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Gary Segura Reappointed to 2nd Term as UCLA Luskin Dean

Gary Segura will be continuing as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

An announcement to the UCLA campus was issued May 5 by Michael S. Levine, interim executive vice chancellor and provost. Here is the text of that announcement:

Following the customary administrative review, I am pleased to share that Gary Segura has been reappointed for a second term as the dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The review committee praised Dean Segura for his leadership skills, his commitment to faculty excellence and diversity, and his pioneering efforts to elevate and expand his school’s academic offerings.

Since his appointment in 2016, Dean Segura has fostered within the Luskin School a deep commitment to academic excellence and to equity, diversity and inclusion that has led to a highly diverse pool of students in the school’s programs and the appointment of renowned scholars in areas such as poverty and inequality, immigration, criminal justice, education policy and more. In 2021, Luskin School faculty members were among the top 2% for scholarly citations worldwide in their respective fields. The Luskin School is one of the most diverse schools of its kind in the UC system and amongst public affairs programs throughout the country.

Over the last five years, Dean Segura has helped to cement the Luskin School’s status as a leader in research, teaching and practice across the areas of social welfare, urban planning and public policy. Recognizing growing demand for his school’s programs, in 2018 he led the development of the undergraduate major in public affairs, which provides a multidisciplinary foundation in social science theories, data collection and analysis. Additionally, the school launched a certificate program in data analytics in fall 2021 and added a new dual master’s degree program offered jointly by our Urban Planning Department and the Urban School of Sciences Po in Paris.

Dean Segura also co-founded the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative in 2017 to address inequities and spread awareness of the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color. The initiative received $3 million in ongoing annual state funding for its research, advocacy and mobilization efforts.

We are grateful to have such a dedicated leader as Dean Segura at the helm of the Luskin School. Chancellor Block and I look forward to his continued efforts to strengthen and advance the public affairs disciplines at UCLA and to the impact his work will have on diverse communities near and far.

Please join me in congratulating Dean Segura on his accomplishments over the past five years and in wishing him success throughout his second term.

Sincerely,

Michael S. Levine
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Akee, Ong on Creating Educational Opportunities for Native American Students

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to CNN about the University of California’s recent decision to waive tuition for Native American students in an effort to make the university system more affordable and accessible. As part of the UC Native American Opportunity Plan, tuition and fees will be waived for California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Akee collaborated with UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Director Paul Ong and other scholars on a soon-to-be-published op-ed urging other land-grant universities to follow UC’s lead. “The UC system is leading the way in acknowledging its place and role in educating Indigenous people,” the authors wrote. “In the absence of similar programs in other locations, the UC system as a whole will gain a significant advantage in recruiting the best and brightest [American Indian or Alaska Native] students from around the country.”


Former Governors Wilson, Davis Discuss Housing, Crime and More at Luskin Summit The two leaders, a Republican and a Democrat, express their differing perspectives on 'The State of California'

By Les Dunseith

Former California governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis headlined the closing session of Luskin Summit 2022: Research in Action on April 22, often tackling political issues from starkly different perspectives.

In a session moderated by UCLA Blueprint Editor-in-Chief Jim Newton and titled “The State of California,” the former governors explored topics such as the economy and inflation, housing, environmental issues and rising crime during a discussion that mostly reflected a tone of respectful disagreement.

The governors spoke during a half-day event at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA to close out this year’s Luskin Summit, which is a series of research-informed, cross-sector explorations of the major issues facing Los Angeles and California. The day’s agenda also included the unveiling of the annual Quality of Life Index led by Zev Yaroslavsky, a well-known former elected official in Los Angeles who, like Newton, is now a faculty member associated with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Yaroslavsky’s session, which was moderated by news anchor Phillip Palmer of ABC7, explained why the rating in his survey of Los Angeles County residents fell to its lowest point in seven years of existence. A majority of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the overall quality of their lives as reflected in nine categories, including cost of living, education, the environment and public safety. And those topics were also front of mind during the governors’ discussion.

Wilson, a Republican who was California governor from 1991 to 1999, took note of the current $80 billion revenue surplus in California, saying that if current lawmakers can’t solve the state’s shortcomings, it won’t be for lack of funds.

“The state is rolling in money. That’s not the problem,” he said when asked by Newton to speculate on the public’s downbeat mood. “The way it is spent is what’s causing a lot of the dissatisfaction. There are people who are very much concerned about crime because they’ve seen a dramatic shift, a really discernible shift. And they’re concerned about their children’s education, and they should be.”

Davis, a Democrat who was governor of California from 1999 to 2003, took a different tack on Californians’ current mood in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a lot of good news globally, nationally and in California as it relates to people working again, and lower unemployment rates,” he said. “The bad news is that people have been through a very tough time. This has been two-and-a-half years where we’ve been told we can’t do this, we can’t do that. … People don’t like to be told what they can’t do.”

Solving society’s problems will require innovation, Davis said, and California is the right place. The number of U.S. patents that originated in California in recent years, he said, is roughly four times the number originating in the state that comes in second, Texas.

“If you want to invent something, this is the place to do it, in California,” he said. “We invent, we design, we create.”

Davis took note of the setting, a public research university in a state that is widely respected for its institutions of higher education. Mentioning that UCLA Chancellor Gene Block was in attendance, Davis continued, “There is nothing better about California than its 10 UC campuses. Nobody in the country has anything close to this.”

Block provided the introduction for the session, noting that Los Angeles faces substantial challenges relating to public safety, the ongoing pandemic and a shortage of affordable housing.

“These issues are bearing down on people all across the state. We’re not alone,” Block said. “Addressing them is going to require scholars, businesspeople, community leaders to really work together and devise and enact solutions.”

Noting the presence of the two former governors, Block continued. “Wisdom is gained by experience, and we have a vast amount of that here.”

Newton, a former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times whose books include a recent biography of two-time governor Jerry Brown, asked Wilson and Davis to talk about their approaches to public safety.

Davis acknowledged crime rates are on the rise, although not to “where they were in the ’90s when Pete Wilson and I were a governor.”

One solution, he said, lies in effective law enforcement.

“Police have to be part of the equation,” said Davis, acknowledging past abuses by some officers. “Anyone who saw the video of the George Floyd murder knows it was appalling, not acceptable, and should never happen again. But there are some common-sense reforms that I think most law enforcement agree with.”

He called for a balanced approach. “The police have to behave in a respectful way, treat people with dignity, in a way that commands respect.”

Wilson echoed the sentiment. “It’s called community policing. And it makes great sense, as does treating people respectfully when you stop them as a police officer.”

In his view, however, effective law enforcement is too often undermined by a lenient criminal justice system, especially regarding violent crime.

“I think I was the first governor in the country to sign — what was also subsequently in the same year, an initiative measure — that was called three strikes. And what it did was to focus on recidivism, on the people who were career violent criminals. … It’s not fair to play with people’s lives by letting people out on the street who are known violent criminals.”

Davis countered by pointing to a shortcoming of taking a hard-line approach to crime — overcrowded prisons that tend to perpetuate societal and racial inequities. Incarceration without rehabilitation doesn’t work either.

“Getting people to transition from prison back to productive life requires an extraordinary amount of help,” he said.

Perhaps no public policy issue better represents the divide between the haves and have-nots in California than the housing crisis. At a time when many homeowners are sitting on a fortune in housing equity, millions of people in the state struggle to pay rent. Some end up homeless.

“The California legislature has to get serious about making housing more affordable,” Davis said.

He pointed to legislation pending in Sacramento that would allocate $25 billion to an agency that could help potential homebuyers with a down payment and closing costs. Another effort in the private sector is offering 10% of a home’s down payment in exchange for 25% of the homeowner’s future equity.

“I’m not saying it’s perfect, but that’s on the right track,” Davis said.

Wilson pointed to the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, passed in 1970 and signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan, as a major hurdle to building more affordable housing in the state.

“The best single thing that could happen is for CEQA to be reformed because that has held up the construction of homes,” said Wilson, who decried the long wait that developers often face to clear the environmental protection review process. “It has hugely added to the delay in providing housing. And that has cost a fortune in terms of the ultimate buyer.”

But the legislation still has value, Newton said. “It is protective of the environment. No?”

Davis jumped into the discussion.

“Look, the original idea was: If Caltrans was building a freeway, the public should comment on it, and it should be thoroughly debated before it occurs,” he said.

Today, circumstances have changed, and the focus has turned to building homes for the state’s large population. Environmental reviews and public hearings about land use take time, but there are ways to shorten the process.

“The good news is we are making some progress,” Davis said. “When it comes to the homeless — anything for the building of shelter for the homeless and for all the services attended to in mental health and social services — all those buildings should be exempt [from CEQA].”

Newton also asked the governors to weigh in on another hot button topic, giving some of the state’s budget surplus back to Californians.

“Absolutely. I mean, gas prices are near a record high,” Davis said.

“Well, I think that it’s not bad, but it’s like dipping into [the country’s] petroleum reserve, it’s not the answer,” Wilson said.

Newton pressed forward, seeking to clarify that both former governors think the current governor, Gavin Newsom, should send a portion of the California surplus back to the state’s residents.

“We have a big surplus. It should be used for one-time expenditures like this,” Davis said.

“If it’s a one-time, modest solution, that will help,” Wilson said.

“You do agree,” Newton said, smiling. “I was surprised.”

Soon after, Newton thanked the former elected officials for their years of government service and their willingness to participate in a public discussion of political issues seen from their different vantage points.

“We all will disagree on things,” Newton said to the in-person audience and those watching online. “I think it’s too commonplace these days to assume that disagreement is [just cause] to be enemies. And it’s heartening to have the both of you here to show otherwise.”

Watch a recording of the session:

See additional photos from both April 22 sessions on Flickr:

Luskin Summit 2022 Closing Sessions

Student Debt Is a Policy Failure, Appel Says

In a recent Marketplace interview, Hannah Appel, associate faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, said that “canceling student debt is the quickest way to narrow the racial wealth gap.” The Department of Education announced a plan to change the federal student loan system to make it easier for lower-income student loan borrowers to have their debt forgiven, prompting discussions about canceling all student loan debt. The vast majority of student loans are “simply uncollectable,” Appel said, adding that the impact of student loan debt falls disproportionately on people of color. She explained that student loan debt is unique because it’s held 95%-plus by the federal government. “We’ve seen the most progress and we’ve been able to build the most power around student debt, because it plainly is a policy failure for which we can hold the government accountable, and they can reverse course,” she said.


Astor Emphasizes Emotional Intelligence as a School Priority

Professor of Social Welfare Ron Avi Astor spoke to the Southern California News Group about ways to prevent bullying and violence in schools. In a survey of California middle and high school students, about one in three reported being bullied or harassed over a five-year period. However, schools that have implemented a focus on “social-emotional learning” saw lower levels of reported bullying. Social-emotional learning emphasizes that students get in touch with their own emotions and mental well-being and show empathy for others. “This actually moves into the core purpose of what schools are supposed to do for society; they are supposed to create a society that cares, that supports and helps people,” Astor said. “It puts schools out in front of what we hope society will be in 10 years.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, many California school districts have increased their focus on students’ mental health and well-being.


Report Highlights COVID’s Impact on Higher Education Goals

Inside Higher Ed and Axios highlighted the findings of a policy report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latino students. According to the report, Black and Latino students were more likely than others to cancel or postpone their higher education plans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend persisted even after vaccines were made widely available. “Higher education attainment is an important pathway to social and economic mobility and has cascading effects across a person’s lifespan,” explained  Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, the initiative’s director of research. “Given Latinos’ position as the future workforce of America, addressing this disparity is critical to the prosperity of our nation.”


