UCLA Luskin Social Welfare’s Ian Holloway has received word that another of his research proposals has been selected for funding. The study, “Tobacco and Cannabis Product Use Among Subgroups of Sexual and Gender Minority Emerging Adults,” will examine trajectories of tobacco and cannabis use among sexual and gender minority young people. Previous studies of tobacco products showed higher frequency of use within LGBT communities, but less is known about specific subgroups of LGBT people or their use of cannabis. Holloway, an associate professor, said the research is timely in the wake of California’s legalization of marijuana and other cannabis products in 2016, and he was happy to learn of the funding by the California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program during the month of June, which is Gay Pride month. “This funding will help us better understand tobacco and cannabis-related health disparities among LGBT young people, which is crucial to improve both short-term and long-term health in LGBT communities” Holloway said. The award amount of $400,000 will fund research in two phases, with initial results expected in about a year. Phase I will consist of qualitative interviews about tobacco and cannabis initiation and progression with LGBT tobacco users ages 18-29 in Los Angeles. In Phase II, 1,000 LGBT young people across California will participate in an online survey about their frequency and intensity of tobacco and cannabis product use. The research will be completed in partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
By Zev Hurwitz
Chelsea Manning, a transgender activist and former U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage, spoke at Royce Hall on March 5, 2018. Her Luskin Lecture, “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning,” focused on topics including ethics in public service, transgender rights activism and resistance in light of advancing technologies.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing over to WikiLeaks sensitive documents that demonstrated human rights abuses related to American military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. While serving her sentence, Manning began her medical transition from male to female after having publicly announced her gender identity.
Her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, after she had served seven years of her sentence. Since her release, Manning has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, as well as government transparency. In 2018, she announced her run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Manning spoke with reporters at a press conference prior to the Luskin Lecture. Asked if she had any advice for UCLA students, Manning said: “Think on your own. Don’t read a book and think you know everything. Question yourself and debate other people.”
Manning noted the significance of speaking to a crowd largely made up of students. “I like to speak to students who are going to be in positions of making decisions, or being in media or working with technology,” she said.
Manning said that when she works with students she focuses on topics beyond technology — like civic engagement.
“Not just showing up to a ballot box and casting a vote, but being actually engaged,” she said. “Sometimes that means protesting; sometimes that means resisting, fighting institutional power and authority.”
Manning continued her student outreach the day after the lecture at a workshop sponsored by the Luskin Pride student group. She led about 60 Luskin School students in a wide-ranging dialogue about military tactics in law enforcement, communities abandoned by the left and whether universities are complicit in government surveillance.
“A system is legitimate because you give it legitimacy,” she cautioned the students.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura introduced Manning at the Royce Hall lecture and acknowledged the controversial nature of her appearance.
“There are some in this room who think Ms. Manning is a traitor,” Segura said. “A number of UCLA students asked me to rescind her invitation and reminded me that her actions may well have cost the lives of American servicemen and women. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to treason.
“Others,” he added, “will argue that her actions, laying bare war crimes, acts of torture and the extent of civilian casualties, might well have saved the lives of some of those non-combatants. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to war crimes.”
Moderator Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer and Blueprint magazine editor, began with a conversation about Manning’s conviction. Manning said she feels her actions reflect her true self.
“I have the same values I’ve always had,” she said. “I acted on those values with the information I had.”
As an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq, Manning took a data-based approach to the American presence in the country. Over time, she came to understand the humanity behind the data. “It was a slow realization that what I was working with is real,” she told the audience.
At one point, Newton asked Manning if she thought the government had a right to keep secrets.
“Ten years ago I would have said, ‘of course,’ ” Manning said. “But who even makes these classifications?”
Manning went on to discuss what she sees as the political nature of classified information. She spoke at length about the process for data classification and her skepticism about its role in protecting national security.
Newton asked Manning if she sees herself as a role model. Manning said no, and then described the role model she would like to have had, adding she has aspired to be that person, though it has been challenging.
“I went from being homeless to being in college to being in the military to being at war to being in prison,” she said. “I haven’t had the time to do the things people are expected to do.”
Following the lecture, Manning held a question and answer session with Ian Holloway, professor and assistant chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. The fireside chat, which focused largely on Manning’s identity as a gay man and later a transgender woman in the military, was held in front of a small group of UCLA Luskin board members and friends of the School.
Holloway asked Manning about her being a whistleblower. Manning said she didn’t agree with the term.
“I’ve never used the word whistleblower to describe myself,” she said. “I’ve never really related to it because it’s hard to reconcile.”
She added that she felt her actions, regardless of their classification, were just.
“Institutions do fail, and when they do, you can’t rely on them, you have to go around them,” she said.
View a video recorded during Manning’s lecture:
View a video recorded during the fireside chat that followed Manning’s lecture:
By Stan Paul
Research, by design, is focused, systematic, methodical. It takes time.
But when information moves at the speed of social media, and false, distracting and potentially harmful information can be spread worldwide via tapping a screen in the middle of the night, there is a pressing need for responsible research that can be produced in real time.
