Chancellor Block on the state of the campus as academic year begins

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At UCLA, it’s the start of a fall quarter unlike any other. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of students are off campus and engaged in remote instruction, while staff and faculty are largely working from home. In addition, the campus is struggling with a substantial pandemic-related financial deficit and grappling with how to better support members of its Black community and others traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

But UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who is shepherding the campus through this tumultuous period, remains optimistic. UCLA Newsroom talked with Chancellor Block — over Zoom — to learn about his priorities for the year, hear his advice for new students joining the Bruin community this fall, and get his thoughts on how this moment could change UCLA and all of higher education.

At this time of year, you’d typically be out welcoming students and participating in all the usual hustle and bustle that comes with the beginning of the fall quarter. What has your experience been this year?

So much of the start of the typical academic year is tactile — students and families carry these great big boxes up to the residence halls, old friends reunite with a hug, and my wife Carol and I usually spend time on the Hill shaking parents’ hands and talking with students and giving directions. Aside from graduation week, it’s my favorite time of year.

This fall, there is this strange dissonance. The campus is largely quiet … but the hustle and bustle is still there; it’s just taking place online. I joined virtual welcome events this year and spoke with student leaders from across campus, and our students are approaching the quarter with a lot of creativity and vigor.

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