and maximum capacity of 4000 people because of Lot 4 underneath.