#SFatPauley – Student "Apathy" around UCLA Athletics: A "Chicken & Egg" Problem with Some Possible Solutions

Morgan center hasn't done much to keep these guys excited and engaged. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

B detailed yesterday afternoon how UCLA's Morgan Center continue to lie to alums and students on Facebook and other outlets and ignore the complaints about the student seating boondoggle at New Pauley. It has been more than a week now. We have not heard any public statements from the Morgan Center administrators explaining their dishonest and misleading rationale for banishing students behind one baseline of the renovated gym.

The most crucial factor in this story is the involvement of students. The concern and outrage among the students are clearly there despite the feeble efforts by one of its so called leader to douse the fire through repeating of Morgan Center talking points. We have seen passionate comments and plea from current students (who were banished behind the baseline few years ago) blowing apart the Morgan Center reasoning behind this move.

The question right now is why we are not seeing more offline protests from students. One of the key theories pushed by excuse makers of this fiasco is the one we saw from Jon Gold in his weekly Q&A is the lame argument on student apathy:

To be honest, I think the idea that UCLA was "selling out" the students was pure insanity. This is not about "the poor students." They'll survive. It was a business decision, one that had to be made if UCLA wants to compete as an athletic department on a national level. And quite frankly, the student support has been so poor in my two years covering UCLA basketball, I thought it was a nice gesture to even give the Den a voice. Yeah, in a perfect world, there would be enough students to fill the entire arena and it would be loud and intimidating and everyone would wear blue and gold and have signs and fangs and if a player fell out of bounds by accident they'd be swallowed whole. But it ain't a perfect world. There aren't enough fangs.

B dispatched this argument very quickly in the comment thread here. I want to add a little more to this. It is very easy for bureaucrats, their cronies, or reporters concerned about their access to keep throwing our students under the bus, by painting them as an apathetic and non-caring bunch. What this lazy line of reasoning ignores though is the crucial point on why our students can be so easily painted as apathetic . It's a classic chicken and egg problem with some possible solutions. Let's explore this issue - because it's an important one - after the jump.

I posited an open question last week  about what the UCLA athletic department has done to date to boost student spirit on campus. The thread generated responses like this:

Can't really think of anything...

In my first year of college, I did not attend any football or basketball games because the tickets were too expensive and I had no idea how to get them. It really felt like an insider thing because the school barely talked about them during orientation. In my second year, I finally found out that I could purchase single game tickets (a fact that many students still don't know), and started attending games. I think AD should really let the students know that they DON'T need sports pass to attend games.

Also, I remember students used to be able to purchase single game tickets online for $10. I don't know what happened to it but AD should really keep that going and apply it to basketball games as well.

I'm not sure if it was AD's idea, but changing the Den sports pass plan was a good idea. $99 and you get to attend all the football and basketball games, including the $C games. I never purchased the previous sports pass before, because I never quite understood how the system worked.

I do enjoy the videos on uclabruins.com and the free games I get to attend, but apart from that...I really don't think AD has done much for the students.

This:

Let me summarize this the best I can

UCLA AD marketing towards students is non-existent. It seems like the attitude is, "We are UCLA, and we don't have to try to get our students to come to games." "We will always have demand for football and basketball games". There is a small push during the week before the USC game, but nothing extraordinary.

Let me take the marketing job for 5 minutes. Ideally, the UCLA AD would have some kind of event in bruin plaza. Hire some kind of student DJ to play music to attract people to the event. Have a few tents with some games and small UCLA themed giveaways as prizes. Raffle off a few Den season passes. Maybe even find a way to get some UCLA sponsors on campus to give free stuff away too. Maybe ask a couple prominent current and former student athletes to sign autographs/ take pictures? Make it a huge event on a Wednesday at noon at the beginning of the quarter when everyone is on campus. Offer a small $10 discount on Den passes for people that sign up at the event. If the right incentives are offered, there would be a HUGE turnout and the cost of the event would likely be partially covered by sale of den passes.

Stuff like this isn't hard to plan. Students organizations plan events like this all the time. Why the UCLA AD doesn't, I have no clue.

And this:

Marketing is the biggest joke

I've personally row-walked (going and talking to the sororities) and flyered on bruin walk. Like someone told me last night "I could do all the work that marketing does in an hour and a half and sit on my ass the rest of the day until 5." Marketing is non-existent

Comment after comments echoed the same sentiment from recent alums. No one was able to list anything concrete the UCLA administration has done to integrate our student body in the amazing legacy of our major athletic programs. With this context how can Morgan Center, its cronies, and reporters without any understanding of the big picture issues can keep throwing students under the bus?

This does not take into account that product on the basketball court has ranged from awful to mediocre (by UCLA standards) for almost 3 years.

You cannot throw students under the bus for not wanting to come out and watch a bricklayer from Belgrade build his own House at the Nell & John Wooden Court.

You cannot really blame the students for not wanting to come out to watch at team that did not bother to show up for one half in game after the game.

There are also the factors about draconian ticket exchange policies, which instead making it easy for students to swap tickets with other students, led to unused tickets.

So to blame the student seating boondoggle on current students' "apathy" is a lazy line of thinking at best, cowardly at worst.

That said current students do have to start somewhere.  Classof66 gives a strong hint at what is needed:

The status quo, today, is that the morons are hiding behind what they tout to be "student consent". They are hiding behind the "student leaders" who are defending the decision, and the Daily Bruin which has done the same.

Until the students who really care take away that façade of legitimacy by doing something tangible, real, in person - nothing will change.

It's time for the students to physically organize and demand a meeting with Guerrero. If they get one, they should present a new, fair survey, to be distributed not just to a handful of chosen students but to alum's, too.

I respectfully disagree with 66's other argument that online actions so far haven't had an impact. While it hasn't generated the desired outcome (restoration of court-side seating) we do know that Morgan Center is feeling the heat. That said, his point about student activism is a big one and the most important one.

We need students - who are reading BN an Facebook comments - to think about taking offline actions to move the chains on this topic.

Students who are reading BN and are upset about this issue, should look into public schedules for Gene Block, Dan Guerrero, and Ben Howland and find out when their next public speaking engagements are. They should be asking them pointed questions in front of their peers and colleagues.

If students and alums run into these figures on campus, they should be asking the same questions in a calm and respectful manner, and get their comments on campus.

There is always the option of creating websites and selling t-shirts to raise awareness just like few years ago students (not alums) did through creation of sites such as LoseLavin.com (my thoughts and prayers are also with Lavin).

We know there are students here who agree with us. We'd like to see them offer their thoughts and more importantly take action, which is not going to come from their current leaders or media outlet (we will have more on the Daily Pravda Bruin later in the week).

Those are just thoughts. What else can our students do?

Who will step up and lead the way in making sure a 30+ year of tradition of court-side seating is not taken away by bunch of visionless, soulless and dishonest bureaucrats at UCLA?

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