In Memoriam: Karen Lee, Former Field Faculty Member in Social Welfare A co-founder of a national consortium focusing on geriatric social work, she educated and mentored hundreds of students during 12 years at UCLA

Former UCLA faculty member Karen Lee died of cancer Jan. 25 at her home in Eugene, Oregon. 

Lee’s tenure at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare began in 2002 as a member of the field education faculty, and she later served as associate director of the Master of Social Welfare program. She retired in 2014.

Known for fostering student interest in geriatric social work, Lee represented UCLA as a founding member of the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium, or GSWEC. Twenty years later, the consortium continues to flourish, and the partnership of universities and centers of excellence has expanded. 

Lee is fondly remembered for her passion and guidance by many, including her former colleagues in Social Welfare.     

“I truly considered her a role model in the way she interacted with students and taught in the classroom,” Laura Alongi Brinderson said. “Her sweet smile and infectious laughter will not be forgotten.”

Michelle Talley recalled being assigned to work with Lee when she first arrived at UCLA, shadowing her and learning how to teach and manage a classroom. “It really helped me to understand the role,” Talley said.    

“Karen Lee will be missed by our Social Welfare community at UCLA and beyond,” said former colleague Gerry Laviña, director of field faculty at UCLA Luskin.

Laviña recalled that the “Advanced Practice in Aging” course taught by Lee was highly evaluated, and she was known to be a readily accessible field liaison who touched the lives of many students.

As news of Lee’s death spread on social media, several alumni and friends posted remembrances on the Social Welfare alumni page on Facebook saying they viewed her as a pivotal mentor during their time as MSW students and as someone who continued to make an impact in their personal and professional lives well after graduation.   

“She was more than a teacher — she was friend, mentor, cheerleader, and all around mensch,” wrote Charlie Padow MSW ’07. “I am not alone. She touched countless lives as an educator and a friend.”

Jean Dorsky wrote: “As a gerontology specialist, Karen was pivotal in my career choice. I will always remember her as being honest, fair, and funny and insightful.”

“This is such a surprise. … Karen was a mentor in more ways than one,” wrote Brittany Leigh, who continued to say that Lee cared not only “about what we did at school, but really cared about me as an individual.”

She is survived by her husband, Joseph “Joe” Lee, and sister, Eileen. The family has requested that donations in her name be made to Food for Lane County, a nonprofit food bank near their home. 

Mayoral Roundtable Highlights Launch of Luskin Summit 2022 With a theme of “Research in Action,” the fourth annual series resumes with five webinars spotlighting UCLA’s role in understanding and solving issues of current public concern 

By Les Dunseith

A roundtable discussion about the upcoming election of a new mayor in Los Angeles and four other sessions focusing on timely policy issues made up the agenda when the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs launched its fourth annual Luskin Summit.

Of the 10 currently declared mayoral candidates, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass has the advantage of name recognition and national political experience, panelists agreed. But City Councilman Kevin de León was also cited as a favorite of many voters based on his prior experience in Sacramento and name recognition from an unsuccessful 2018 bid for U.S. Senate. 

The panelists included Steve Soboroff and Wendy Greuel, former mayoral candidates themselves. 

Soboroff, who ran for mayor in 2001 in a race won by James K. Hahn, said, “At this point, I think it’s Karen, plus one. And everybody else is trying to be that one.”

He cited Bass’ experience as an elected official at both the state and national levels. “A lot has to do with bringing resources from D.C. and from Sacramento to Los Angeles. And she has the best chance of bringing resources that the others can’t.”

Greuel, who ran for mayor in 2013 in a race won by Eric Garcetti, sees this year’s mayoral election as very close, with even greater uncertainty because of COVID-19 and its ever-evolving impact on society and public opinion. 

“Normally, if you were ahead [in polls] five months out, you’re good, you know, and it’s not going to change,” Greuel said about speculating on a political candidate’s prospects for victory. “Now, it changes on a weekly basis.”

Like the mayor’s race, the Luskin Summit was impacted by COVID-19, with the launch event taking place on a remote platform after having been originally planned as an in-person conference. This year’s theme is “Research in Action,” and the sessions include recent research from the Luskin School that relates to current policy issues. The Summit series will continue through April.

The other sessions on Jan. 19 were moderated by faculty members at UCLA Luskin whose areas of expertise include housing policy, climate change, transportation, and class and racial inequality. Recordings of all five sessions are available online.

