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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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Why the US election cycle seems to never end

Our neighbors to the north just wrapped up a major general election Monday, which featured the longest campaign cycle in Canadian history.

How long, you ask? 78 days. Yes, a two-month election cycle is considered a marathon in Canada. Probably because the United Kingdom, which operates under a similar parliamentary system of government, got its May election over with in little over a month. In France, the official campaign period is less than two weeks. That’s only twice as long as the one for our undergraduate student government, which – let’s be fair – is far, far less important.

The relative efficiency in which every Western democracy that is not the United States carries out their election campaigns puts our system, and our country, to shame. So what’s the reasoning behind our seemingly endless presidential election campaigns and drawn-out, overpriced congressional elections?

Actually, the problem lies in the fact that there is no system to speak of. Simply put, there is no regulation of campaign cycle length in the U.S., making it feel less like a cycle and more of a never-ending deluge. Yes, there is a Federal Election Commission – the infamous defendant of the Citizens United court case that opened the floodgates for unlimited campaign contributions by groups – but it concerns itself with how elections are financed in this country, not how long campaigns can last.

This has proven to be a critical omission in election law that has thoroughly permeated American culture, as elections from inconsequential elementary school student bodies to the presidency all feel like they last far, far too long. The New York Times began its coverage of the 2016 election in February … of 2012, long before the last election was decided. The Times, however, does possess a degree of self-awareness: An analysis of campaign announcements on The Upshot blog shows that Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 candidacy 576 days before Election Day.

How can we allow ourselves to live in a country where the election for a university’s student government is over half the length of campaigning for the French general election? Then again, the oft-discussed death of journalism would accelerate if elections lasted two weeks instead of two years, so I shouldn’t be talking.

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Throwback Thursday, Week 3: ‘The Jello President’

Whatever they are called – Washington outsiders, businesspeople, dark horses – Americans love the idea of politicians who clearly haven’t devoted their lives to being one.

The first Democratic Party primary debate was held Tuesday night in Las Vegas, meaning that the excessively lengthy presidential election cycle is now in full swing. We’re still at the stage in the process where all the anti-politicians are out and about.

During the 1992 election cycle, UCLA Extension staff member Marcus Hennessy thought the establishment – which, for the Democrats at the time, was comprised of now-California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton – was a bore, and thought more unconventional and popular candidates of the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby would really spice things up.

Hennessy was writing satirically, but in 2015, his wish has partially been granted, with both parties featuring the unlikeliest of candidates – some of them to the dismay of rational Americans. There’s Donald Trump, the loud-mouthed business mogul and reality television star, who has captivated the country for all the wrong reasons, and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has managed to defy popular impressions that doctors are intelligent. He stands little chance because he is attempting to capture a rapidly shrinking demographic.

Finally, there’s the gruff populist and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. Yes, he’s been involved in politics local and national for decades, but clearly remains a Washington outsider for political views that might be considered radical to some in this country, but are par for the course in much of Western Europe and Scandinavia. Sanders, at least, is interested in discussing income inequality rather than bloviating about himself.

While it seems dubious that any of these candidates could become president – though it’s really too early to say for sure – let’s not forget that California actually experienced the strangest sort of leadership, when actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger somehow edged out two realistic competitors in a wild 2003 recall election that also involved blogging guru Arianna Huffington, Gary Coleman and a porn star.

Considering that the ‘Governator’ could have done much worse as California’s leader, maybe Hennessy wasn’t totally wrong about electing outsiders to political office.

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Throwback Thursday, Week 2: ‘Frats’ and ‘brats’

It should surprise absolutely no one that Greek life – especially discussions of its merits or lack thereof – has always been a lightning rod for student controversy.

Tuesday’s incident involving the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority should make that clear. But on this month 36 years ago, the Daily Bruin Viewpoint section, now known as Opinion, was inundated with a fistful of letters simply because a writer discussed her unpleasant run-in with fraternity rushers when her car broke down.

Staff writer Donna Prokop caught some flak for a column that was, admittedly, short on details and substance. Her only piece of evidence for fraternity misbehavior was being mistaken for a stripper; it was the peppering of insults toward the “stampeding hoard (sic)” of “low life” fraternity brothers that did her in.

