2016 @ UCSD: A Year in Review

Replacement Jobs for Laid off Theatre and Dance Department Production Staff Not Guaranteed

By Matthew Zamudio // November 23, 2016

Photo Courtesy of UCSD Communications

The UCSD Guardian has discovered that while the Theatre and Dance Department offered 21 laid off production employees replacement jobs, the positions require “new skills” and pay up to 30 percent less than their current positions, which will be dissolved this January.

If an employee is rehired by the university, they will be given a nine month contract with a summer break rather than the standard year-long contract, which amounts to a pay cut of up to 40 percent. Hourly pay will be $19 to $20, a decrease from the current wage, which starts at $25.

The production staff, many of whom have been employed by the university for up to 30 years, put on numerous shows at both UC San Diego and La Jolla Playhouse, and were told they could apply for positions at either institution.

According to Will Widick, who worked as a joint staff member for the Theatre and Dance Department and La Jolla Playhouse for 14 years before being laid off, only one open position is listed at the Playhouse, and the window to apply for a replacement job at UC San Diego closed today, instead of Friday as announced.

In their “Dedicated Staffing Plan” issued by the Department of Communications and Public Affairs, the Theatre and Dance Department and the Playhouse avoided guaranteeing replacement jobs, but stated they would be creating an equal amount of jobs to laid off employees.

“In the new staffing model for the UC San Diego Department of Theatre and Dance, 21 positions will be created; those laid off are encouraged to reapply for production positions,” the statement reads.

Widick told the Guardian it’s unlikely everyone will be rehired.

“[The Theatre and Dance Department] have reclassified the new positions at a much lower pay scale and no guarantees that we will be rehired,” Widick said. “They’re combining two departments—lighting and sound—so three positions will be lost there.”

The production employee also told the Guardian he believes the university is seeking younger staff members who are less skilled and more willing to take low-paying positions.

“For many years now our facilities have been expanding and our staff level shrinking, and we still did a great job,” Widick said. “They’ll probably hire younger workers who will take the jobs before they realize how expensive it is to live here. It’s an opportunity for them to eliminate staff, and bring in younger, cheaper staff.”

While the administration has not announced who they plan to hire, the decision to lay off veteran production employees resembles recent layoffs at UC San Francisco, where 17 percent of the IT staff at the university were replaced by younger, foreign technicians.

An employee-led retaliation against the layoffs is taking place on Facebook, where a public group named “UCSD Theatre & Dance – Help Save Our Jobs!” has amassed a following of over 1,400 people. Posts include testimonials, copies of letters sent to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and requests to sign a change.org petition calling for the Chancellor to suspend the permanent layoffs and open a dialogue with staff members.

The University Professionals and Technical Employees union has aided employees in raising awareness about the layoffs, paying for flyers that are circulated at campus events and urging individuals at the administrative level to reconsider their decision to eliminate the jobs.

This “Help Save Our Jobs” flyer is being shared around the internet to raise awareness about the Theatre and Dance Department lay offs.

In a letter addressed to Chancellor Khosla, class of 2006 theatre graduate Arash Haile asked that the university “immediately rescind the layoffs and start a dialogue with the joint-staff managers to chart a better course going forward.”

“These are some of the most dedicated, professional, and driven workers who have chosen to uphold a standard of work and education,” Haile said in his letter. “I firmly believe you will be able to find a solution that will work for everyone involved and not have to implement any layoffs. There is still time.”

Every Theatre and Dance Department employee was considered “joint staff” before the layoffs, working side by side with staff at the Playhouse to produce all productions there and at UC San Diego.

According to Joe Huppert, the sound supervisor of the production staff, joint staff stayed on UC San Diego’s payroll when working at La Jolla Playhouse, with the Playhouse reimbursing 50 percent of their UC compensation.

Many on the Theatre and Dance Department’s production staff worked on Playhouse-born shows like Jersey Boys and Memphis, which went on to win Tony awards. Mike Doyle, the lighting supervisor, has worked on 26 shows that eventually appeared on Broadway.

Widick, who is serving as a proxy for the many production employees who applied for the replacement jobs and are afraid to speak out about the layoffs, emphasized the production staff’s expertise in putting on award-winning shows.

“We never failed a show,” said Widick. “Never.”

The Playhouse was contacted for comment, but forwarded our call to their main office, where the press relations staff member had gone home.

The office employee reached at the Theatre and Dance Department everyone authorized to speak to press was busy.

Trump Win Sparks Widespread Protests

By Matthew Zamudio // November 14, 2016

Photo by Patrick Lazo (11/9/16)

As the reality set in on Tuesday night that Donald J. Trump would be named president-elect of the United States, thousands of students at UCSD and around the country mobilized to express their discontent with the anti-establishment businessman, gathering to declare the unofficial chant of the never Trump resistance, “Not my president.”

Student media reported protests at nearly all of the UC campuses on election night, including UCSD, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, with little to no coverage of the reactions of Trump voters, who are a minority at these left-leaning universities.

At UCSD, students from all six colleges filed out of their dorm rooms and onto Library Walk in the early morning hours of Wednesday. They marched while chanting epithets against Trump’s new political order, gaining momentum as angered students inflated their ranks.

The march, which started on Library Walk and passed through Ridge Walk, Earl Warren College and the Village, continued off campus and onto the Interstate 5 South highway, where a female protester was hit by a car. Paramedics were called to the scene at approximately 1:45 a.m.

Valerie Garcia, a witness, said the woman was conscious when first responders arrived and that she “hopes she recovers soon.”

A Revelle college freshman who livestreamed the election-night march on Facebook, Garcia told the UCSD Guardian about the mood of the protesters.

“Every student was in a mood of disapproval,” she said. “They were worried about the social environment that will be created with this new presidency.”

Garcia also gave her interpretation on why the backlash to Trump’s election was so swift, citing the way the president-elect has singled out minority groups as harmful and dangerous to the well-being of the United States.

“We are angry because Trump won,” she said. “Because despite Hillary winning the popular vote, [Trump] won because there are more than 59 million people who believe in his policies and ideologies. I am afraid. I am afraid for my family, friends and classmates.”

On Wednesday after the election, many students didn’t show up for class.

Matt Jennings, a Thurgood Marshall College senior, was one of them.

“The result of the presidential election really afflicted me personally,” Jennings told the Guardian. “I felt that democracy failed me. Because of that feeling of having little to no say in the direction of our country, I questioned the legitimacy of my other endeavors, including my role as a student. I’m still having trouble picking my books back up.”

Professors also felt pressure to address the outcome of the election in their classes.

Assistant professor of literature and creative writing Brandon Som restructured his lecture to address the mixed emotions of the student body, offering them a space to vent.

“This morning I received multiple messages from fellow teachers asking, ‘What should we teach?’ ‘How should we respond?’ ‘What should we discuss?’” he said in class Wednesday.

That afternoon, another demonstration took place on campus after a Facebook event, titled “UCSD Protest: Movement of Solidarity,” gained the support of hundreds of students.

The demonstration, organized by Warren College senior Clara Bird, took place in front of the Silent Tree at 2 p.m. Described as a “safe-space event and movement in regards to the results of the 2016 election,” there was to be “no name calling, hateful language, foul language or any kind of violence or dangerous behavior,” according to the event description.

Approximately 350 people attended the Movement of Solidarity.

“Everyone seemed really grateful for the opportunity to come together,” Bird said. “A lot of people sunk into a depression of total hopelessness after the results came out. I think just seeing the amount of people that care inspired everyone and helped in restoring their faith in humanity.”

By Thursday, Nov. 10, two days after Trump was named president-elect of the United States, nationwide protesting hadn’t ceased, and was gaining momentum in major cities like Oakland, Los Angeles and New York. Turning to Twitter, Trump blamed the media for inciting the protests.

“Just had a very open and successful presidential election,” he tweeted. “Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Hours after Trump’s tweet, another Facebook event was scheduled to take place at UCSD. Named “Townhall: Emergency Meeting to Discuss Future Actions,” the event was hosted by Groundwork Books in the Old Student Center, and quickly gained online RSVPs.

“As proven by the mass protests on campus last night and the march to I-5, we are all very distressed about the results of the current election,” the event description read. “The presidency of Donald Trump is a nightmare come true for most of us.”

“But don’t feel powerless,” the description continued. “We at UCSD can make a difference and make our university an active opposition to Trump’s policies. Let’s make our university a place about everything Trump doesn’t want America to be.”

At the townhall, students discussed topics such as UCSD becoming a sanctuary university and enacting policy that actively prohibits U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from entering campus property.

Groundwork Books will host another townhall next Thursday, Nov. 17. The meetings will be weekly going forward.

Quinton Grounds, an Eleanor Roosevelt College senior and chairman of UCSD College Republicans, offered his take on the passionate response to Trump’s election, telling the Guardian that protesters’ anger is “understandable, and [I’m] actually happy that they have chosen to make their grievances known.”

Grounds, who described himself as “not a Trump supporter, but a supporter of the Republican party,” believes protest is a fitting response to anything that causes public concern, including Trump’s election.

“Free speech is a key aspect of our nation’s fabric, so yes, responding with protest is not only justifiable, it is recommended in times of strife,” he said.

When asked to comment on the mission of anti-Trump protesters, Grounds said it was to express “the will of the student populace, that they’re angry with the result.”

“They can’t change the election results, probably never will, but they can change their response to the political process and the system we live in,” he added.

The refusal to accept the president-elect of the United States is nothing new when looking back at previous elections. After President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Republicans responded by refusing to accept him as their leader, again favoring the “not my president” theme. But to respond immediately with protest, as we’ve seen in the aftermath of the 2016 election, is unprecedented.

Taking note of this, Grounds advocates for level-headed approaches of expressing one’s political views, calling for demonstrators to practice peaceful protest and discussion.

“Violence should never be acceptable and should never be encouraged,” he told the Guardian. “We are all Americans, and all beliefs, especially under the first amendment, should be respected. This is a tough time for the nation and we should be figuring out what to do next in the healing process, not building more animosity or hurting our neighbors.”

Zeroing in on students as an exceptionally tolerant community, Grounds believes both the never-Trump and the pro-Trump factions have an intellectual obligation to respect one another.

“As students, we should be breathing in diversity, approaching new avenues of knowledge and seeking to bring people together,” he explained. “Not pushing away people we either don’t know or don’t want to care about. We’re a community that cares. We should act like it.”

ACLU Sues UCSD, A.S. Council for Defunding Print Media

By Josh Lefler // June 3, 2016

Photo credit to UC San Diego Publications – Erik Jepsen

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties filed a lawsuit against UCSD and A.S. Council yesterday over the student government’s decision to defund all printed media last November. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the satirical student newspaper The Koala and claims that A.S. Council “unconstitutionally eliminated funding for publication of student print media … because of the viewpoint of The Koala’s speech.”

The formal complaint outlining the details of the lawsuit states that The Koala seeks to restore funding that A.S. Council allocates specifically for print media. The lawsuit lists UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, outgoing A.S. President Dominick Suvonnasupa and outgoing A.S. Financial Controller Tristan Britt as defendants representing UCSD and A.S. Council, respectively.

A.S. Council voted to defund student media on Nov. 18 following a statement signed by Khosla and other UCSD administrators condemning The Koala for the “offensive and hurtful language it chooses to publish.” The lawsuit alleges that email exchanges between UCSD officials indicate this statement was prompted by a satirical piece published by The Koala two days earlier mocking the concept of “safe spaces.”

The lawsuit claims that, though A.S. Council defunded all print media as forms of student speech, it continued to support other forms of speech through the funding of organizations such as Students Against Mass Incarceration, College Democrats at UCSD and others.

Legal director of ACLU San Diego David Loy said that the purpose of the lawsuit was to uphold the principles of the First Amendment, which he believes UCSD, as a public institution, violated.

“However offensive and outrageous The Koala may be, its authors are writing about topical issues of public concern,” Loy said in a press release. “No matter how offended I may be, it is still much worse to give government the power to decide what speech to censor. Once granted, that power will inevitably stifle protest and dissent.”

Representatives from The Koala spoke to the UCSD Guardian about the lawsuit and expressed the belief that the outcome would be in their favor.

“The Koala is confident the outcome will go our way in this case,” The Koala said. “The announcement of a favorable decision will set a precedent for future student organizations not to be unlawfully silenced by the administration.”

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education representative Ari Cohn commented on the lawsuit, saying that the First Amendment is important to preserving an atmosphere of debate and diverse opinion on campus.

“It is important to remember that a university is a place of learning and knowledge creation,” Cohn told the Guardian. “Those pursuits require critical thinking skills and rigorous debate, which is only possible in a system that respects freedom of speech and creates of marketplace of ideas where positions and theories can be discussed and ultimately accepted or rejected.”

Incoming A.S. President Daniel Juarez argued that the lawsuit is not warranted and clarified that The Koala can receive funds through A.S. Council’s programming budget for student organizations.

“I think they could utilize their resources in a more productive way; as a whole, I think it’s a waste of time,” Juarez told the Guardian. “There really is no actual problem because they do have access to programming funding just like any other student organization.”

ACLU San Diego emphasized in its press release that, though it plans to represent The Koala in the lawsuit, it does not endorse the content of its newspaper.

“The ACLU sympathizes with students who are concerned about the reactions to The Koala’s content, especially by those who have suffered violence, racism, sexual abuse, or other traumas,” the statement read. “We find this content disturbing too. But the First Amendment protects ‘outrageous and outlandish’ speech that is often contained in publications such as The Koala, however vulgar and offensive they may be.”

In 2010, A.S. Council voted to defund print media in response to The Koala broadcasting content containing racial slurs and in support of the “Compton Cookout” on the closed-circuit Student Run Television channel, which was promptly shut down due to the incident. Funding was shortly restored.

The UCSD Guardian is a self-funded newspaper and was not affected by the A.S. Council’s decision to defund media.

Both Suvonnasupa and Britt declined to comment.

Students Vote to Go Division 1

By Kevin Santos // May 24, 2016

Photo by Christian Duarte
Photo by Christian Duarte

Students voted to increase the Intercollegiate Athletics activity fee today, which puts UCSD on the path toward becoming an NCAA Division-I university. The A.S. Elections Committee announced the results of the special referendum this afternoon at Round Table Pizza.

According to the polls, approximately 35 percent of the student body voted on the referendum. Of the 8,828 students who participated, 6,137 voted in favor of moving to Division I, while 2,567 voted against the fee increase.

UCSD Athletic Director Earl Edwards described the switch as a chance to bolster school spirit for the entire UCSD community, including students, alumni and the public.

“This is an opportunity for us to help improve the student experience on campus, particularly from a pride and unification perspective,” Edwards told the UCSD Guardian. “It will allow alumni the opportunity to be more engaged [and] help us increase our connection to the community.”

Representatives from the No on D1 campaign issued a response to the Guardian stating that they only hope the benefits of this referendum outweigh its cost to students.

“Though we are deeply opposed to the use of student fees to fund a move to Division I, we hope that the athletics department will use the funds raised by the ICA referendum in good faith to benefit students and UCSD in general as promised, and to improve UCSD standing in the outside world,” representatives said.

Following approval from the student body, Edwards explained that further steps are necessary in order for UCSD to acquire Division-I status. These measures include receiving an invitation to join the Big West Conference, as well as faculty approval.

A.S. Elections Manager Claire Maniti clarified that although faculty can reject the students’ vote, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla ultimately determines whether or not the transition process moves forward. Citing student support, Maniti finds it unlikely that the chancellor would turn down the favored referendum.

Over the course of the next three years, students will see their ICA activity fees — which are currently $129.38 per quarter — rise to $189.38 per quarter in the 2017-2018 academic year, to $244.38 per quarter the following year and to $289.38 per quarter the year after.

The money will go towards meeting requirements for financial support, coaches’ salaries, grant-in-aid funds and other costs associated with Division I, allowing UCSD athletic teams  to compete in the highest level of intercollegiate athletics.

Earl Warren College junior Luke Wang cautioned students not to expect the projected benefits of becoming a Division-I campus to materialize any time soon.

“I think it’s important for students to know that we do not automatically enter [Division I] and it will not automatically fulfill the promises made or proposed during the campaign period,” Wang told the Guardian. “It’s not going to instantly boost our brand recognition among all the universities [and] definitely not within the next five years.”

Edwards told the Guardian that he views the success of the Division-I campaign as an indicator of what students believe will improve the UCSD experience.

“To have students make an overwhelming statement in favor [of Division I] tells us that this is something that they believe is not only best for the athletics department, but the university as a whole,” Edwards said.

Wang understands, however, that the support from the student population suggests that students are willing to make short-term concessions for long-term gains.

“This election just means that students are okay with a drastic fee increase, and [that] we have to get that invitation for things to actually happen, maybe in a year or two,” Wang said.

Muir College junior and student athlete Alec Petty said that he is excited about the possibility of being able to compete against schools with well-established athletic programs.

“I look forward to competing against school like UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, Stanford and UCLA,” Petty told the Guardian. “Twenty years from now I’ll get to come back as an alumni and watch my team beat the Bears.”

In addition, Petty applauded his fellow teammates and other supporters for their Division-I campaign efforts.

“Students came together and made something happen that has been a dream for a lot of people at UCSD for decades,” Petty said. “It made me proud to be a Triton.”

Pro-Trump, