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Crisis Point

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Published Oct 1, 2006 12:00 AM


Bring In the Bruins: What can the Task Force and Alumni do to beat the crisis?

Parker: Peter, as chair of the African American Enrollment Task Force, what are the expectations of what that group can accomplish?

Taylor: Two things. One, try to understand the root of the problem. Then, really focus on solutions. We're going to focus on what can be done immediately, and then things that can be done longer term. We don't want a repeat of 2006 in 2007. Chancellor Abrams, to his credit, is engaged with this task force and is committed to looking at creative new solutions.

Nunn Gorman: I think the engagement of students and alumni at the front end is an important part of this process. I started out in undergraduate admissions. I recruited for UCLA. The involvement in the '80s of going out and making students feel wanted and welcome has really been lost. And it has significantly impacted the way people feel about the institution.

Kayise: The perception in the African-American community is that it's not just Proposition 209; there are ways in which UCLA itself is becoming a barrier. I think it's important that we do capture the degree to which fear may cause folks in decision-making positions to overreach to comply with 209. Until we do, we can't adequately communicate to the broader community that UCLA is not exacerbating the problem. That's one of the things the task force has a responsibility to do.

Lifka: Many institutions, privates in particular, that Janina and I have had experience with use their alumni in far more systematic and aggressive ways than we have. And the reality is — I'm going to sound like a typical administrator — everything costs money. To organize those alums, to train them, to keep them consistently informed so they know about UCLA today and not when they were in school so they can have a meaningful conversation with a 17- or 18-year-old, that doesn't just happen because you ask them to do it. Some universities, as part of the application process, will have an alum interview. It has much less to do with the screening; it has everything to do with marketing and relationships. And we're not constrained from doing that by anything but money.

Nunn Gorman: It is important for African-American alumni and students to talk to African-American students, but it says something else to have other people say to these same students, "You are important at this institution. Your views are important to me." It's not just African-American alumni who are outraged. It is Latino alumni, Asian alumni, white alumni, who are saying, "What the heck is going on here?"

O'Brien: We don't have to build this from nothing. We have something called the Alumni Academy. I teach in that every year. Why not ask the Academy to focus on this as a specific curriculum? Let's bring them in to help solve it. We're a family in crisis.

Kayise: On a problem that is particularly impacting African-American students, I think we do need to disproportionately look at the ideas African-American alumni who are working in the community have about how to solve that problem.

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