A dozen social welfare graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs reacted to this challenge by taking on projects — above and beyond their required studies — to match their data-gathering and synthesizing skills with the ability to make useful information available quickly to communities that may need it.
The social welfare master’s and doctoral students researched topics such as hate speech and immigration.
“You are going to enter your profession, a profession built around the question of human caring, at a time where human caring is not held in particularly high esteem,” UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura said in introducing “Rapid Response Research in the Trump Era,” a June 1, 2017, gathering at the Luskin School to review student projects.
Segura, whose research has centered on representation and empowerment, said: “You know the challenges that all of us face … across all racial and ethnic, socioeconomic subpopulations in the United States: access to affordable health care, dealing realistically and honestly with challenges that individuals and families face, providing quality education and job opportunities for people. The list is unbelievably long.
“The first piece of advice I’m going to give you for resistance is to call things by their name,” Segura said. “We must begin our resistance by calling things what they are: Racism is racism, sexism is sexism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are what they are.” He urged students not to pass these things off as merely rants not worthy of comment or notice.
Laura Abrams, the incoming chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, said that a list of potential research ideas was presented to social welfare students early in the academic year, and a number of groups responded. The criteria for the projects included working with real-time data from social media platforms such as Twitter.
Abrams said the research topics “were going to be more immediately applicable to what communities might need in order to resist and they had to be social justice oriented.” Social welfare faculty such as assistant professors Ian Holloway and Laura Wray-Lake served as advisers for the students.
One project examined Twitter data based on the motivations of those who participated in the Women’s March, and how that motivation connects — or doesn’t — with broader issues of racial justice.
One immigration issue tackled by the students was part of a nationwide project asking how young people have been affected by the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration. That project relied on responses from Latino high school students. The information gathered is intended to inform educators and others working with adolescents.
First-year MSW student Alexandra Rhodes said she studied anti-LGBT hate speech and the incidence of particular words used on Twitter.
“I was interested in seeing if anti-LGBT hate speech on Twitter increased after Donald Trump’s election,” said Rhodes, who gathered information from more than 40,000 users who had tweeted anti-LGBT search terms. From that group, just over 10,000 users were randomly selected for comparison of the number of such tweets before and after the election.
“I was most interested in how Donald Trump’s election was affecting the LGBT population given his seemingly anti-LGBT rhetoric and policies,” said Rhodes, who is primarily interested in working with the LGBT population and is considering pursing a Ph.D. in social welfare.
“It is very important to me to do ethical and essential research in my community and build evidence to support how we have been affected by various social changes and policies,” Rhodes said. “For now, I’m focusing on getting involved with research in whatever way I can as an MSW student. It is important to do research and look at the data and respond to what is happening right now.”
Abrams said she hopes that this becomes a tradition that can continue to be built into the curriculum in a meaningful way.
“As a Social Welfare Department, the rapid response research projects are a prime example of what we can accomplish when we have an idea, put our heads together, and work hard as team,” Abrams said. “I am proud of the students for carrying out their projects in such a timely and rigorous manner.”
Despite a yearlong outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease in Southern California primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, less than 27 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated for meningitis.
The findings released Thursday, March 30, 2017, by the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health call for more education about the disease and more places offering immunization throughout Southern California at venues where gay and bisexual men socialize.
More than 500 men were interviewed about their knowledge of the meningitis outbreak by UCLA Luskin’s Ian Holloway, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare, and teams of researchers who visited venues throughout Los Angeles County. Most of the canvassers were current UCLA students or recent graduates.
“Our rapid-response research suggests that coordinated efforts to standardize data collection about sexual practices in conjunction with immunization will enable better tracking of meningitis vaccination among gay and bisexual men,” said Holloway, who is also the director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center.
Meningococcal disease is often characterized with sudden onset of high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, stiff neck and confusion, which can lead to rapid septic shock and death if not treated quickly. Vaccination is highly effective and can prevent the disease. The current outbreak in Southern California is the second in the area in recent history. A 2014 meningitis outbreak led to the deaths of three gay men in their 20s.
Despite the outbreak and vaccination recommendations from the California Department of Public Health, the majority of respondents interviewed by the UCLA team were not protected against meningitis.
Holloway noted that HIV-positive people are at particular risk for developing serious health issues if infected with meningitis and are recommended to receive a two-dose primary series of meningitis vaccination. Few HIV-positive men surveyed by Holloway’s team had received two doses of the vaccination.
“Primary care doctors who treat gay and bisexual men and HIV-positive people should talk to their patients about the ongoing outbreak and make sure they receive the full recommended dosing,” said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs at APLA Health.
The study praises the efforts of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Immunization Program, which distributed free vaccines, and of participating community-based organizations such as AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the LA LGBT Center, but researchers concluded that more needs to be done.
In addition to Holloway, study authors include Elizabeth Wu and Jennifer Gildner from the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, and Vincent Fenimore and Paula Frew from Emory University.
Learn more about Ian Holloway and the meningitis study in this video: