Segura and Diaz Weigh In on Influence of Latino Vote

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to El Diario about the impact of Latino voters on the outcome of the presidential election. Segura noted that Latino participation was “very strong” in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Colorado states that were crucial in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. According to Latino Decisions, a political opinion research firm co-founded by Segura, Biden had particularly strong support among Mexican and Puerto Rican voters. The pandemic, which disproportionately affects Latinos, and the economy were important factors in mobilizing the Latino vote. “Work has become the most important thing for the community, and not the political parties,” Segura said. El Diario also cited Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which is researching Latino engagement in the election. “In counties with high Latino density, many of them key in this count, Latino voters opted for Vice President Biden,” Diaz said.


Segura on Rise in Latino Support for Trump

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to KQED’s California Report about Latino support for President Trump, which increased both nationally and in California compared to 2016, according to the American Election Eve Poll. While the overwhelming majority of Latinos backed the Democratic ticket, support for Trump increased from 18% to 27% nationally and from 16% to 22% in California, according to the poll. Segura, a lead pollster for the survey, said one reason for the shift was that Democrat Joe Biden was not as well known among Latino households as the Clinton family was. More significantly, he said, Democrats didn’t do enough to engage these voters in California and other non-battleground states. “There’s an important lesson here. I think the one place where President Trump did invest in Latinos is in South Florida, and he was rewarded for that,” Segura said. “So investment matters, being on the ground matters.” 

Fall Quarter Town Halls With Dean Segura

Dean Gary Segura will host three town halls for UCLA Luskin students. The dean will share updates and answer questions at these virtual gatherings.

FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Thursday, Nov. 12, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

FOR DOCTORAL STUDENTS: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

FOR MASTER’S STUDENTS: Thursday, Nov. 19, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

Click here to register and submit questions to Dean Segura. A Zoom link will be shared before the gatherings.

 

‘We Set Our Destiny,’ Becerra Says of Fellow Californians

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra weighed in on the Golden State’s place in a deeply divided nation during a conversation with UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura just hours after polls closed in the 2020 election. As they awaited final results in the presidential race, Becerra told viewers that California’s unique role as an engine of innovation and economic growth transcends any election or individual politician. “Regardless of what happens around us, we set our destiny,” he said. Hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and Town Hall in partnership with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Nov. 4 dialogue touched on Becerra’s role battling the Trump administration on health care, immigration, climate change and scores of other issues. To date, the state has sued the federal government 104 times, Becerra said. “We go to court against Donald Trump not because it’s easy or it’s fun,” he said. “We go to court because we must protect our people, our values and our resources.” Of urgent concern is safeguarding the environment, he said, noting, “We have lost four years in addressing the climate crisis, and Mother Nature is not going to give us those years back.” As the state’s top law enforcement officer, Becerra called for more police training, accountability and transparency but noted, “Let’s not make it look like it’s a simple thing like ‘defunding police.’ ” He added, “I respect the work that’s done every day by men and women in uniform. I will go after those who have engaged in improper conduct in that uniform.” 


 

Ideas and Expertise Exchanged at Post-Debate Forum

The UCLA Luskin Public Policy community came together after the final presidential debate of 2020 to hear insights from an array of experts on the U.S. political landscape: Dean Gary Segura, an authority on polls and other measures of political opinion; Chair Martin Gilens, whose research focuses on political inequality; Professor Mark Peterson, who specializes in health-care policy; Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative; and Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the UCLA Voting Rights Project. During the 90-minute Zoom gathering, the speakers assessed the exchange between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which was deemed a step up from previous matchups, then fielded questions from students and alumni. The conversation touched on the accuracy of polling, the threat of voter intimidation, the electoral pathway to victory for each candidate, and even the risk that the country might veer toward fascism. Unless the vote count is tied up amid irregularities in a single, decisive state — as it was in Bush v. Gore in the 2000 race —Segura said the chance that the election’s outcome will be seriously challenged is small. “Try not to let the demons in your head and the demons from 2016 keep you awake at night,” he advised. The conversation was part of a series of forums designed to bring policy students, alumni, faculty and staff together to share concerns, perspectives and experiences within an informed and supportive community. At the next Policy Forum, on Nov. 5, faculty experts will parse the results of the election.