Prokop was criticized for her gross over-generalization of fraternity life, but the responses, too, were lacking. Some were statements of #NotAllFraternities. “Many fraternity guys retain a strangely human capacity for warmth and kindness,” wrote biochemistry student Steven Merino. Others responded with a dose of casual sexism. Four fraternity brothers concluded their letter thusly: “We don’t really think it was the car that overheated.” Alpha Epsilon Pi member Steven Morris accused Prokop of stereotyping men and responded in kind, writing that if she were a man, “she might have had the intellectual ability and instinct that would have led her to check her radiator level every so often.”

This somewhat minor and quite trifling exchange between Bruins is a stark contrast to heavyweight criticisms of Greek life today. The critical discourse of fraternities and sororities has since shifted from elementary discussions about the artificiality of its members to serious analyses of how Greek life as an institution – not the individuals per se – perpetuates or sponsors sexist attitudes and practices de facto racial segregation.

Take, for example, The Atlantic’s lengthy investigation of how these once-scrappy brotherhoods and sisterhoods have become well-funded behemoths adept at avoiding legal culpability and intimately connected to the halls of American political power. In short, fraternities and sororities have ingrained themselves in American college life, and are more or less armed with the finances and the connections to stay this way.

Whether one wants to promote, reform or ban Greek life, the fact that these conversations – not whatever that was from 1979 – now consistently happen is a good thing.

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Throwback Thursday, Week 1: Parking Woes

This Thursday, we’re throwing it back to 25 years ago when Opinion – formerly known as Viewpoint – columnist Rebecca Stone listed parking options of varying inconvenience for her readers and explained UCLA’s complicated history with parking. From UCLA’s first parking lot in 1933 to a Daily Bruin article earlier that year claiming the university was growing at a rate that would soon require shuttles to herd students from their cars to class, Stone described UCLA’s inability to address its parking problem as demand exponentially grew.

“Before we can get on with the daily business of dealing with priority concerns, we must first find a place to park,” she concluded.

While the relationship between the university’s limited parking options and limited scope of priorities is tenuous at best, parking remains an obstacle in ensuring UCLA is an accessible public university. Parking is consistently difficult, if not impossible, to find, even for commuters, who make up a little over 25 percent of UCLA’s student body and are its biggest money-savers; after all, they can save thousands in rent, despite the hours lost traveling back and forth.

And while UCLA Transportation has developed options over the years, like the BruinBus and the UCLA Vanpool, and the Los Angeles City Council recently approved a citywide mobility plan, both promising to make your car less necessary, the battle for parking between faculty, staff, emeriti, volunteers, patients, visitors and, last of all – in both esteem and priority – students continues.

In short, parking problems at UCLA not only persist, but have only worsened since Stone wrote her column. The hustle of the students who left class early to avoid parking enforcement or made the hike from Westwood to campus in 1990 is nothing compared to the time and money students lose in the pursuit of parking today.

With week one in full swing, parked cars once again populate the space between the street and the sidewalk, even though their owners have risked and received $65 parking tickets in the past. In her column, Stone admitted that sometimes her $18 parking tickets – around $33 if you consider inflation – were a relief from constantly filling the meter with quarters.

Students with cars outnumber available parking spaces in and around campus and are engaged in bidding wars online for parking passes, street parking and even the dreaded tandem spaces. In Stone’s time, students shelled out $4 a day in Westwood’s lots or a quarter every eight minutes for metered parking spaces. But today, you can find quarterly parking permits going for up to $400 and rented residential parking spots for around $100 a month in UCLA’s Free & For Sale Facebook group.

Earlier this year, the Daily Bruin Editorial Board called for cheaper parking permits. Most recently, nearly 1,000 students who applied for parking passes on campus were waitlisted after UCLA cut the number of student parking permits by hundreds. Even commuter students who are fortunate enough to obtain a nearly $700 permit for the year from UCLA Transportation aren’t guaranteed to find a space once they make their way to campus.

Of course, there are only so many parking spaces UCLA can provide before it begins dominating the Westwood skyline or disrupting the Earth’s core, but the campus’ growth demands better planning, even retroactively.

Otherwise students might as well stay on the 405, catnap through the 9 a.m. traffic and crawl right past UCLA. No one goes to their morning classes anyway.

- Catherine Liberty Feliciano

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