Author and UCLA Luskin faculty member Jim Newton, the editor of UCLA Blueprint magazine, led the questioning during the mayoral panel. The panelists were Soboroff, Greuel, longtime officeholder and current UCLA faculty member Zev Yaroslavsky and Antonia Hernandez, the president and CEO of the California Community Foundation.

They agreed that homelessness is likely to remain a dominant issue as the mayoral candidates vie for voter attention and approval prior to the June 7 primary and a likely Nov. 8 runoff election.

“I think in every public opinion survey that’s been done in town for candidates … homelessness is No. 1 and nothing else comes close,” Yaroslavsky said. “But it’s more than just homelessness. From my point of view, many people just feel that the wheels are coming off the city and it’s just not working.”

Hernandez said voters are eager for leadership and trustworthiness. 

“They want to have a sense of the person —  not the political person but the real person. You’re electing a whole package, a whole human being,” she said. “I think the public is really tired of platitudes, you know: ‘I’m going to solve homelessness in the first year.’ Well, it took us 40 years to get to where we are.”

Yaroslavsky said candidates also must navigate sometimes unrealistic voter expectations. 

“It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver,” he said. “You’ve got to be honest with the people. One of the lessons I learned in 40 years in politics is that the electorate has a very sensitive BS-sniffing meter. They know when they’re being conned.”

Hernandez expressed similar thoughts:  “If it’s not honest, it’s not realistic, then the platitudes aren’t going to get you any votes,” she said.

Homelessness was also the focus of the Luskin Summit session led by Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography who is director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

In opening remarks, Miguel Santana of the Weingart Foundation set the stage for a discussion about expanding housing security for L.A.’s unhoused population without losing sight of each individual’s right to self-determination. 

“The thing that’s been missing at the heart of homeless service solutions are the actual voices of the people who have been impacted,” said UCLA alumna Ashley Bennett, a founding member of the community organization Ground Game LA. 

Joining Roy and Bennett was Gary Blasi, a UCLA professor emeritus of law whose scholarship has shed light on the plight of renters in California. 

“Homelessness begins with eviction,” he said. “These are not two separate things, they’re tightly linked.”   

A third session taking place during the Summit launch event focused on another issue of huge current public concern: climate change. The session zeroed in on the dangers of rising heat.

Climate change has increased the frequency and lethality of wildfires, floods and hurricanes, said moderator Kirsten Schwarz, associate professor of urban planning. “This session will explore design and policy interventions that can create more livable and resilient cities, specifically focusing on interventions aimed at protecting the most vulnerable populations,” she said.

Among the panelists was Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning and the interim co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA. She spoke about possible mitigation strategies and the importance of partnering with communities that are most vulnerable to extreme heat.

“The burden of heat is incredibly inequitable,” Turner said. “We learn more from talking to the community members about all the pernicious ways heat can impact people and their daily lives. Involving these community groups is going to be essential to any solution.”

Other panelists were Veronica Padilla-Campos MURP ’06, executive director of the nonprofit Pacoima Beautiful; Kristen Torres Pawling MURP ’12, sustainability program director at the Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office, and Helen Dowling, data manager for the Public Health Alliance of Southern California. 

The Luskin School of Public Affairs is well-known for its research on transportation issues, and Adam Millard-Ball, associate professor of urban planning, moderated a session that included new research on the widespread impact of Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies on a community’s economic, environmental and equity goals.

 “How can ride-hailing best serve the public interest?” he asked. “Certainly, on the positive side, ride-hailing is an important mobility option, particularly for people who don’t have a car or perhaps people who can’t drive. But at the same time Uber and Lyft mean more traffic and more local air pollution.”

About a fifth of drivers simply drive around, burning more gasoline and creating more congestion and pollution, according to Millard-Ball and fellow presenter Joe Castiglione, deputy director for technology, data and analysis at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. 

Also participating in this panel was Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center, who noted that gig workers have few employment protections.

The fifth panel discussion of the Summit launch event focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on systemic class and racial inequality.

Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was joined by Silvia González, a former colleague at CNK who now works with the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative; Karen Umemoto, a professor of urban planning and director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center; and Vickie Mays, a professor of psychology and health services at UCLA.

“Clearly we all understand the last two years has transformed the way we live, work and socialize,” Ong said. “The pandemic has been a once-in-a-century public health crisis, but beyond that, it’s also a pandemic that has generated dramatic economic disruption.”

He noted that racial disruption has been another byproduct, including a rise in hate crimes directed at Asians and health disparities experienced by other races.