 

Conservatives Make Their Case Against Donald Trump GOP insiders who broke ranks to battle the president share strategies and predictions with a UCLA Luskin audience

By Mary Braswell

With Election Day just over a week away, two Republican insiders who broke from their party to take up the fight against Donald Trump will soon learn the fate of a president they view as “an autocrat who is unfaithful to the American republic’s ideas and ideals.”

Those biting words came from longtime GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, who shared his assessment of Trump’s presidency and the state of the Republican Party in a rousing conversation launching the 2020-21 UCLA Luskin Lecture Series.

“We should be honest with each other about this season of insanity and chaos because we have to figure out how to fix it,” said Schmidt, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, launched by disenchanted Republicans in late 2019 to defeat Trump and his allies.

Joining Schmidt at the Oct. 21 event was leading conservative voice Sarah Longwell, who said she was compelled to swim against the Republican mainstream by “this once-in-a-lifetime threat to democracy.”

“It was going to be a lot harder to keep my mouth shut,” Longwell said of her decision to break ranks  early in Trump’s presidency. “I have found it to be much more shocking that other people haven’t spoken up.”

Schmidt and Longwell are proponents of a moderate-conservative agenda that they say has been hijacked by the current administration. Their dialogue, hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, drew hundreds of viewers from as far away as Spain, Singapore and New Zealand.

‘More and more Republicans every day are coming through that breach line and saying, “You know what? We’re just not doing this for four more years.”’ — Steve Schmidt, co-founder of the Lincoln Project

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura guided the virtual conversation, pressing the guests — who each spent several years shaping Republican campaigns and communications — about the role they have personally played in creating today’s GOP.

“I’ve never taken an oath to the Republican Party,” Schmidt replied. “I always fought for the side of the Republican Party that believed that the freedoms of the country, the ideas and ideals of America, were for everybody.”

Longwell, former national board chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, said she joined the conservative movement for its “big ideas and sensible policies,” then watched as it was contorted to fit into a populist, nationalist frame.

“When you say Trumpism, I’m not sure that people have a great sense of what that means other than the roiling morass of the last three years,” she said.

Schmidt is a communications and public affairs strategist who has worked on political campaigns for former Republican officeholders such as President George W. Bush, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He and Longwell place themselves on the center-right of the political spectrum, but each has a distinct interpretation of what lies ahead for the GOP — including predictions for future presidential candidates.

Schmidt forecast a Republican “bloodbath” on Nov. 3 and was unabashedly pessimistic about the party’s future.

“The Republican Party will not reform in defeat. It will get crazier,” he said. “It will become more extreme, more insular, and that’s the death spiral of the national party.”

In Schmidt’s view, the front-runners for topping the GOP ticket in 2024 are two Trump loyalists: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Longwell, in contrast, envisions a candidate who attempts to fuse the Trump and establishment wings — a candidate such as Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina.

This would create a dilemma for conservatives, she said: Do you support a compromise Republican candidate such as Haley, who has one foot in the Trump camp? “Or do you help Democrats try to annihilate that thing altogether until it’s root-and-branch done with, and an entirely new generation of politicians rise up to take the mantle?”

Not until the Trump era has completely run its course does Longwell see a true revival of the Republican brand.

“It is possible that Donald Trump is like the Iraq War,” she said. “It was very popular for a period of time, and now you can’t find a single person who ever supported it. … It is possible that he goes down in flames and nobody wants to touch him again.”

Schmidt said the nation’s political future hinges on which faction of the Democratic Party takes hold.

“If the choice is between a socialist party and a nationalist party … the nationalist party will beat the socialist party for at least the next three elections in this country and maybe longer than that,” he said.

For the current election cycle, Longwell co-founded Defending Democracy Together, a nonprofit aimed at turning red votes blue to put Democrat Joe Biden over the top as president. Key to Longwell’s campaign is the dissemination of personal testimonials from ordinary citizens who plan to switch sides for the first time.

“So many of these people tell really deeply moving stories. They talk about being really religious or deeply pro-life and why they voted Republican all their lives … and why they had to vote against Donald Trump in 2020,” she said.

Longwell held out faith that under strong, decent leadership, Americans can bridge their divide.

“There are actually a bunch of places where there’s broad consensus among the American public … places where there are pragmatic solutions that politicians for a long time have had every incentive to keep us from achieving because they’d rather have the issue than the solution, to keep jamming us further and further apart.”

