Strong UCLA SpiritWriting
It’s been a hard time for our nation and our campus.
In the midst of a pandemic that had already upended our lives, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery reminded us of unhealed racial wounds and how much we all have to do to truly achieve justice for all. In addition to our existing equity efforts, rest assured that we will do even more to make sure our community treats all with dignity.
When I think about how Bruins have responded to COVID-19, I am humbled by the courage and resilience of our community.
Our students have adjusted to new ways of learning and forming community. Professors have pivoted and developed innovative ways of restructuring classes. Our staff kept the public informed, made sure lower-income students have the equipment needed to work at home and preserved essential campus operations. Departments across UCLA have offered free online programs to the general public. Our alumni and friends have donated both monetary assistance and moral support.
Our work has gone beyond meeting the need to reinvent the UCLA community. We have also heeded the call to provide leadership and support to the broader community.
In so many ways, UCLA is delivering the deep expertise, broad perspectives and wise counsel that are so vital right now. Our health system has been leading efforts to treat patients and research treatments, and has been advising local, state and national health authorities on an effective pandemic response.
Our faculty have been principled voices analyzing the racially and economically disparate impact of COVID-19 and how the pandemic is both revealing and exacerbating long-standing inequality. Multiple campus departments have produced masks and other personal protective equipment. And in April, we announced our partnership with Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD initiative to distribute online mental health resources and cutting-edge cognitive behavioral approaches to help people manage the stress caused by this pandemic.
Even as the UCLA campus may be relatively quiet, the UCLA spirit is as strong and vital as ever. As we focus on the needs of today, we are also trying to contemplate the needs of tomorrow.
This pandemic will have a long-lasting physical, economic and emotional impact on our society and will reshape many of our assumptions and institutions.
How our nation delivers health care, sustains social relationships, builds communal organizations and structures its economy will all require imagination and vision, as we move forward together and adapt to the unknown. But adapt we will. Just as we have in the past.
While we can’t know the future, I do think we can learn from the past. One of the lessons of history is that even while painful, trauma, at times, can lead to transformation.
The Great Depression of the 20th century was devastating for American families and businesses, but the economic innovations we adopted in response gave us the modern Social Security system and important, though imperfect, protections for workers’ rights.
In the depths of the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 satellite struck fear into the hearts of millions of Americans as it circled overhead. But the space race — and the moon mission it invigorated — created not only beneficial technologies, but also knowledge and even mathematics that were entirely new to human history.
I mention these not to give the anodyne hope of shallow silver linings. We cannot hide from the real pain of COVID-19 or our ongoing racial divisions. At the same time, we must believe that if we pay close attention to the lessons we are learning through these hard experiences, if we have the humility to learn from our errors and the confidence that we can get better, then we can shape our future in ways that will help make our society more prepared, more resilient, more compassionate and more just.
This is not an inevitable outcome, of course. It will depend on us making wise choices, informed by the best information and our most cherished values. That is the challenge that lies ahead. And it is the challenge to which UCLA is committed.