The panelists also discussed the so-called digital divide and how unequal access to high-speed internet connections have impacted education, social and racial relationships during the pandemic. 

“I think one of the things that we don’t really know exactly the impact of yet is the impact on children for those who don’t have internet access,” Umemoto said.  

Leading the city toward solutions to such issues is an expectation of the Los Angeles mayor. Among voters’ biggest concerns is rising crime and how the LAPD should approach it. Los Angeles is among the cities increasingly turning to community policing tactics. 

“It’s preventative policing. It’s getting involved with the communities. It’s having a hundred different programs to keep kids from submitting to gangs and submitting to the influences that make them break laws,” said Soboroff, a longtime member of L.A.’s Board of Police Commissioners. “A candidate needs to understand that.”

Yaroslavsky, whose legacy as an officeholder includes police reform, is interested in seeing how the mayoral candidates talk about crime. 

“How will the candidates frame it? Are you going to land on one end or the other?” he asked. “I’ve always maintained that good community and police relations, and public safety, are not mutually exclusive.”

The choice of mayor is important, the panelists said, even though the mayor of Los Angeles has limited authority to enact unilateral change.

“In Los Angeles, we have 21 people — 15 council members, one mayor and five supervisors — that control everything,” Soboroff said. “The issue is not about taking power; it’s about giving up power … so something can get done.” 

Hernandez said candidates like Bass, de León, City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Councilman Joe Buscaino all have solid records as public servants. 

“They are good, decent people. They have served in different positions in government, and … you know that they care deeply about the place,” she said. “So, the real issue is how are they going to bring us together and make us believe that government can work for the people.”

Greuel, whose deep public service experience includes being the current chair of the Board of Advisors at UCLA Luskin, said winning the San Fernando Valley remains pivotal to the mayor’s race. Yaroslavsky agreed, but noted that changing demographics in the Valley, and throughout Los Angeles, mean that strategies that won past elections may not hold true anymore.

“It’s a much more complicated electorate now,” he said. 

The Luskin Summit is scheduled to resume Feb. 15 with a session focusing on voter suppression attempts. Sessions to follow will look at policy issues from a global perspective. Details about the Luskin Summit series can be found online, and interested parties may register at this link. 

Luskin Summit 2022 will close April 22 with a two-session event focusing on the Quality of Life Index, a project under the direction of Yaroslavsky in his role with the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA, and a roundtable discussion about the importance of governors in California moderated by Newton. It will be presented both virtually and in-person on the UCLA campus if COVID-19 protocols allow. 

This year’s Luskin Summit sponsors are the Weingart Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the Los Angeles Rams. The media partner is ABC7 in Los Angeles.

Stan Paul and Mary Braswell also contributed to this story.

Circumvention of Censorship in China Has Increased During COVID-19 Pandemic People who broke through firewalls to seek health information also gained access to long-banned political content, study finds

By Mary Braswell

A study co-authored by Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs shows that more people in China circumvented censorship restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, opening a gateway to a trove of sensitive and long-hidden information.

Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research identifies a spike in China-based activity on Twitter and Wikipedia, two platforms long banned by the government in Beijing.

The authors analyzed changes in the number of followers of popular accounts and traffic to certain Wikipedia pages to determine that, in addition to seeking news and information about the pandemic, users found sensitive information about China’s politics, history and human rights record.

During a crisis, the search for information increases under any form of governance, but leaders who use censorship as a tool to suppress dissent face heightened risks, said Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor of public policy.

In China, the search for COVID-19-related information motivated individuals to find ways to skirt government-imposed regulations and technologies that block internet use. As a result, they gained access to censored material that government leaders perceive as damaging, he said.

“If I were one of those leaders I would find this alarming because it’s something that I can’t control.”

Researchers used Twitter to examine a sample of Chinese-language accounts whose self-reported locations are in mainland China, as well as an app-tracking service. They identified several trends, including:

  • an uptick in the number of people accessing technologies that would enable them to jump the Great Firewall, China’s network of restrictions on internet access;
  • Facebook becoming the 250th most downloaded app in China, up from the 600th, and Twitter becoming the 200th most downloaded app, up from the 575th, according to estimates;
  • a 10% long-term increase in the number of accounts from China using Twitter;
  • a greater than expected growth in followers — compared to users in Hong Kong, which was not under lockdown at the time — for accounts that tweet in Chinese, including international news agencies (31%), citizen journalists (42%), activists (28%) and pornography feeds that are generally banned in China (8%); and
  • increased viewership of Chinese-language Wikipedia pages on sensitive topics such as artist-activist Ai Weiwei and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

The authors also uncovered nuances in Twitter usage. Their analysis of the content of the tweets alone suggested no effect — positive or negative — of the COVID-19 crisis. Digging deeper, however, they found that users who post only innocuous, nonpolitical tweets might still follow foreign news media, pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong or Taiwan, Chinese citizen-journalists or other banned Twitter accounts.