Schmidt said he helped launch the Lincoln Project political action committee after watching with alarm last fall as Democratic primary contenders battled each other instead of focusing on Trump.

“It was our point of view that no one had fought Donald Trump effectively for many, many years. No one had drawn blood on him,” he said.

The Lincoln Project boasts a sophisticated data operation that targets swing counties and precincts across the country. But it’s better known for its ads skewering Trump’s record.

Now, said Schmidt, “More and more Republicans every day are coming through that breach line and saying, ‘You know what? We’re just not doing this for four more years.’ ”

Once the 2020 election cycle is complete, the Lincoln Project plans to set its sights on GOP lawmakers who closed ranks under the Trump presidency, particularly as COVID-19 savaged the nation.

“The fight will continue past this, because the consequences of what happened to the country is something we’re going to be digging out of for the next 10 years,” Schmidt said. “And the people responsible for it are not just named Trump.”

The Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The 2020-21 series at the Luskin School will continue on Nov. 10 when Neera Tanden, a UCLA alumna and the current president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, joins Segura online for a post-election analysis.  Register here.

View a video of the Oct. 21 UCLA Luskin Lecture “Voices of Dissent.” 

Steve Kerr Has More on His Mind Than Winning The NBA head coach speaks with UCLA Luskin about life, justice and important lessons Americans still need to learn

By Les Dunseith

One of NBA coach Steve Kerr’s oldest memories occurred in the early 1970s when he attended his first NCAA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion with his father, then a UCLA professor. It was the heyday of UCLA men’s basketball, when the Bruins rolled through season after unbeaten season on the way to 10 championships in 12 years. The opponent was highly ranked Maryland.

“I was 6 or 7 years old, and UCLA wins the game by one point. The place is electric. Every seat is sold, and it’s an incredible game,” Kerr remembered, telling the story Oct. 7 during a webinar hosted by UCLA Luskin.  “There’s all these All-American players on the court, and I’m thinking, you know, that was amazing!”

As he exited the arena with his father, Malcolm Kerr, they overheard Bruin fans complaining about UCLA’s performance. “What’s wrong with the team?” the fans said. “We only won by one point.”

Young Steve stopped suddenly. “‘But dad, we won?’ And my dad had to say, ‘Well, son, I’m going to have to teach you about context.’”

When a team wins championships, “fans are not just interested in winning, they’re interested in how they win and how dominant they look,” Kerr told an online audience of about 200 students, alumni, faculty, staff and other invited guests while helping the Luskin School celebrate a new academic year. Dean Gary Segura moderated the talk, which touched on Kerr’s role as a player, coach and outspoken advocate for social justice.

Understanding expectations has meaning for Kerr in his role as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a team that went to the NBA finals five years in a row, winning three championships, before finishing the most recent season with the worst record in the league amid injuries and player departures.

Moving forward, Kerr can draw inspiration from his interactions with a who’s who of coaching role models from college and professional basketball, starting with John Wooden. During his father’s 20 years as a political science professor at UCLA, Steve got to know Wooden, and even served as a ball boy for the Bruins when he was 13 and 14 years old.

“I have [Wooden’s] photo hanging on the wall at my office in San Francisco,” Kerr said during the audience Q&A portion of the webinar. “He is one of the people I really admire and look up to as much as anybody — not only in the basketball world, but just in terms of people who have impacted me and the way I try to coach.”

Kerr’s Bruin connections run deep. So why didn’t he play for UCLA?

“I would have if they had wanted me,” Kerr said, laughing. “I’ll just say I was a late bloomer” — a statement borne out during his days as an NBA player when he earned five championship rings and set a still-unmatched record for career 3-point shooting success.

Kerr ended up playing college ball at the University of Arizona, where he learned from another great coach, Lute Olson.

“Coach Olson really kind of set the stage for my entire career,” Kerr said. “You’re so impressionable at that age, and to learn from one of the great coaches and to feel that presence — in that structure and with that wisdom — every day was incredible.”

This was in the 1980s, a couple of years after Malcolm Kerr had left UCLA to become the president of American University in Beirut. Then, during Steve’s freshman year at Arizona in 1984, Malcolm Kerr was killed on the Beirut campus by two gunmen. “He was one of the early victims of Middle East terrorism,” Kerr said. “And, obviously, it was a devastating time for our family.”

