The online geography journal Antipode recently published a video excerpt from “Empathy at Knifepoint: The Dangers of Research and Lite Pedagogies for Social Justice Movements,” a paper written by Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare. Ritterbusch’s paper recounts her realization of the importance of deep relationships for social justice movements. Ritterbusch describes the paper as a tribute that expresses her frustrations with the struggles of social activism. The video excerpt “Huele el Cambio: Quemando La Torre” (“Smell the Change: Burning the Tower”) features Ritterbusch and her sister-in-struggle Argenis Navarro Diaz, also known as El Cilencio, an Afro-Colombian woman who fought back against the conditions of structural and gender-based violence through writing and street-level activism. Ritterbusch likens the urgency of action to the “sensation of being held at knifepoint” and stresses the importance of sisterhood and friendship between the women who are united in their struggles. “Silence is not an option,” she argues.
Global Public Affairs (GPA) at UCLA Luskin provided financial support and helped secure placements for eight graduate students to work in low- and middle-income countries this past summer. Student placements spanned the globe, from as close as Mexico City to as far as Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Olivia Miller, a second-year MSW candidate, spent the summer in Bogota, Colombia, conducting fieldwork related to transgender rights, including help in organizing the grassroots Trans Pride March. “I decidedly spent [my] first weeks dedicating myself to a contributive role, recognizing the chaos of the march preparation, and putting at the center the development of my relationships with the social justice activists on the frontlines of this movement,” she wrote on the GPA blog. Urban Planning students who participated in the summer International Practice Pathway (IPP) program gained experience in transportation and infrastructure. Liliana Morales, a 2020 MURP candidate, interned with the planning department at the Ministry of Mobility in Mexico City. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with professionals that are passionate and dedicated to mobility justice,” she wrote. “Mexico City is working toward improving quality of life, reducing social inequalities, diminishing gas emissions and increasing productivity through a comprehensive system that guarantees decent and safe trips for all residents.” GPA, led by Professor Michael Storper and associate director Stephen Commins, is already getting ready for its next cohort of IPP fellows, as more than 60 new UCLA Luskin students attended the fall 2019 orientation lunch. — John Danly
Read more about students’ summer fellowships on the GPA blog.
Assistant professor of urban planning Liz Koslov spoke to NPR about Federal Emergency Management Agency buyouts of flood-prone properties. FEMA subsidizes the cost for local governments to buy out homes owned by people who want to relocate out of flood zones. A recent study found that counties that administer FEMA buyouts on average have higher incomes and population densities. The study also found that not all flood-prone communities can pursue a buyout because their local governments have not established FEMA programs. One reason that wealthier counties might be receiving more buyouts is that it requires significant bureaucratic and monetary resources to apply for and distribute buyout funds, the article noted. “Without public support, it’s clear that many people will be left without sufficient resources to move out of harm’s way,” Koslov said.
Associate professor of public policy Randall Akee spoke to Business Insider about the development of a telescope on Mauna Kea, a sacred site of prayer and worship for Native Hawaiians. Valued at over $1 billion, the Thirty Meter Telescope project has faced contentious protests led by indigenous groups in Hawaii. For years, the protests have delayed progress on building the telescope at the site nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Akee said that indigenous people are often expected to accept development projects for the “greater good.” “Often these development projects and these activities are forced on indigenous people, and it creates this false narrative that these native people are just against development,” Akee said. “And that is not the case. We are just tired of bearing the cost.”
A large UCLA Luskin contingent came face to face with a field of Democratic presidential candidates at a town hall in downtown Los Angeles that focused on LGBTQ rights. Students, faculty and staff from the School were among 160 UCLA guests invited by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, sponsors of the “Power of Our Pride” event broadcast live by CNN on Thursday, Oct. 10. Public affairs pre-major Ayse Seker was one of several students and staff selected to pose questions to the candidates. “How would you address the at times juxtaposing issues of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights?” Seker asked of candidate Cory Booker. Citing his own faith, Booker replied that he could not allow religion to be used as a justification for discrimination. Other staff and students invited to address the candidates included undergraduate Brandon Broukhim, public policy graduate student Tamera Hyatte and Kevin Medina, experiential learning advisor for the undergraduate program in public affairs. Candidates present at the forum included former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, investor and activist Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The town hall, held on the eve of National Coming Out Day, marked the first time a major cable news network aired a presidential event devoted to issues of importance to the LGBTQ community.
