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eSports at UCLA: Bruins embrace realm of competitive video gaming

The Bruins have been a powerhouse in traditional competitive sports, but UCLA is now taking the digital battlefield seriously as well.

This year, UCLA has greatly increased its competitive presence outside traditional sporting arenas by fielding multiple teams who are representing the Bruins in competitive gaming tournaments. eSports, the collective name for competitive video gaming, has recently seen a massive surge in popularity on campus, paralleling the general interest and growth of the industry.

What is eSports? It is a massively growing subculture inside the video game industry where people watch the best players in the world compete for money and fame. Professionals train and practice much like any other athlete to hone their game and compete at the highest caliber. Popular games with competitive scenes include the team-based action strategy games League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients, fighting games Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros., card game Hearthstone, and first-person shooter Counter-Strike.

In 2015, across these games and many more, more than $52 million has been awarded across more than 3,000 tournaments to these dedicated and talented gamers. Viewership numbers online through platforms such as and YouTube are seeing exponential growth as eSports matures. The core demographic of these events is college-aged viewers, as the competitive scene brings in an additional deep layer of immersion to one’s favorite games.

Most people think of gamers on campus as socially awkward students locked away in their rooms, only coming out of hiding when the Rendezvous lines are short so they can get some food. However, campus video game culture is undergoing a rapid social growth that parallels that of eSports. Competitive nature is being embraced on campus, bringing the gamers out of hiding as they practice together.

This year, UCLA has seen the inception of multiple new and popular clubs directly related to eSports. Clubs for three of the aforementioned games – DoTA, Counter Strike and Hearthstone – were founded this year as clubs on campus. In addition, new to this year is the popular AUGment club, which aims to unite gamers across multiple games and bring everyone together to make new friends. These clubs also organize viewing parties for the largest international eSports events, such as the League of Legends World Championship, and promote competitive growth.

With the advent of these new clubs, UCLA has seen a renaissance in competitive play in 2015. UCLA is one of only five campuses out of more than 400 competing in the Collegiate StarLeague, the governing body of college eSports, that is fielding a Division I team in every game. The CSL is akin to the NCAA where, as the NCAA oversees basketball and football, the CSL oversees League of Legends and Counter-Strike. As a direct result of these new on-campus organizations allowing gamers to connect and enjoy their shared interests together, UCLA is quickly rising in the ranks to challenge established eSports powerhouses such as UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, University of British Columbia and Georgia Tech.

There is a sense of competitive greatness on campus, one that is looking to be matched in the coming years by those Bruins doing battle on the virtual arena. Good news for the spectators: You do not need a Den Pass, or to even have pants on, to see these student-athletes compete, as their matches are streamed live online every week for hundreds of collegiate viewers. If you play any of the aforementioned games, go check out the respective teams; they’re always looking for new friends.

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Campus news

Throwback Thursday, Week 6: Affirmative action

Affirmative action on university campuses has been a hot-button social and political issue for decades, a slow-burning flame that occasionally explodes and has never truly flickered out.

California has long been an epicenter of these incendiary discussions about a policy that divides casual observers and academics alike, between those who view it as conducive to racial justice and as a racial injustice. Despite the state’s supposedly liberal track record, voters in the state passed the first statewide ban on race and gender preferences for university admissions, public employment and contracting in 1996 by way of Proposition 209.

In a month, the Supreme Court of the United States is slated to rehear the 2013 affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas, that may culminate in the end to such policies nationwide. The University of California was one of a long list of parties that filed amicus briefs Monday in support of affirmative action, citing that the University and the state have suffered from a decline in diversity post-Proposition 209.

For the 2000 Daily Bruin Registration Issue, UC Student Regent Justin Fong took aim at a similar policy widely considered to be a precursor to Proposition 209: Special Policies 1 and 2, which were passed by the UC Regents to ban the aforementioned considerations within the UC system. His column appeared alongside former UC Chancellor Albert Carnesale’s, which carefully avoided any topic of racial or social justice by way of an abundance of empty platitudes.

Both SP 1 and 2 and Proposition 209 were championed by Ward Connerly, a UC Regent from 1993 to 2005 best known for being a sworn archenemy of affirmative action. It was a strangely conservative time at the UC.