Steve Kerr is active today in efforts to prevent gun violence and provide guidance to troubled youth. But he doesn’t see the tragedy as the defining moment in shaping his worldview and that of his siblings.

“It was the way we were raised,” Kerr said, reflecting on his upbringing on and around the UCLA campus. “My mom and dad always exposed us to a lot of people from all over the world.”

His mother, Ann Kerr, has worked at UCLA since 1991 and still coordinates the Visiting Fulbright Scholar Enrichment Program for the International Institute. His siblings include John, who teaches at Michigan State University; Susan, an author and an elected county councillor in Great Britain; and Andrew, a businessman working in Washington, D.C.

Steve Kerr played pro basketball, then became a sportscaster and later a coach.

“I was definitely kind of the black sheep of the family. My siblings have all pretty much gone on to various educational endeavors. My mom likes to say that she has two Ph.D.s, an M.B.A. and an NBA,” Kerr joked.

Then again, Kerr’s job involves helping a group of people to learn and work together to achieve a goal. “Coaching is just teaching,” Kerr said. “It dawned on me after a while that I actually wasn’t as big of a black sheep as I thought I was.”

Few athletes have careers as varied or successful as Kerr, an eight-time NBA champion — five as a player on the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, and three as coach of the Warriors.

In Chicago, he played for another legendary coach, one known for then-unusual tactics like meditating before games. “Phil Jackson taught me that you can be totally unique — and even weird — and be an incredible basketball coach.”

In San Antonio, he played for Gregg Popovich, who remains a close friend and mentor and is “just an incredible human being.”

“He’s the one who taught me … not to be afraid to speak out,” said Kerr in reference to his own reputation as an outspoken advocate for progressive political viewpoints.

During the webinar, Kerr answered questions about basketball:

  • Could he beat Steph Curry in a game of H-O-R-S-E? “In theory, yes, but probably not.”

And he answered questions about his life:

  • Would he ever consider a run for public office? “No. I’m a basketball coach and that’s what I love to do.”

But Kerr and the dean spent a good portion of their hour together talking about societal issues, the sorts of things that are on the minds of the faculty, students and alumni of a school that educates future social workers, urban planners and policy experts.

So, what’s getting him hot under the collar lately?

“Well, voter suppression is probably the thing that makes me the angriest right now,” Kerr responded. “We have this country that we all want to believe in. And we want to believe in the words that were written in the Constitution, and the words that were uttered by our founding fathers.”

But, to Kerr, people need to recognize the “parallel universe” that was often hidden beneath the surface of the American ideal.

“This parallel universe has existed from Day 1 in this country — where slavery existed and Black people were considered to be three-fifths of a human being in the Constitution,” Kerr told Segura. “What this social movement is about right now is trying to reconcile these parallel universes. How can we be so proud of our country and so thankful, and yet at the same time really be staring at some of the things that are still going on like … voter suppression? It’s really disheartening.”

The 2019-20 NBA season was suspended for months because of COVID-19, then restarted amid protests about anti-Black violence by police. When play resumed, coaches and players let their views be known, such as wearing slogans in support of racial justice on their uniforms.

“I’m very proud that the NBA has taken a leadership role with this issue,” Kerr said.

During a 15-year playing career that spanned all of the 1990s, Kerr was on teams with some of the most famous basketball players of all time. Circumstances, he noted, have changed.

“Social media didn’t exist. And so somebody like Michael Jordan, for example, rarely spoke out about politics or social issues. But at the same time, he wasn’t really asked, and that’s the biggest difference,” Kerr noted.

Kerr singled out Andre Iguodala, a former Warrior who is now with the Miami Heat, as a current player whose activism has been influential for him.

“I had one of the most meaningful conversations I’ve ever had on race with Andre,” Kerr said, recalling a chat at the team’s practice facility about how white America can be oblivious about reconciling with the nation’s past.

“Andre, he just said, very matter of factly, ‘Coach, have you ever heard about Black Wall Street?’”

Kerr had not, so he went online to learn the horrific story of the 1921 massacre of Black residents by a white mob in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, suburb of Greenwood, known as the Black Wall Street because of the relative wealth of many of its residents.