“As far as we can tell, the Chinese government has been relying on what people say to monitor the population,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. “But we show in this paper that people also reveal their sentiments by who they follow.”

The paper’s other authors are Keng-Chi Chang and Margaret E. Roberts of UC San Diego and William R. Hobbs of Cornell University.

The researchers note in the paper that Beijing’s crackdown on citizens who comment on banned platforms has become increasingly repressive over the last several years.

“While the results here do not link the COVID-19 crisis gateway effect to the political fortunes of the Chinese government, they do suggest that a country with a highly censored environment sees distinctive and wide-ranging increases in information access during crisis,” they conclude.

Tackling Voter Dilution in California UCLA Voting Rights Project fights to ensure equitable representation in Orange and Yolo counties

By Jose Garcia

As counties across California finalize new electoral boundaries in a once-in-a-decade process known as redistricting, the UCLA Voting Rights Project (VRP) is successfully providing guidance to decision-makers to ensure full compliance with federal and state laws.

California has experienced rapid demographic changes, such as Latinos becoming the largest ethnic majority in the state, and county boards get one shot to draw fair and equitable district maps for the next decade. In the past, California has seen patterns of voter dilution that many wish to see corrected.

The Voting Rights Project, the flagship project of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), is placing direct pressure on decision-makers through high-level analysis of district maps and leveraging of local media, with the goal of ensuring that equitably drawn maps are implemented.

In Orange County, a region that is 34% Latino, the county Board of Supervisors has not seen Latino representation in over 15 years. This is largely attributed to the way district boundaries have been drawn in the past.

In response, the Voting Rights Project published a report analyzing proposed maps for the county’s supervisorial districts and detailed the steps needed to ensure full compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

“Several of the proposed maps, while appearing to be compliant, did not actually meet requirements to give areas with a high percentage of people of color a chance of electing a representative from their community,” said Sonni Waknin, voting rights counsel for the VRP.

Some of the proposed maps ensured that Latinos were less able to elect candidates of their choice by “cracking,” or splitting, adjacent cities with ethnic majorities, such as Santa Ana and Anaheim, according to Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

The Voting Rights Project urged the Orange County Board of Supervisors to implement specific boundary changes that would create the county’s first majority-Latino supervisorial district — which the board subsequently adopted in a historic vote.

“We are incredibly proud to have ensured that Orange County recognized the need for Latinos to elect candidates of their choice, as required by the federal Voting Rights Act,” Waknin said.

Her team harnessed the success in Orange County and began deploying similar strategies across the state throughout the fall of 2021.

Yolo County, a region at high risk of voter dilution under proposed district boundaries, was a priority. While voters had been able to elect a Latino candidate under existing maps, the margin of victory was narrow, considering that Latinos accounted for 69% of the county’s total population growth over the last 10 years.

As it did in Orange County, Waknin’s team analyzed proposed maps and demographics in Yolo County and found that several plans under consideration would crack the Latino population of existing districts and lower the Latino voting-age population below thresholds required by the Voting Rights Act.

A VRP memo sent to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors argued that three of the four originally proposed maps would absolutely dilute the power of Latino voters. Following the memo and a coordinated media strategy, the supervisors unanimously voted to adopt district borders closely resembling the VRP’s recommendations.

“Latino communities have driven the growth of California for the past decade,” Waknin said. “Their political voice must be heard at every level, including local governments.”

At the local level, cities and counties use new census data to redraw district lines to reflect changes in their populations. California’s congressional districts are redrawn every decade by an independent commission of citizens from across the state.

Currently, over half of the U.S. has finished the redistricting process, and many of the approved maps will ultimately undercut communities of color, according to Waknin. Her team is continuing its involvement in places facing potential voter dilution outside of California, including in key states such as Texas and Washington.

“Through this work, the UCLA Voting Rights Project is playing a critical role in protecting the integrity of the state’s and nation’s democracy,” Diaz said. “The project is fundamentally influencing how political boundaries are redrawn to create an equitable electoral system for all.”

