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‘Racist Bruin’ stickers used hashtags to bring light to oppression

On Monday, many editions of the Daily Bruin and their respective newsstands were emblazoned with a sticker titled “Racist Bruin” which was splashed across half the front page. The sticker contained visual and stylistic references to many of The Bruin’s normal sections, but instead of focusing on the paper, focused on what the authors argued were instances of inherent, normalized oppression at UCLA as a whole.

In the sticker’s manifesto, the authors said they stand in solidarity with a variety of movements, denoted by their hashtags. Below is an explanation of those hashtags.

#UStired2

The #UStired2 hashtag refers to a movement created last year in response to the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher’s College in Guerrero, a state of Mexico. The movement has taken particular interest in the perceived callousness of Mexican officials toward the disappeared – most poignantly represented by an incident in November, when Jesús Murillo Karam, the then-attorney general of the country, responded to a question about the students with “no más preguntas, ya me cansé” (Spanish for “No more questions, I am tired”).

The group has called on the U.S. government to cease international aid to Mexico, and to end the “Mérida Initiative,” a joint drug patrol and security agreement between the countries. The protesters – who dub this “Plan Mexico,” invoking a similar initiative undertaken in Colombia – claim that this agreement has done little to curb drug violence and smuggling, and instead props up a dishonest and corrupt Mexican government.

Activists have continued to coordinate acts of protest and demonstration throughout the U.S., including in Los Angeles. The search for the missing students is still ongoing.

#RhodesMustFall

Students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have called for the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue since the 1950s, but the #RhodesMustFall movement began when an activist threw human feces at the statue, and initiated a protest with about a dozen other people who performed a Southern African dance around the statue. Rhodes was a prime minister of the Cape Colony during the late 19th century whose effigy some say is a symbol of racism and colonialism.

Reactions to the protest indicated that several other students and faculty felt the university had failed to progress past institutional racism. One lecturer told the Cape Town Times in March that only five out of 200 senior professors at the university were black. Students said they wanted the university’s curricula to focus less heavily on Europe and the United States.

The university removed the statue and announced a new black studies program in April, but #RhodesMustFall initiated a string of other actions calling for the “decolonization of education” in other South African public universities, including the Open Stellenbosch movement at Stellenbosch University and the approval of a task force at Rhodes University to consider changing the university’s name and moving away from colonial traditions.

#CarnesaleMustFall

This hashtag evokes images of past protests against former UCLA chancellor Albert Carnesale, whose failure to speak out against Proposition 209, which prevents universities from considering race, sex or ethnicity in admissions, was interpreted by many as a failure to promote diversity. More than 300 students protested his inauguration as chancellor in 1998 and about 20 protested the naming of Carnesale Commons in 2013.

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Campus newsNews

Why are UCLA’s Sunken Gardens sunken?

UCLA is better known for its architecture than its greenery.

This comes as little surprise. An urban campus like ours – spanning a mere 420 acres and hemmed in by a cemetery to the west and the very much alive civilization to the east – has to worry more about housing students, faculty and administrators than offering lush, open spaces. For that, there’s always UC Davis, which sits on 5,300 acres of land. Or the entire Midwestern United States.

So why all the green space in North Campus, the contrast to the notoriously dreary southern counterpart? To be specific, why do the Sunken Gardens exist? And why are they sunken in the first place? As it turns out, there’s a lot of depth to the story of the Sunken Gardens, formally regarded as Dickson Court North and South – divided, just like the campus as a whole.

A little digging into Westwood history yields a surprising fact: The gardens were once a gulch – or an arroyo, for all you geography buffs. A nice-looking bridge, consistent with the rest of the fledgling campus’ Romanesque Revival style, connected the entirety of campus to whatever was across – at the time, not much.

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Dickson Court as it appeared in 1929. (Los Angeles Public Library)

After World War II, the campus was expanding at a rapid clip, and having a miniature valley divide the campus dramatically is, to say the least, unhelpful in that regard. So, in 1947, they decided to fill in the arroyo – thus the Sunken Gardens were created. Perhaps they ran out of dirt to fill it in all the way?

UCLA Magazine notes that there were talks of filling in southern garden to build an amphitheater, but the plans were scrapped “because of financial considerations.” Given the lack of open space on this campus-in-a-metropolis, that consideration was for the better.

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News

2024 Olympics would give Los Angeles a chance to fix transportation issues

The Summer Olympics might be returning to Los Angeles in 2024. But will the international sporting event do anything for Angelenos?

Not everyone takes kindly to the idea of a third Olympics in Los Angeles. This is understandable. The Games are expensive – modern host countries have always footed larger bills than estimated. And cost issues aside, if you commute around Los Angeles, you’re probably terrified about what this will do to traffic. I share these concerns – after all, during the summer, I commuted more than an hour from the nearby San Gabriel Valley to UCLA for classes, even though it’s only 30 minutes away without traffic.

But those critical of L.A. 2024 for either reason should realize that the Olympics aren’t just about bowing down to the International Olympic Committee’s demands. Such large-scale, civically sponsored events involve changes or implementations of public policy and urban planning. What this means is that the Olympics might not be so bad for your commute after all, and spending for the Games can catalyze the city’s recent efforts to reform its infamously car-centric image.

1. Los Angeles just hosted the Special Olympics World Games.

An estimated 500,000 spectators, 30,000 volunteers, 6,500 athletes and their families and assistants descended on Los Angeles last month for the largest World Games in history and the largest-scale L.A. event since the 1984 Olympics. I commuted to UCLA – one of the event venue locations – for classes during the 10-day period, and traffic was not perceptibly worse. The only addition to traffic was a handful of school buses designated for athlete transportation, but it’s hardly enough to add minutes to a commute. It’s too optimistic to say that the 2024 Olympics won’t impact traffic at all, but to compare, the London saw almost 700,000 visitors during the 2012 Games; in 1984, LA saw around 770,000.

2. Traffic wasn’t bad during the 1984 Games.

The reason for this was quite simple. We’re never in traffic; we are traffic. The city encouraged residents to work from home or use public transportation during the two weeks of the Games, decreasing traffic by around 5 percent. It’s true the effect may not be as great this time around, since the Greater L.A. area currently has around 7 million more residents than it did in 1980, and this number will surely increase by at least another 2 million by 2024. Yet this ignores the fact that …

3. … the city has a rapidly-expanding public transit system …

Car traffic was partially allayed during the 1984 Games through encouragement of buses for shorter distances and Metrolink trains for longer ones. The entire Metro Rail system, which did not exist at the time, is now one of the fastest-expanding transit systems in the country. Next year will see the opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica – the so-called “Subway to the Sea.” By 2024, the system will have expanded to allow a rider to travel from Santa Monica, to Downtown, to Hollywood – all planned Olympic venue “clusters” – using the rail system with no gaps. Yet Los Angeles County Metro wants to take this further. Taking advantage of the potential Olympic bid, it is asking for federal funds to accelerate completion of the Purple Line Extension and a connector to Los Angeles International airport for 2024 completion dates. Completing both of these projects can greatly lessen demand for automobile transport. And that means less traffic.

4. … not to mention an ambitious mobility plan that will make the city less car-obsessed.

Los Angeles’ transport projects aren’t just about easing congestion. They’re about changing the long-standing stereotype that a car is required to get anywhere in the city. The recently passed Mobility Plan 2035, which calls for more pedestrian access and safety, bike lanes and bike-share programs, can be put to the test during the Olympics and allow the world to see the city in a new, less car-centric, light. The plan aims to redesign sidewalks and streets to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars; the transformation of Times Square in New York from car congestion center into a pedestrian plaza is a notable example.

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CultureNews

Harm reduction would help prevent drug-related deaths at raves

On Aug. 1, Tracy Nguyen, a rising second-year business economics student at UCLA, died at HARD Summer music festival, one of two deaths that were linked to suspected drug usage.

With her death will come a butterfly effect of outcomes. These may include opinions shifting away from a tolerant attitude of Ecstasy-fueled rave culture, the possible banning of music festivals on L.A. County-owned property and further push-pull between the two fronts of drug education and legislation: efforts to educate the public on avoiding adverse drug reactions versus an abstinence-based approach.

Efforts at spreading awareness about how to use Ecstasy in a “safe” manner, known as “harm reduction,” have been shot down in the past in Los Angeles County, largely due to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003. This federal law makes it unlawful to knowingly operate a venue that functions as a place to use illicit drugs, which has sent electronic dance music event organizers scurrying to cover their legal tracks.

However, as people continue to die at almost every major rave in Southern California, these efforts, which persist despite government opposition, are insufficient to quell the maelstrom of injuries and deaths due to club drug use.