The tragic nature of the story isn’t the only reason this incident is significant to Kerr, who “has read a lot of books about history and thoroughly enjoyed American history classes in high school and college, and was a history minor in college. Not one person ever taught me about the Tulsa race riots.”

For Kerr, the son of educators and the recipient of wisdom from legendary coaches known not just for winning games but for shaping young lives, the path ahead is clear.

The tragedy of Black Wall Street “should be an entire chapter in every high school student’s textbook,” Kerr said. “We have to face what we’ve done, and the evils and the awfulness that has existed.”

Watch the webinar.

4 Faculty Additions Join UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Urban Planning Incoming academic experts focus on environmental, racial and health disparities in real and virtual environments — from social media to soil

By Stan Paul

Faculty hires in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Urban Planning for the new academic year bring a wealth of new research and teaching, reinforcing the School’s commitment to the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

Assistant Professor Brian Keum has joined Social Welfare. His general research emphasizes the reduction of health and mental health disparities among marginalized identities and communities. In particular, Keum studies the impact of online racism – and online racial violence – on psychosocial outcomes and health disparities. Drawing on his clinical experience, he looks at mental health issues, offline attitudinal and behavioral changes, and risky health behaviors that include substance abuse. A second area of his research is Asian American mental health, as well as multicultural and social justice issues that relate to how mental health counseling is provided.

“As a scientist-practitioner, I am excited to teach both practice and research courses,” said Keum, who will be offering graduate instruction in advanced social work practice and applied statistics in social work.

Judith Perrigo, an infant and early childhood mental health specialist, is also an assistant professor of social welfare. Amid the unusual circumstances of this academic year, Perrigo looks forward to exploring innovative teaching methods while providing meaningful learning experiences in both foundational and advanced social welfare practice courses. This includes sharing some of her recent research on how parents of low socioeconomic status with children in grades 3 to 6 are coping with the unexpected educational demands during the pandemic.

“Our findings suggest that the closure of schools and stay-at-home orders initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing parental involvement challenges,“ Perrigo explained, noting that families of lower socioeconomic status were more negatively impacted because they “had fewer affordances to buffer the new stressors.”

Perrigo draws from her personal background as a Salvadoran immigrant and 15 years of applied clinical work with children and families to inform her scholarship. Specifically, her research focuses on the well-being of young children — birth to 5 years old — with emphasis on holistic and transdisciplinary prevention and early intervention initiatives with underserved, vulnerable and marginalized populations.

José Loya joins Urban Planning as an assistant professor after recently completing his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. At UCLA Luskin he will teach quantitative analysis in urban planning and a seminar on Latino urban issues in the spring.

“My research focuses on ethno-racial disparities in the mortgage market, before, during and after the Great Recession. More generally, I am interested in the barriers minorities face in the homeownership market,” said Loya, who is also a faculty associate at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

“I am excited to join UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and working and engaging our students in the community,” added Loya, who worked for several years in positions related to community development and affordable housing in South Florida. He then earned a master’s in statistics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve already moved to Los Angeles, so I’ll be here locally even if courses are online,” Loya said.

Kirsten Schwarz, who holds a joint appointment as an associate professor of urban planning and environmental health sciences, started at UCLA by co-teaching policy analysis for environmental health science in the spring 2020 quarter.

“Virtually teaching my first class during a global pandemic and social uprising was not how I expected to kick off my career at UCLA,” Schwarz said. “But I was so impressed, and encouraged by, the flexibility, compassion and integrity that the students brought to the experience. It was certainly memorable.”

Schwarz is an urban ecologist working at the interface of environment, equity and health. Her research focuses on environmental hazards and amenities in cities and how their distribution impacts minoritized communities. She recently led an interdisciplinary team through a community-engaged green infrastructure design that integrated participatory design and place-based solutions to achieve desired ecosystem services.

“I’m interested in connecting those areas right between urban planning and environmental health sciences,” said Schwarz, whose work on lead-contaminated soils has helped document how bio-geophysical and social variables relate to the spatial patterning of lead in soils.

Most recently she received a transdisciplinary research acceleration grant from UCLA’s Office of Research and Creative Activities in conjunction with Jennifer Jay, a professor in UCLA’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Their proposal, “Multimedia Assessment of Children’s Lead Exposure in Los Angeles,” will involve work with graduate students in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Schwarz also has expertise in science communication and in engaging communities in the co-production of science. She has been recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which named her a 2018-2019 Fellow in the Leshner Leadership Institute in the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology. Prior to

joining UCLA, she was an associate professor of environmental science at Northern Kentucky University, where she directed the Ecological Stewardship Institute.

