As UCLA leaders, students and alumni met with members of the California State Assembly and Senate, the school’s story was coming full circle from a century ago.
“[It’s amazing] what you’ve been able to accomplish in just 100 years — and I have to say, you look great,” Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove said as she introduced a resolution to acknowledge the UCLA Centennial. “But to be a world-class university — the cherry on top is that this is a public university.”
On May 20, 17 members of the assembly and senate spoke on behalf of UCLA, as each chamber honored the legacy of one of the state’s prized academic institutions. Ninety-two alumni have served in the California legislature, which ratified the California Branch State Normal School — from which UCLA would emerge — a century ago. Later that evening, Sacramento alumni, community members and elected officials gathered at the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park.
“After 100 years, our commitment to the values of being a public institution remains strong,” Chancellor Gene Block said. “No matter where you are from, no matter how much money you have, no matter whether your parents went to college, no matter what you want to study — if you are willing to work hard and think big, UCLA is the place for you.”
Added Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “Let’s not forget that among UCLA’s many great attributes and strengths, it is and remains a public institution — always looking to function and lead as one of the best universities in the country.”
Elected officials took the moment to reaffirm their commitment to providing adequate public funding to the university — or at least implore their colleagues to do the same.
“I really do think it’s important that we’re here in Sacramento, and not just in Los Angeles,” said Senator Ben Allen, adding that California is providing only about half as much support as it did in the 1980s. “It’s a mistake, it’s backwards and it doesn’t honor the legacy of what this university has provided to the state of California and the young folks it presents an opportunity to.”
The next morning, a group of UCLA student and alumni advocates visited with assemblymembers and senators with the hopes of convincing them to increase state spending on the University of California system.
“There are so many parts of the student experience that this funding could touch,” said Claire Fieldman, president of the undergraduate students association council at UCLA, who noted students’ fear of larger class sizes and deteriorating infrastructure and facilities.
The meetings also presented an opportunity to reaffirm UCLA’s commitment to providing research and expertise to legislators seeking help to craft policy. “How can we be helpful?” was a question Block made sure to ask legislators.
Ultimately, the people who gathered in Sacramento to commemorate UCLA’s Centennial sought to keep that relationship, now fostered for 100 years, strong into the future.
Assemblymember Shirley Weber summed up the message of the week when she spoke about achieving “triple-Bruin” status by completing her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate at UCLA.
“California gave me the opportunity to do that,” Weber said. “And that is the value of UCLA — not the football, or basketball, or all the things we get caught up in, but the fact that this state decided to develop the Universities of California to be a counter to the private institutions that the average Californian couldn’t afford. … And that is what the University of California is about and what UCLA is about.”