Changing the Unhoused Narrative, One Story at a Time L.A.-based educator and podcast host is chosen as Activist-in-Residence by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy

By Stan Paul

Theo Henderson, the founder of the “We the Unhoused” podcast and himself a person who has experienced homelessness for several years in Los Angeles, has been raising awareness of the unhoused for the last two years on his podcast. For the next few months, he’ll lend his experiences to UCLA as Activist-in-Residence at the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.

Ananya Roy, director of the institute, said that through his work, Henderson has already had a significant impact on the public’s understanding of homelessness in Los Angeles.

“Rooted in his own experience of becoming unhoused, his podcast is a decisive intervention in how we understand housing insecurity and housing solutions,” said Roy, also a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography. “Mr. Henderson constantly draws our attention to the structural causes of poverty, including racism, and reminds us of the social and policy shifts needed to address such issues.”

Now in its fifth year, the program based at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brings artists, activists and public intellectuals to campus in an effort to further academic understanding of social justice issues such as housing. “[Henderson] joins an illustrious set of previous Activists-in-Residence and was selected for this appointment from among an exceptionally strong pool of applicants,” Roy said.

Henderson said his podcast was small but effective in its early stages — and, literally, a grassroots effort.

“I created ‘We the Unhoused’ living out in the park, and I wanted to uplift the stories of unhoused people in a larger setting,” said Henderson, who has been recording his podcast interviews and commentary on his cellphone. “Many of the institutions of higher learning are not really plugged into that kind of conversation from the lived experience experts.”

Originally from Chicago, Henderson, 48, is college-educated and had a job as a schoolteacher in Los Angeles at the time of the Great Recession. A medical crisis and loss of his job were followed by eviction and search for stable shelter. He ended up unhoused and living in a park.

Henderson, who has spoken to classes and in other academic settings, including several times at UCLA, says one of the central “civil rights issues of our time is houselessness.”

A major problem with the narrative around housing issues is that it has been — and remains — guided by people who are housed, Henderson said.

“It is erasing unhoused people from view. That experience motivated me to tell my story on my own terms and give voice to the voiceless,” he said.

“I emphasize different things that are really important or because of what I’ve seen with mainstream news,” Henderson said. An example would be a crime story that involves an unhoused person, whether a victim or otherwise, in which “housing status became a little large in the headlines.”

He wanted to push back. So, Henderson launched his podcast, just prior to the pandemic.  COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem and made it more difficult for the unhoused, he said.

“I made it a point to make different podcasts about experiences of the unhoused during COVID because people forget that, when shelter-in-place happened, the world literally stopped,” he said. “It’s a real situation. I think the world needed to know. But COVID happened … you forget about the unhoused; they have to survive as well.”

At UCLA, Henderson said he hopes to utilize the academic setting and his residency to open the door to more active, mobile research methods and see how theories play out in real-world scenarios.

Henderson is also looking to impart knowledge that can be applied to settings that he might not otherwise be able to access, including business, politics and higher learning. He also plans to engage with students through workshops and class discussions, as well as participating in community events and visiting sites both on and off the campus.

In his application for the residency, Henderson wrote, “Students have the power to make change, but they need to be armed with the necessary knowledge to do so. In order to make an impact, future leaders need to build connections with people dealing with the realities of houselessness.”

“Mr. Henderson is a lifelong educator. He has not allowed the condition of becoming unhoused to end his teaching. Instead, he has created new pedagogies that reflect the condition of being unhoused,” Roy said. “I anticipate that he will be a terrific educator for UCLA Luskin faculty and students.”

It’s an honor to be chosen as the next Activist-in-Residence and to return to the UCLA campus, Henderson said. “I’ve been there so much. I used to joke, ‘I might as well have a spot here.’ ”

Dean’s Messages on Remote Instruction to Start Winter Quarter UCLA Luskin modifies operations as part of COVID-19 health and safety efforts on campus amid the rapid spread of Omicron variant

January 10 update:

Friends:

I hope this note finds you all safe and well.

On Friday, you received the campuswide Bruin Post extending our period of remote instruction through Friday, Jan. 28, with our return to campus on Monday, Jan. 31. In my meeting with senior Luskin School leadership Wednesday, we anticipated such a development this week, but the chancellor opted to act sooner as case rates and circumstances made the 18th implausible and unadvisable. Even without a full complement of students on campus last week, the case numbers were shocking. This is the right decision.

For staff or faculty who need to come to campus, please follow the directions of the university with respect to masking, vaccination boosters, testing and so forth, and complete the daily symptom monitoring.  If you come to campus for any reason, please use that opportunity to submit a test to the campus system.