Fong, then a first-year UCLA graduate student studying public policy, had his own dramatic run-ins with affirmative action – he was arrested in 1997 for attempting to storm the regents after they refused to reverse SP 1 and 2. The Daily Californian noted how this could thwart his appointment to the “coveted” position. Incredibly, the very regents that he rushed at in protest – which included Ward Connerly – selected him for the student regent position three years later.

More incredible, perhaps, was what happened during Fong’s tenure as student regent. In May of 2001, the regents unanimously voted to rescind SP 1 and 2. University officials proclaimed the decision as a reaffirmation of the UC’s commitment of diversity. Still, realistically speaking, the damage had already been done and the rescission largely symbolic, since Proposition 209 superseded UC policy anyway.

I suspect Fong is as anxious as I am in awaiting the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision on affirmative action at universities nationwide. Unfortunately, storming the Court, whose activities are largely closed to the public, is not as straightforward nor productive an affair.

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Campus news

Throwback Thursday, Week 5: Class conflicts

Enrollment is terrible, it’s always been terrible, it always will be terrible.

On Monday, just before the winter class catalog was released and less than a week before students received their enrollment appointments, the administration announced that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test credits will no longer count toward advancing students’ enrollment priorities.

For those who relied on high school credits to keep them a little ahead of the game, the hour before their enrollment window begins – during which you refresh the Schedule of Classes page over and over again, staring down the last open spot in a class limited to 150 people – is about to get a little more stressful.

It could be worse though.

We could have one computer – that’s singular – charged with managing more than 20,000 students’ enrollment. That computer could break for a quarter of the time it was supposed to be active within a two-week period. Administrators could refuse to abscond late enrollment fees and place a $3 charge on students for something that wasn’t their fault.

On April 18, 1978, Liz Thaler wrote a news article in The Bruin explaining that a campus-wide blackout a month before damaged the enrollment computer which was “highly sensitive to changes in temperature or humidity.”

But this isn’t 1978 anymore.

While the conditions might be equally miserable, the problems we face today are worlds apart from those faced by Thaler and her peers.

The advent of MyUCLA – and the widespread availability of computers necessary to make it possible – has removed most technological difficulties, but only to give rise to a complicated system of values and exceptions that determine whether you are important enough to get into the classes you need.

The policy change might feel very arbitrary, especially for students who expected their high school experience to count for something when enrolling in college classes – after all, that was the point of taking them, right?

But the change reflects the increasing diversity of higher education. By most accounts, there are a multitude of good reasons for the change. AP and IB credits have long represented a gap in privilege between high schools that can and can’t afford to provide students with college-level classes. While both services have attempted to accommodate more underprivileged students in recent years, the gap remains.

While students previously came from largely similar socio-economic backgrounds, the playing field today is less level and, in the grand scheme of things, prioritizing students who had the opportunities to take college-level courses in high school is far worse than arbitrary – it’s irresponsible.

So if you find yourself looking back at the good old days – when a broken computer was the crux of students’ problems – with an air of nostalgia, then stop. You’re a classist. Literally.

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Food Day raising awareness about preservation, healthy habits

Caught in the new age of self-proclaimed “foodies,” I decided to take my fascination with food past the level of intricate and drool-prompting Instagram photos. I wanted to know about the part of food that you can’t stick a filter on.

Organized by the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, “Food Day 2015: Save The Food From! Farm to Table” was a wonderful way for students and faculty interested in food, health, and campus affairs to get involved and informed. The event held last Wednesday, was a star-studded affair, with special presenters like Chancellor Gene Block, Ernest Miller and University of California President Janet Napolitano.

President Napolitano spoke briefly about the University of California Global Food Initiative and fellowship offered to UC students. The program, called Food Fellows, was just extended an additional two years and has been extended to every UC campus, with $75,000 in funds going towards student food security and access, according to Napolitano. Through the Global Food Intiative, internships have been created for 20 students through a food studies course, working in conjunction with the Food Fellows program to address issues of food security and literacy. With the new humanities course, UCLA is on its way to the creation of a food studies minor.

The Healthy Campus Initiative aims to make UCLA the healthiest campus in America. Who knew that level healthiness on campus would join the ranks of bragging rights for students like academics or sports long have? Universities have seen some big changes in the past couple of years, and health has been one of them. With a modern narrowed focus on campus health and student wellness, resources have become available about mental, sexual and nutritional wellness. As a part of this, recognized physicians, researchers and politicians have become involved in campus efforts towards student wellness.