In a Santa Monica Daily Press article, professor of social welfare Mark Kaplan discussed strategies for suicide prevention. Since September 2018, five people have taken or attempted to take their own lives in parking structures in downtown Santa Monica. Experts have found that barriers, cameras and signage can serve as prevention measures in parking structures. “It’s often an impulsive act, and there’s research showing that people think twice if there’s a barrier,” Kaplan explained. “That doesn’t mean people won’t go elsewhere or take their own lives some other way, but you can at least erect barriers that reduce the possibility of this happening again.” Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online.
Professor of social welfare Laura Abrams was featured in a Social Work Today article about the role of social work in the U.S. juvenile justice system. Over the last half-century, the U.S. has favored a system of punishment that made it easier for juveniles to be treated as adults. But Abrams sees a new era unfolding with a wave of 21st century reforms that prioritize the protection of children’s rights and support for youth and families. “Social workers should care about juvenile justice reform because we need to restore our rightful place with youth who have been in contact with the law,” she said. She encouraged social workers to stay informed about the issues, become aware of local initiatives and connect with advocacy groups to advance the cause of juvenile justice reform. “We can’t consider [reform] done, even though a lot of progress has been made,” Abrams said.
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Sierra Club article about the prospect of congestion pricing in major U.S. cities. Earlier this year, paralyzing traffic delays in New York City prompted the state to approve a plan to implement congestion pricing by 2021, and Los Angeles recently approved a two-year study to investigate the feasibility of the traffic-management strategy. By charging people to drive on traffic-clogged roads, congestion pricing encourages people to drive at different times, carpool or take public transit, all while reducing carbon emissions and raising revenue for transportation projects. Manville explained that congestion pricing is “the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce [congestion]. So either we can do this or everyone has to stop complaining.” Manville reiterated his support for congestion pricing as one of the most viable solutions to traffic gridlock in a Shift article.
About 30 undergraduate students from California and beyond convened at UCLA for a weekend of learning and public service, part of the not-for-profit Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program. UCLA Luskin Public Policy hosted the program, “Advancing Social Justice Through Public Service: Lessons From California,” with senior lecturer Kenya Covington coordinating a full weekend of lectures, conversations and off-campus experiences. Students ventured out to MacArthur Park west of downtown Los Angeles, the Crenshaw District and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to hear how policymakers are grappling with homelessness and gentrification. They heard from several MPP alumni from both the policy field and academia, and learned about public service career paths from Dean Gary Segura and other UCLA Luskin staff. Several members of the public policy and urban planning faculty shared research, insights and data-gathering techniques during the Oct. 4-6 event, including Amada Armenta, Kevin de León, Michael Lens, Michael Stoll and Chris Zepeda-Millán. Public Policy Chair JR DeShazo encouraged the students to engage intellectually, socially and emotionally as they explored policy challenges and prepared to make an impact in their own careers. The students formed working groups to synthesize what they had seen and heard, and presented their findings at the close of the program. Joining the large contingent of students from four-year and community colleges in California were participants from Arizona, Illinois, Michigan and Washington. The public service weekend was one of several outreaches around the country that are coordinated through PPIA to promote diversity in public service.
View photos from the PPIA public service weekend on Flickr.
A CityLab story on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to pursue “cool pavement” technologies to address rising urban temperatures featured the research of V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning. While other cool pavement studies have measured surface and air temperature, Turner’s research is the first to focus on “mean radiant temperature,” which is most related to thermal comfort. Turner and Ariane Middel, assistant professor of arts media and engineering at Arizona State University, studied unshaded streets in Pacoima and Sun Valley that had been coated with an asphalt mixture called CoolSeal, which reflects, rather than absorbs, the energy from sunlight. They measured air temperature, wind speed, humidity and radiation from morning to sundown, and their preliminary findings will soon be published by the American Meteorological Society. The project is one part of a greater effort to collect data on the effectiveness of strategies to address so-called urban heat islands.