In the interim, our policy of suspending in-person events is extended up to the Jan. 31 return. Planning for all events AFTER Jan. 31 should continue, but always with a cautious eye toward deadlines, financial implications and the changing public health circumstances.

As always, I deeply appreciate your fortitude and resilience during this very challenging period for the School and for the globe.

Dec. 30 email to the UCLA Luskin community:

Friends:

By now you’ve likely seen the Bruin Post sent last Tuesday, informing us all that the winter quarter will begin with remote instruction through the Martin Luther King Holiday. As of now, we will return to the classroom on Jan. 18, 2022.  This date, of course, is dependent on evolving public health conditions. Staff working remotely should continue to do so. Staff working in person or hybrid should speak directly with their supervisor regarding School and departmental needs and each unit’s plans.

Please note the new testing and vaccination requirements detailed on UCLA’s COVID-19 resources page.  In brief, everyone should receive the booster as soon as eligible, all personnel (students, faculty and staff) will require a baseline test before returning to campus, and all will require once or twice weekly testing through UCLA testing systems. More details are available on the linked web pages.

Some thoughts:

I am as disappointed as you that we have once again had to step back from the normal (or nearly normal) conduct of university business and our daily lives. Our primary concern at this moment is the health and safety of our team and our students. We have succeeded in the last year beyond our wildest imaginations despite the many challenges presented by the epidemic — thanks to your creativity, your adaptability, your perseverance, and your hard work. We have admitted and trained more students, won more extramural grants, and we have spread the word of our important work to our largest audience ever.

I know this has come at a cost … all of us are stressed and tired. And I am sorry to say that I have to ask you to take on this challenge again, at least until we can return.

Here is how I’d like to proceed in the interim:

Instructors: I think a sober assessment of the current public health information suggests that we should prepare for a period of remote instruction that lasts beyond Jan. 18.

  • Exceptions to the in-person suspension are allowed under guidance provided in a follow-up Bruin Post of Dec. 28.
  • Additional guidance for course instructors is available in a separate Bruin Post sent Dec. 30.

Staff: As I suggested, you should confer with your manager regarding safeguards. However, I am instructing staff managers to use remote work to the fullest extent possible. The campus has NOT closed and we will require minimal staffing in the building unless it does, but we should meet only the most urgent needs with in-person work.

Meetings: Same as the fall, any meeting which CAN be held remotely SHOULD be held remotely. We are all accustomed to Zoom meetings now.

Events: Guidance from the campus has allowed events to continue but imposed a more restrictive safety protocol.  On my own authority, all UCLA Luskin in-person events should be canceled (or re-platformed) through Jan. 17. Assuming the return to in-person instruction on Jan. 18, we will follow the campus’ new guidance, which includes testing, masks and an indoor eating ban. We will reconsider event plans after Jan. 18 as new information becomes available.  The new campus safety protocols include:

  • One of the following testing options is acceptable upon onsite check-in.
    • Proof of negative antigen test within 24 hours
    • Proof of negative PCR test within 48 hours
    • On-site negative rapid test (we have the supplies)
  • Masks are required.  Recommend surgical/procedure or N95/KN95 masks (we have the supplies)
  • Indoor eating should be avoided, when feasible.

Research: Since the campus is not closed, there is no suspension of research activity at this time, though restrictions on in-person meetings apply. Research center and institute leaders are encouraged to consider the reinstatement of remote work for any research or administrative staff whose effectiveness should allow for remote working.

Students: Just so you know, the campus would like students to return by Jan. 9 and would welcome their return Jan. 3. The leadership feels like we will have a better handle on the public health issues and vaccine/testing compliance among students when they are in residence, and steps have been taken to assure the availability of quarantine beds should they be necessary.

My first concern remains our collective safety and well-being, and I want all of you to know how deeply I appreciate your great work.

All these headaches notwithstanding, I hope all of you and your families enjoy a joyous and SAFE new year, and I will see you soon.

All the best,

Gary

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Wells Fargo Provides $500,000 for LPPI, CNK Research The grant to UCLA research groups will support policy solutions to benefit small business owners of color

A new grant of $500,000 from Wells Fargo will support efforts by researchers affiliated with the Luskin School to determine best practices and policy solutions to benefit businesses operated by persons of color.

The award will go to the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI) and the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) for research aimed at increasing access to capital, technology and environmentally sustainable practices for these businesses.