Although I did not know Tracy personally, her death hits close to home. Last summer, I was en route to the very same HARD Summer music festival. Having wanted to go to the music festival a few years prior, my strict Asian parents pointed to the death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez at the Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010 and said, “No.” It wouldn’t be until I turned 18 that I would go. That day in 2014, I was just like Tracy: a female Asian UCLA student attending a summer rave.

Like many others, Tracy loved electronic music and the festival experience that comes with it, according to Jasmine Lin, a rising third-year communications studies student. At the same time, the increased reliance on rave culture both as emotional and stress release may be putting Asian-Americans at risk for Ecstasy-related adverse reactions, including death, even as rave attendance and Ecstasy usage become more commonplace in the general population. Whether that experience involves drugs is up to the individual, but the draw is obvious: The emotional effects of Ecstasy are well-documented and include euphoria and personal revelation.

Even before the integration of EDM into the mainstream, Asian-Americans, their drug use and the Asian-American dance club/rave scene have been studied, such as in a 2011 study of 100 Asian-Americans. In another paper based on a survey of 250 Bay Area Asian-Americans involved in the dance club/rave scene in 2010, all but three had tried at least one “club drug”: Ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine or Rohypnol.

Asian-American EDM culture may be something we are all marginally aware of as we pass by people flyering for Asian Greek EDM events on Bruin Walk, but beyond mere observation, the phenomenon begets the question: Why is Asian-American rave culture a thing?

Among other proposals in the literature, a few overarching theories seemed relevant. One, supported by a statement made by one Chinese-American woman, was that her experience with raves and Ecstasy helped her “balance out” the “unemotional and introverted” manner in which she had been brought up. Ecstasy and rave culture may give emotionally rigid Asians and Asian-Americans the freedom to express more emotions.

As a secondary point, one of the authors of the study, Geoffrey Hunt, also summarized another interview subject’s point of view: Asian-Americans “are stressed out and … need an outlet – and using Ecstasy and dancing can provide this.”

Natalie Tantisirirat, a rising third-year music history student and an attendee of this year’s HARD Summer, agreed. “There’s just this sense of community and carefree vibes that people don’t normally get to experience,” she said.

The desire for this unique and oft-revelatory experience, and the musical genre and event industry associated with it, aren’t going anywhere, even as young people continue to die at events in circumstances relating to Ecstasy usage, and as, in response, institutions call for harsher drug-related laws and bans on electronic music festivals in Los Angeles County.

Drugs can never be 100 percent safe, but most deaths caused by drug use have the potential to be prevented with widespread access to harm reduction resources and education. Rather than, as with every new announcement of a young life taken prematurely at a music festival, vilifying rave culture and trying to ban raves, why not come to terms with the reality: Illicit drug use, as it has been for many decades, will continue to at least partially define the coming-of-age experience for some.

Instead of trying to stifle this trend, as generations before us have seen with the war on drugs, we should push for the use of more harm reduction tactics. Currently, harm reduction information is easily available online through documentaries like “What’s In My Baggie?” and other sources.

Nevertheless, this information is less utilized thanks to a lack of advertising, especially on-site at raves. In recent years event organizers have provided better access to emergency medical services and free water – severe dehydration is associated with Ecstasy-related deaths. Though drug usage will never be risk-free, drug-related deaths could possibly be prevented through harm reduction and acknowledgement, as in the case of many states’ curriculums on sex education, where abstinence-based education regarding societal temptations has proven ineffective.

For all the failed D.A.R.E. education many of us received as children, it seems our generation has come to realize that drug use can be enjoyable and relatively safe in moderation, with the first-hand experiences of older millennials and scientific information available online.

Tracy’s passing is recent, and her absence will continue to be felt in the UCLA community for some time. It’s important to not lose sight of what her loss could mean for EDM fans, Asian-American or otherwise, whether or not they choose to partake in drug use, and what can be done, realistically, to make sure no family, community or social network has to feel the same pain again.

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News

Timeline: A brief history of activism at UCLA (1969-present)

As it approaches its centennial, UCLA will almost certainly be celebrated as a university with a stellar academics, deep commitment to research endeavors across many disciplines and, of course, a legendary 112-NCAA-title-winning cluster of athletics programs.

Not-so-surreptitiously missing from that list? Any mention of student activism.