Several other faculty searches have been completed, with four additional faculty members set to join Social Welfare and Urban Planning in the coming year. Those new additions include Adam Millard-Ball, who will arrive in January as an associate professor of urban planning, coming from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Millard-Ball holds a doctorate from Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences and was selected in the urban data science search. He studies environmental economics and transportation, “adding to our strengths in those fields,” said Dean Gary Segura in a memo announcing his appointment.

Mark Vestal, also starting in January, was selected as an assistant professor by UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in a search on critical Black urbanism, Segura announced. A historian by training, Vestal’s work looks at the history of discriminatory planning and housing policy in Los Angeles and beyond.

Fall 2021 newcomers will include Margaret “Maggie” Thomas in Social Welfare and Veronica Terriquez in Urban Planning.

Thomas is a scholar of family and child well-being and is completing her Ph.D. in social work at Boston University this year. She previously earned an MSW degree from the University of Illinois. Her work focuses on young children in families facing serious economic hardship, as well as children and youth from minority communities and with LGBTQ identities.

Terriquez has been jointly appointed to Urban Planning and UCLA’s Department of Chicano Studies where she will take on the leadership of the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. Terriquez, who earned a Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA, returns to the Westwood campus from UC Santa Cruz. Her work is principally focused on youth and young adult social development, leadership and intergroup relations, and how they are affected by various public policies.

Bruins Play Key Roles in Report Calling for Sweeping Reforms in L.A. Dean Gary Segura and Luskin School students are among the many UCLA contributors to ambitious effort to reimagine life in the region from a racial justice perspective

By Les Dunseith

A new report that lays out a road map for the transformation of the Los Angeles region built on racial equity is rooted in research from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The report’s co-authors are Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School, and Manuel Pastor, director of the University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute.

The paper, “No Going Back: Together for an Equitable and Inclusive Los Angeles,” was issued Sept. 9 and shared with a UCLA audience Sept. 15 at a virtual salon. At more than 250 pages, the report is a comprehensive examination of the hidden barriers to success that limited many of the city’s residents even before COVID-19, but have been exacerbated since the pandemic began.

A wide swath of the Bruin community contributed to the paper. Numerous faculty and staff members provided new research, offered historical context and analyzed existing data. UCLA alumni serve on the Committee for Greater LA, which developed the report. And a handful of current UCLA students conducted research that fed the recommendations.

 

Those students, Antonio Elizondo, Dan Flynn, Mariesa Samba and Ellen Schwartz, share a passion for building a new Los Angeles grounded in social justice and racial equity.

Flynn, a second-year graduate student, contributed to the report’s sections on health and homelessness. His experience working with nonprofit agencies has made him acutely aware of the need to think differently about the region’s homelessness crisis.

“You’re looking at 70,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles at any given point,” Flynn said. “There’s no way to look at that issue and describe it as anything other than a failure — and a catastrophic one, with immense human cost. There has been a failure to build systems of accountability and to hold people responsible and accountable.”

Setting forth a strategy to create accountability to end homelessness is among 10 guiding principles (PDF) that underlie the report, which also tackles economic justice, mental and physical health, child and family well-being and other topics.

Samba is pursuing a master’s in social welfare and is a graduate student researcher at the Black Policy Project at UCLA. She contributed to sections of the report that related to children, families, mental health and justice.

“A lot of the work that I do is within the community with folks who are directly impacted by the pandemic,” she said. “Especially with this project, my top-line goal was to uplift those voices and experiences into the research.”

The report builds on the personal insights of the researchers and the people they interviewed to identify social problems, pairing those lived experiences with data to point toward solutions. For example, research findings about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education highlighted the region’s racial disparities. Under Los Angeles’ safer-at-home orders, Black and Latino schoolchildren have been far less likely to be able to engage successfully in remote learning because of a lack of computers and access to high-speed internet connections.

As Segura noted during a Sept. 9 webinar to unveil the report to the general public, public officials are expected to ensure that residents have access to electricity, trash collection and a sewer system — so why not something as vital as the internet?

