I wonder how often in exploring the recent past (by which I mean the last several years) we discover events we missed and ask, "How was I not aware of that?" That question tugged at me when I found this article from Nov. 20, 2011, while searching for UCLA-related stories on the Internet. (I do that from time to time; more grist for the mill, you might say.)
A few days earlier, according to the story, there had been a student protest on campus over "tuition increases, student loan debt, and the collapse of public funding for the University of California" - interestingly, these subjects, if not the protest itself, have been the subjects of impassioned posts on Bruins Nation -and while most of the students left campus at night, 14 remained and were arrested.
As a result, 183 UCLA professors (my count of names on the computer screen) signed a letter to Chancellor Block asking that any disciplinary actions be dropped against the 14 students who refused to leave campus.
As I said, I don't think the story was mentioned on Bruins Nation (I checked all the FanPosts through November 2011, although I suppose there could have been a FanShot), and I saw no report of it in a Northern California newspaper. What's more, I don't know whether charges were eventually dropped against the 14 students. After 10 pages of Google searches, I gave up. But I gave up for a larger reason. I was really interested in the 183 professors who had done the right thing. (If you disagree with that, you may be better off not reading what follows.)
I entered UCLA in 1959, just a few years before the Free-Speech Movement erupted at Berkeley. And even more importantly, just a few years before the Vietnam War - and the ensuing college protests - dominated the soul of every campus in the nation.
So, for me, the story provided a built-in filtering system. I had 183 names of professors who had followed their conscience and gone beyond the requirements of their jobs. (FWIW, in my opinion, it's unimportant whether some of these professors have been rated as excellent teachers, while others have not. In another context that information may be valuable but not in this case.)
And while it's undeniable that members of Bruins Nation want a competently run Athletic Department, great coaches, skillful recruiting, and, above all, results, try telling readers of this site that UCLA isn't one of the great academic institutions of the world, and you'll run into trouble pretty quickly. Maybe that's the wrong way to put it because UCLA consistently ranks among the top universities in the world; there's no dispute about it.
So, given that we all take pride in the community of scholars who teach and do research at UCLA, maybe this letter counts as a quiet push toward morality, if not a pivotal moment, in the history of the school we love.
I know for myself that in the distant days before the Internet and during summer school when the warm sun made us feel we had a special place on campus, I heard a professor tell my class, "Buying books is a disease; be sure to get that disease." I still have that disease, along with memories, like others on Bruins Nation, of special teachers at UCLA. Those memories, along with the current faculty, are part of an enduring pattern, a timeline of growth on a campus now in its 95th year.