When it comes to protest-happy campuses, Berkeley first comes to mind. Cal was center of the Free Speech Movement, after all, and the legacy continues – just look at how many protests are reported on its counterpart to the Daily Bruin. Even oft-ignored UC Santa Cruz has a stronger reputation of activism, especially of the left-leaning sort.

Though the so-called “three Bs” – Bel Air, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills – surround UCLA and effectively insulate the campus from plenty of socioeconomic hardship and urban grit, the school is not without a protest history of its own. And with the country recently reminded of inequalities in income and injustices in race, this history will continue to unfold before our eyes.

What follows is an abridged timeline of the Daily Bruin’s coverage of UCLA protests over the years.

1969police

 

May 1969 – In a decade well known for activism and progressive politics, UCLA was not excepted from student movements that had been sweeping the country. In an unprecedented move, municipal and state officers were brought in to disperse enormous protests calling for dialogue between the chancellor, Charles Young, and an activist student coalition. The Bruin reported that it was the “first time in campus history” law enforcement had to be mobilized to such effect on campus. It would not be the last.

ackermanmural.jpg

May 1970 – A “state of emergency” was declared and the Los Angeles Police Department was called in to deal with student unrest that had ensued as a result of the Kent State University shootings in Ohio. Black UCLA students painted a mural, still standing in Ackerman Union, as a visual expression of their beliefs and feelings during a tumultuous period of time to be a college student.

April 1985 – In a precursor to today’s calls for university divestments from private prisons and companies connected to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, CSU Northridge students staged a sit-in and 2,000 UCLA students boycotted classes and organized a rally to call for their respective institutions to divest from apartheid South Africa.

chicanostrike.png

May 1993 – Administrators’ hesitance to establish a Chicana/o studies department led to an occupation of the UCLA Faculty Center by 600 demonstrators, property damage and ultimately, a hunger strike. Chancellor Charles Young eventually implemented a program, though the department was only formally established in 2005. The public face of the protests, then-first-year student Cindy Montañez, went on to become a California assembly member and municipal policymaker.

October 1995 – Students at all nine UCs, including UCLA, protested an impending UC Board of Regents vote to ban affirmative action in university admissions and hiring. “More than 2,000″ students blocked Wilshire Boulevard and 33 arrests were made, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. The efforts would be largely fruitless, however, as the vote not only passed, but a state ballot initiative banning affirmative action ban – the first in the nation – passed the following year by way of Proposition 209.

Taser_rally.jpg

November 2006 – Before a University of Florida student cried out “Don’t tase me, bro!”, a phrase that became part of the popular lexicon, UCLA police unnecessarily stunned student Mostafa Tabatabainejad at Powell Library, presumably for resisting arrest. Hundreds of students marched toward UCPD headquarters, decried the incident as police brutality, and called for an independent investigation. When it was undergone, it found wrongdoing on part of university police; Tabatabainejad subsequently sued over the incident and won $220,000 in damages from the university in 2009.

The day after the Taser incident, hundreds of students called for the overturning of Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action, outside the regents meeting being held at Covel Commons. Saying that the UC demographic situation was a “diversity crisis,” students also called for a funding increase for underrepresented student outreach programs.

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regents protest 2 - DL

 

November 2009 – The UC Regents chose UCLA to hold the meeting where they voted and passed a staggering 32 percent tuition increase. They probably later realized that was a mistake. Hundreds of students – some accounts say over a thousand – some from other UC campuses, descended upon Covel Commons to protest the hikes, enacted in response to the recession and state budget cuts that ensued. The protests were regarded as a precursor to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its focus on wealth and income inequality in the United States.

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October 2012 – Angered by UCLA law professor Richard Sander’s findings on race and admissions at UCLA and a Daily Bruin column and editorial which implicitly acknowledged the validity of or agreed with the later-disputed findings, a few hundred students rallied at Kerckhoff Hall to voice their dissatisfaction with the paper’s coverage and the professor’s research. Speakers at the rally called attention to the difficulties in climate and representation faced by underrepresented minorities on campus.

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February 2014 – Bizarre and offensive fliers sent to Asian American studies centers at UCLA and USC spurred student groups to call attention to instances of discrimination faced by Asian Americans. Former student Alexandra Wallace’s infamous “Asians in the Library” video was also referenced during the UCLA rally as an example of racism’s pernicious and subtle ways of hurting campus climate and Asian American experiences at UCLA. Chancellor Gene Block mentioned the flier in a campus statement affirming his commitment to diversity.

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