“COVID-19’s disparate impact on small business owners of color highlighted the enduring legacy of structural barriers that impede economic opportunity and social mobility for large swaths of working Americans,” said Maria Samaniego, deputy director of UCLA LPPI. “This grant will allow us to develop policy research and resources that are specifically tailored to the needs of communities of color, which have the power to transform small business ownership in ways that will drive our economy for generations.”

UCLA LPPI and CNK will focus on understanding how to broaden access to financial services and technology tools. They will also explore how to best leverage public, private and social partnerships to boost the entrepreneurship potential of small businesses owned by Latinos and other people of color. The findings will lead to more informed decisions about post-COVID economic recovery policy relating to minority-owned businesses. Another goal will be increasing labor force participation in those communities.

“We cannot ignore the bright spotlight the pandemic has put on inequity, nor the responsibility and opportunity we have to close gaps in resources that have existed for far too long,” said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “Investing in UCLA LPPI and CNK will offer an in-depth view into how the public and private sectors can better support and accelerate access for business owners of color who will be at the forefront of building an inclusive economy.”

Research Professor Paul Ong, director of CNK, pointed to previous research from UCLA that has identified economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and produced insight into how society’s systems and institutions often work against the interests of people in disadvantaged communities. “With this funding, we will be able to pinpoint the exact systemic barriers and to generate the knowledge to remove them for future generations,” he said. “Equally important, new insights will inform new practices that create greater equity for people of color.”

Support from Wells Fargo will also enable UCLA LPPI and CNK to identify best practices in sustainability that small businesses can adopt to help them meet the challenges presented by climate change.

Report Focuses on Deaths of Unhoused People During Pandemic Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy analysis delves into coroner’s data between March 2020 and July 2021

By Les Dunseith

A newly released report from the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy examines coroner’s data to provide a detailed profile of people in Los Angeles County who may have been unhoused when they died during the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report looks at publicly available data from the Los Angeles County Examiner-Coroner’s website and filters it based on locations of death closely affiliated with unhoused status. Researchers identified 1,493 persons who may have been unhoused when they passed away on Los Angeles County’s streets or in outdoor spaces between March 2020 and July 2021. 

Researchers looked separately at the 418 deaths that occurred in L.A. County hotel or motel rooms during the same time period. The report argues that these deaths should also be examined because such locations served as a primary site of residency for the unhoused amid the pandemic as part of the state’s COVID-19 response targeting the homeless population, known as Project Roomkey, or because these persons were likely experiencing dire housing precarity and relied on hotel and motel rooms as housing of last resort.

Nearly half of those who died in hotel/motel locations were white and almost 30% were women. Roughly 3 in 5 of the deaths were attributed by the coroner to drug or alcohol overdose.

At a time when public concern about overdoses is growing, the report calls for a deeper understanding, viewing such deaths “not as individual acts of overdose but rather as a collective condition of suffering caused by displacement.” The report also includes profiles of two unhoused community members who died during this time, Tony Goodwin and Salvy Chic. 

Institute Director Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, wrote in the report: “We have felt the imperative to present this analysis of coroner’s data because it provides an understanding of key patterns and trends that are of direct relevance to the struggle for justice and freedom in Los Angeles.” 

Other key findings include: 

  • Over 35% of the deaths were at locations designated as sidewalks.
  • The average age at the time of death was 47.
  • The coroner attributed nearly half to an accidental manner of death, with less than one-fifth attributed to natural causes. Among the accidental deaths, almost 40% were attributed by the coroner to drug or alcohol overdose. 

Chloe Rosenstock, a UCLA undergraduate student and Street Watch LA organizer, was a co-author of the report, which is titled, “We Do Not Forget: Stolen Lives of L.A.’s Unhoused Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” It was prepared in cooperation with the After Echo Park Lake research collective led by Roy, with guidance from Unhoused Tenants Against Carceral Housing (UTACH) and organizers in Street Watch LA and Ground Game LA.

Endowed Chair Awarded in Honor of Former Dean Gilliam New chair in social justice will benefit the research of Manisha Shah, a professor whose global policy focus includes child health and intimate partner violence

By Les Dunseith

The Luskin School of Public Affairs presented its newest endowed chair to Professor Manisha Shah on Nov. 9 with the chair’s namesake, former Dean Frank Gilliam, and its benefactors, Meyer and Renee Luskin, in attendance.

The Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chair in Social Justice, which was created by the Luskins as part of their naming gift to the Luskin School in 2011, will provide financial support for Shah’s research throughout a five-year term as holder of the chair. She is a professor of public policy who joined the UCLA Luskin faculty in 2013.