Astor on Aggression Targeting School Staff

Several media outlets reached out to Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor to provide context to a new report by the American Psychological Association (APA) on the alarming levels of harassment and threats experienced by school staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Astor, a member of the APA task force that conducted the research, spoke to NPR’s Morning Edition, CBS Los Angeles, K-12 Dive and The 74 about the “pressure-cooker” atmosphere in the nation’s schools. “Schools were and still are a battleground,” he said. “COVID is symbolic of all these larger cultural layers that filter into every classroom, every school in the country.” Astor also appeared at a March 17 congressional briefing on the study, and noted that school staffs are “just underfunded, understaffed and do not have enough help organizationally to create a positive, healthy environment.” The report, which received national attention from NBC News and EdWeek, among other outlets, recommended comprehensive research-based solutions to improve the campus environment for both students and staff.


 

UCLA Luskin Students Host First In-Person Event at Golden Age Park

Students affiliated with the UCLA (Un)Common Public Space group hosted more than 100 attendees on Feb. 26 to celebrate Golden Age Park, a pocket park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles that incorporates ideas championed by Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. The Saturday afternoon event included food, games and music provided by 45 members of the Heart of Los Angeles’ Intergenerational Orchestra. Five members of a Shakespeare troupe also performed an excerpt from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Gus Wendel MURP ’17, a doctoral student in urban planning at UCLA, said the (Un)Common Public Space group was formed in 2021 as a collective of community members, students, researchers, performers and public space activists with the goal of activating public spaces in different neighborhoods using research, performance and community-based events. Usage of Golden Age Park, which opened in 2019, had been hindered by its relative newness and by the COVID-19 pandemic. A primary purpose of the event was to build local awareness of the park’s presence and to promote its intergenerational appeal. “By creating opportunities for people of all ages to share time, space and experiences, intergenerational public spaces support engagement, learning and understanding across generations,” Wendel said. In addition to students in UCLA Luskin’s urban planning program, organizers and supporters included the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, UCLA cityLAB, the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT) and St. Barnabas Senior Services (SBSS). The UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative provided additional support, as did the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.

View additional photos on Flickr:

Golden Age Park celebration

 

School Personnel Report Threats, Harassment During Pandemic

Professor Ron Avi Astor and a team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare contributed to research on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on teachers and other school staff as part of a task force launched by the American Psychological Association. In a report released today, the task force found that approximately one-third of teachers surveyed said they had experienced at least one incident of verbal harassment or threat of violence from students during the pandemic. Almost 50% of the teachers expressed a plan or desire to quit or transfer jobs, according to the report, based on a nationwide survey of 14,966 teachers, administrators, school psychologists, social workers and other pre-K through 12th grade school staff. “This was one of the first studies we know of that looked at how both COVID-19 and issues of school safety impacted all school personnel,” said Astor, who holds a joint appointment with the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. “School staff such as bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, yard aides, crossing guards and cafeteria workers are often left out of these large national studies. Their voices are so important and commonly ignored.” The APA task force will present its findings at a congressional briefing today at 2 p.m. EDT,  joined by several national co-sponsoring organizations. The UCLA team that contributed to the findings included Hector Palencia of the Social Welfare field education faculty and doctoral students Laura Liévano-Karim, Natalie Fensterstock, Chaoyue Wu, Kate Watson and Sawyer Hogenkamp. Gordon Capp of CSU Fullerton was also part of the UCLA team. — Joanie Harmon

Read the full story

Read the APA report

Register to view the congressional briefing


 

Monkkonen Calls for Collaboration on Student Housing

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen was featured in a CalMatters article about the California State University system’s application to build affordable housing for nearly 3,400 students. The revised plan calls for $823 million in total funding for housing projects across 10 campuses, with $535 million coming from a new state housing grant and the rest from outside funds. The proposal comes as tens of thousands of college students struggle with unstable housing situations and even homelessness. Some campuses are currently building new living facilities to accommodate long waiting lists of students seeking campus housing, but student housing is often expensive. Looking ahead, Monkkonen said the state should better coordinate the student housing construction efforts of California’s public colleges and universities to share financing and other ideas. “This is a very obvious place for knowledge sharing,” he said. “We’re all on the same team.”


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