Good health has been recognized as a key component to keeping students informed about preventative measures, developing healthy habits on campus and also preparing them to maintain such habits in the real world. Schools are making health initiatives so accessible for students because they are aware that unhealthy habits stem from ease and accessibility, hence the rise of stereotypes like the “freshman 15″ or general perception that college students sweep matters of their wellness under the rug. There has been an increase in readily available resources like responsibly raised or grown organic foods at dining halls, classes capturing the educational side of health and nutrition and initiatives like free flu shots on campus. Healthy living is moving towards becoming a collegiate staple.

According to the Save The Food Campaign, a third of produced food worldwide goes to waste, prompting the Global Food Initiative’s zero waste goal. Next to paper waste, food waste is the second largest source of waste by volume, according to the World Resources Institute. This issue is especially prominent on college campuses, especially with the resources needed to keep on-campus dining efficient and cost effective. Many campuses have turned to tray free dining and new recipes that can incorporate what society looks at as “ugly fruit” or atypical food parts, like broccoli stems or apple cores. This way, universities are able to encourage students, by example, to change their behavior and attitudes towards wasting food.

Proper preservation of food is an art in itself, with many culinary institutes offering classes on how to utilize such techniques. A few include dehydration, canning, fermenting, and pickling among others. Though these methods are difficult to carry out if eating at a dining hall, it is easy to become informed and start practicing such habits when possible in order to move towards effective preservation. Miller, the co-founder of Slow Food LA, gave a presentation on such techniques, showing some examples and posing food as the foundation for civilization and culture, serving as part of the basis for which family, society and economy is built upon.

For me, the event was an effective and informative way to put the issue of food waste on the forefront of a campus wide revolution, raising awareness about the issue and showing students how they can integrate the issue into their collegiate careers.

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Campus news

Throwback Thursday, Week 4: Don’t Walk

It’s Thursday and I’ve somehow taken an Uber to campus five times this week in a panicked rush.

I think I should be more ashamed of my excess – after all, I am not the sharing economy’s biggest fan and my weekly failure to go to the John Wooden Center means running late to class is my primary source of exercise – but I’m not. I’m just tired. Between editing for The Bruin, sometimes going to class and running an unending list of errands, hitting the request button hardly feels like an indulgence.

You don’t have to look far back to find similar frustration. On April 20, 2005, Viewpoint columnist David Keyes wrote about the “living hell” of having to walk everywhere on campus before offering a list of investments UCLA could make to become “the modern campus-transport capital of the world.”

On-campus transport is no longer the problem in 2015, though that’s not to say it’s gotten any easier to keep climbing hills. Instead, students need more help escaping the Westwood bubble than they do getting to class.

“We have wasted much of our college lives mindlessly walking,” Keyes writes.

His suggestions, including a zipline from Hedrick Hall to Bunche Hall and “Janss Escalators,” would have added whimsy to the slow, monotonous march students make to lecture while subtracting precious minutes spent walking from their on-campus commutes.

Ten years later, though, and Keyes’ complaints about communal campus transport – primarily bus and van services – have been mostly addressed by UCLA Transportation. He claimed bus and van services were ineffective because of inconvenient times, inconvenient routes and poor advertising.

To be fair, the situation was bleak at the time, but in 2010, UCLA Fleet and Transit re-branded the UCLA bus service, introducing real-time updates on bus arrivals online and by phone and titling it Bruin Bus. Since then, the fleet has also added new routes and received additional funding – though unfortunately at the expense of higher-priced parking permits.

The Community Service Officer van service has similarly improved since the turn of the decade, extending its coverage and ditching fixed routes for flexible service.

These options supplement the variety of individual choices students can make to accelerate their pace, but none of them help students access the Greater Los Angeles area. The city’s trying, though, and working on developments like extending the Purple Line to Westwood and restructuring street-planning policy to improve mobility. It’s really only a matter of time and endless bureaucracy before students can mindlessly walk through Los Angeles with the same ease they do on campus.

Until then, some students will continue to use their boards, bikes and scooters to whiz past others down Bruin Walk. They’ll even Uber or “hoverboard” to class in pursuit of some extra time – to sleep, to study, to party, to do every one of the innumerable things youth demands.

Everything, except maybe get downtown.

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