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Equality Today At UCLA: How Far Have We Come?

As a part of the integral Bruin experience, I’m sure we’ve all heard of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy’s impact on the UCLA campus. From famous, often forgotten speeches given in 1965 on the rise of “Tongva Steps” to countless campus initiatives and scholarships named after him, many are initially surprised to learn of Dr. King’s close relationship to our beloved campus.

From a nurturing sense of community through interactions with many faculty members turned activists, such as Ralph J. Bunche, to going to protests on a regular basis, going to UCLA back in the 60s seemed to look a lot different from how it is today in 2022. Let’s explore some ways in which things seemed to have changed, but also have remained the same:

Community in Numbers

Though the student population at UCLA in the 1960s was nowhere near as big as it is today, the sense of community among students, particularly around issues of equality, remains a core tenet of what it means to be a Bruin. From faculty and grad students congregating to fight for equal pay to the range of demonstrations following the George Floyd tragedy, an active population of students has put UCLA at the forefront of change.

Students for a change

Though the scale and relevance of the issues on the forefront of students’ minds have changed since the ’60s, collective activism by Bruins has impacted the lives of students in more ways than one. For example, given the recent move to remote classes due to Omicron, many student leaders today are rallying for the university to address issues of equity, access and retention as a result of sacrificing in-person learning for physical and mental health.

Love for a vibrant community

Though UCLA still has a way to go, the vibrant culturally rich student community is one aspect of campus life that has continued through generations since the ’60s. Such a diverse community is often a result of efforts by community groups to not only encourage more students of diverse backgrounds to apply but also create spaces for them to leave a lasting legacy on campus. Today we can benefit from the diversity of the student population through artwork, socials and social initiatives organized by groups that support these efforts.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on how far UCLA and our student population have come since the 1960s, and also how far we have yet to go. It’s also a great opportunity to check out some of UCLA’s history through the UCLA Library and other archives, as our university continues to be a beacon for change for generations to come.

Somashree is a 3rd year Economics major minoring in Environmental Systems and Society and Digital Humanities. She's a huge cinephile with a special affinity for historical dramas (eg. The Crown or Bridgerton). She also loves learning languages and hopes to learn at least 4 languages by the end of the decade.
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