Yes, that is how we felt as we delivered the petitions that nearly 2000 people had signed. We felt like the Third Estate. Or more precisely, we were treated like it. Would the Chancellor let us be heard? Or would he lock us out of the meeting hall, not allowing us to participate in direction of our University? After all, we already knew how Director Guerrero treats the lowest of the Third Estate (the students), moving them away from the sidelines in Pauley for example. But would Chancellor Block learn the lessons from history and give the Third Estate a hearing?
Mexi and I met at the bear on Monday to deliver the petitions and walked to Murphy Hall. When we arrived in the Chancellor's office, the receptionist asked us, "Where is the crowd?" Our reaction: Huh? and Oops? Huh, how did they know? And oops, we both forgot that others might be meeting us at the bear. We explained the latter and then asked if the Chancellor was in and if we could present him with the petitions. The answers were the predictable no and no. We first thought about looking for the Chancellor, but decided to go back to the bear first to see if others had arrived.
As we neared the bear, I noticed a university police officer. I mentioned to Mexi that he might be there for us. Mexi thought he was probably there because of all the school kids. We sat at the bear and the police officer went up to a young woman who had a clipboard and was talking with people. I then asked the woman what the officer wanted, and it turned out he was looking for people trying to get Dan Guerrero fired. The officer was walking away so we unfurled our Fire Dan Guerrero banner. We wanted to talk with him. Sure enough he returned and asked us if we were the people demonstrating. Wow! He was very nice as we explained we were just turning in petitions. He had been asked to watch us and walk with us to the Chancellor's office. As we walked we were met by a young man in a tie who said he was from the Office of Student Affairs. I said cool, it's great that you're joining us. He then explained that he was not there to join us. His job is to "facilitate communication" between different groups on campus. Wow again.
So we had our escorts. We had a really good conversation with both men on our walk and let them know our concerns. So yes we were heard!
Back in the Chancellor's office, the conversation turned towards our reception. Mexi asked everyone who had asked for the officer and the young man to meet us. The men both said they were told to meet us by there higher ups. Beyond that no body seemed to know. We turned the conversation back to the petitions and why the Chancellor would not meet with us (I had called previously and asked for a meeting). Mexi brought up the Pauley seating petitions which were turned in (snail mail and email) but which were never acknowledged by the Chancellor, nor by anyone else. We spoke about the issue of access, that we cared deeply about our University, and that we just wanted him to know our concerns so that we could improve it. The receptionist several times said that the Chancellor would see our petitions. We left the petitions, a card with contact information, and with a video of the meeting. We also left knowing that the receptionist was very aware of our efforts, knew about the petitions, about the LA Times article, and even the cbssports blog article. She and/or they do read bruinsnation.
The whole experience was quite surreal, to use Mexi's term. What started as a simple exercise in communication, delivering a petition, turned into an event that would be laughable if it was not about something for which we care deeply. A university is supposed to be about discussion of ideas, a search for the truth, dialogue to develop new understandings and solutions. Running a university requires an intellect that wishes to engage in these pursuits, not run from them. I am a history teacher and I can think of no moment in history when failure to engage in discourse and confront real problems ever ended well for leaders. So I ask you Chancellor Block, will you treat us as the Third Estate, locked out of the conversation? Or will you engage us in the discussion so that we may move our University in a more positive direction? To quote from UCLA's mission statement (emphasis mine):
UCLA's primary purpose as a public research university is the creation, dissemination, preservation, and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society. To fulfill this mission, UCLA is committed to academic freedom in its fullest terms: we value open access to information, free and lively debate conducted with mutual respect for individuals, and freedom from intolerance.
Chancellor Block, this is what we learned at UCLA, to "value a free and lively debate conducted with mutual respect". We would appreciate being treated with this respect. We would appreciate engaging with you in this debate.