Q&A with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on the return to campus for fall 2021

Faculty and StaffStudents

For many Bruins, the start of the 2021–22 academic year marked a monumental milestone: a return to the UCLA campus after more than 18 months spent working and learning remotely. Though things in Westwood still look a bit different than usual — large lecture courses remain virtual, masks are required indoors and most events have other safety protocols in place — the transition back to in-person instruction and activities was a major step toward resuming regular campus operations.

At this pivotal moment for the campus, UCLA Newsroom talked with Chancellor Gene Block, who is overseeing the response to the pandemic, about the state of the institution and some of his priorities for the coming year.

Most UCLA students and faculty, and a good number of staff, returned to campus this past month for the first time since March of 2020. What does this moment mean to UCLA? What does it mean to you?

For UCLA, I think the return to campus was a landmark event. Students, in particular, have been eager to get back to in-person learning and activities that are difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment — things like chatting with friends in residence halls late into the night, getting involved in student organizations, or coming out to cheer for Bruin sports teams alongside thousands of others. There is a sense of excitement and even liberation from the pandemic, but it’s tempered by a few things. Many of us have been through some very, very hard times. We know that our current situation is fragile and remains dependent upon everyone following health and safety protocols. There’s also a new maturity and recognition that the pandemic experience is not binary; we may be coping with a lingering, endemic situation for years.

For me personally, our return is a validation that UCLA remains strong and durable and that we were able to overcome some incredible challenges to reopen in person. More than anything this is due to our people and their flexibility, creativity and forethought.

I also take pride that we’ve stuck to our mission, stuck to our values, and supported our community over the last year and a half. We made the decision not to lay off any of our employees due to the pandemic, and we kept that promise. We worked hard to provide students learning remotely with a rich academic experience, and overall we succeeded.

Read more on UCLA Newsroom.