“The time has come for us to think about the internet as what it has become,” he said. “It is a civil right.”

The opportunity to think about such issues in new ways appealed to the UCLA Luskin students who played a role. Plus, there were practical benefits. For example, Schwartz was happy to work on the transportation section of the report because that’s her area of concentration as an urban planning master’s student. But her biggest takeaway from the experience was the mindset of the project’s leaders.

“What I loved seeing is how the community leaders on the committee really focused on empowerment. That’s something that I want to take with me into my own career,” she said.

“… work remains to be done to prevent those long-term effects from being catastrophic.”

—Antonio Elizondo

Elizondo, a master’s student in urban planning, said during the virtual salon that the most impactful aspect of his involvement in the project came during his review of interviews with people impacted by the health crisis and thinking about the repercussions.

“At the moment, it’s an unfolding crisis, so every policy response is a short-term response,” Elizondo said. “This project helped me realize that there will be long-term effects, and how much work remains to be done to prevent those long-term effects from being catastrophic.”

The Committee for Greater LA comprises a diverse group of civic and community leaders and a joint research team from UCLA Luskin and the USC Equity Research Institute. Initially, the committee intended primarily to address the racial disparities exposed by the pandemic, but in the wake of the recent police-involved killings of Black people and the nationwide protests that followed, its focus expanded to encompass a broader understanding of systemic racism.

The UCLA students helped Segura with the policy-related aspects of the report, which cover issues like housing affordability, immigrant rights, alternatives to incarceration, transportation and equitable access to health care, among others. Because of the pandemic, the work had to be coordinated via phone, email and Zoom sessions.

Flynn, who is pursuing a master’s in public policy, said he appreciated the chance to work directly with the dean on a project of such ambition and scope.

“What makes UCLA such a special place is that you have world-class academics and practitioners who are not just interested in generating work but are interested in mentorship and teaching and in giving opportunities to the next generation of policymakers,” he said.

As gratifying as the work was, the students realize the real work is still to come. Schwartz said she’s hopeful that society is ready to adopt the meaningful change advocated in the report.

“We live in a world where people are really isolated and don’t always know what’s going on in the community,” she said. “I hope that this report will just shed some light on issues that people are facing and that it will inspire elected officials to take action and make real, lasting changes to the system.”

Samba said her participation offered a unique opportunity to process her emotions about the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly because of how it coincided with the growing racial justice movement — and she sees cause for hope.

“We’re at a point in time where we are trying new things,” Samba said. “We’re able to experiment with our justice system, with our foster care system, with what social services look like, with what community care looks like. I would like to see some of those social experiments — some of those new ideas and visions — become real, and for us not to revert to the status quo. I would love to see us really, actually reimagine what a more racially equitable future looks like for the people of Los Angeles.”

Among the other UCLA connections to the effort: The Committee for Greater LA is chaired by Miguel Santana, a member of the Luskin School’s advisory board, and the project is funded in part by philanthropists who have also supported UCLA.

The Committee for Greater LA has invited interested parties, including policymakers and candidates for elected office, to join in making the #NoGoingBackLA promise, a commitment to build a more equitable and inclusive Los Angeles. Sign up at nogoingback.la.

Deans Respond to Government Attack on Critical Race Theory

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura joined colleagues from three other University of California public affairs schools to defend the interdisciplinary field of critical race theory against attacks from the Trump Administration. “Becoming anti-racist is a core tenet of the American creed. … America is still trying to perfect itself, and scholars in our schools use multiple perspectives, including critical race theory, to understand racism and racial oppression in America,” said the statement signed by Segura and deans of the public policy schools at UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC San Diego. The statement came in response to a recent U.S. Office of Management and Budget memorandum calling for an end to training sessions for federal employees that draw on critical race theory, which the memo termed divisive, false, demeaning and un-American. The deans’ statement countered that exposure to critical race theory “helps our students have a deeper understanding of what is required for America to live up to its promise of equality for all.” Noting that many public affairs students go on to work in government, the deans said, “An understanding of the ongoing role of race in America is important for them to be successful public sector employees. We believe that critical race theory and other academic research helps them to develop this understanding.” Deans from UCLA Law and four other UC law schools issued a separate statement expressing deep distress at the Trump Administration’s attack on critical race theory.