Gilliam’s long tenure at UCLA as a professor and then dean ended in 2015 when he became the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He said it is an honor to have his name attached to an award focusing on social justice.

“I am extremely humbled and honored that the Luskins have created an endowed professorship in my name,” Gilliam told an audience of about 75 invited guests who assembled on the festively redecorated third-floor rooftop of the Public Affairs Building.

The social justice focus of the endowment was particularly meaningful for Gilliam. “These are issues I’ve spent my entire professional and personal life working on and I continue to do so today,” he said.

As the holder of the endowed chair, Shah said she plans to further her attempts to understand the barriers that prevent women and girls around the world from living their best lives, an issue that led her to found the Global Lab for Research in Action at UCLA in 2019.

“What do we do at the lab? Through a gender lens, we focus on hard-to-reach populations, understudied populations, and we look at groups like adolescents and sex workers and low-income women. We study critical issues related to child health and intimate partner violence and sexual health,” Shah said during her remarks. “Ultimately, the idea is that we’d like to shift public conversation and eventually shift some of the social norms.”

Gilliam, who first hired Shah to join the faculty at UCLA, expressed pride and excitement that she had been chosen as the inaugural holder of the chair in his name.

“She is a remarkable person, a remarkable intellect,” Gilliam said. “Her work is so important. It spans disciplines like economics and public policy and really social welfare, quite frankly. She focuses on the most understudied topics and the most overlooked populations. … This is big stuff.”

Current Dean Gary Segura noted the pivotal role that Gilliam played in bringing social justice to the forefront during his time as dean, shaping the sometimes-disparate disciplines within the Luskin School into a unifying vision.

“Frank Gilliam, perhaps more than any single other leader in the School’s history, shaped the social justice mission and identity of the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” Segura said.

In his remarks, Meyer Luskin said his observations of Gilliam’s leadership and priorities helped lead him toward making the $50 million naming gift to the Luskin School a decade earlier.

“I saw dedication, courage, morality and ethics, empathy, much resourcefulness, strength and kindness, intelligence, hard-working, visionary, loyalty, a great sense of humor, and a man most devotedly committed to justice and equality,” he said.

Segura thanked the Luskins for their foresight and generosity in endowing the new chair, plus three other previously awarded chairs benefitting professors at UCLA Luskin.

Gilliam said their selflessness is well-represented among people associated with the professions of social work, public affairs and urban planning that are taught at the Luskin School.

“The people who work in your area often go unnoticed. They don’t do it for the fame, they don’t do it for the fortune,” he said. “This is hard work, it’s complicated work. It’s real work … on the ground, dealing with real-world policy problems that affect the society.”

Gilliam surveyed the crowd of family, friends and former colleagues who had gathered to celebrate Shah and recognize an endowment that will forever carry his name. Ultimately, said the former professor, dean and current chancellor, it’s about passion for the cause, the mission, embodied for Gilliam in the words spoken by Meyer Luskin when they first met:

“My goal in life is to make the world a better place.”

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Gilliam Endowed Chair

Stoll Named Director of UCLA’s Black Policy Project A key priority is making research into the state of Black California accessible to policymakers and the public

By Jessica Wolf

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, is the new director of the Black Policy Project, which is housed at the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

Stoll’s goals for the project include commissioning a report to examine the demographic changes of Black California; generating research on wealth inequity in the state; and supporting California’s new task force on reparations, the first of its kind in the country.

Each of those efforts, he said, will involve UCLA students, and each will produce materials meant to be useful to policymakers and the public at large.

“We want to be a good public ally and create accessible research for the layperson — information that engages in affairs that are of interest to and about Black California,” he said.

Stoll also plans to build on a study he launched nearly 20 years ago: a broad analysis of the state of Black California. He intends to incorporate a new “equality index” that will help illustrate Black residents’ socioeconomic progress, considering several different measures, over the past two decades.

And he foresees events and panel discussions that would bring members of the campus and Los Angeles communities together with elected officials and other California decision-makers.

The Black Policy Project is one of several Bunche Center initiatives that will benefit from $5 million in funding from the 2021-22 California state budget.

It’s the largest amount of support the center has received in a single year from the state, said Kelly Lytle Hernandez, the center’s director and a UCLA professor of history, African American studies and urban planning.

In addition to the Black Policy Project, the funds will support initiatives including Million Dollar Hoods, an ongoing study of incarceration in Los Angeles, and the Bunche Fellows Program, which provides stipends for students to work with leading faculty whose research has a vested interest in improving Black lives.

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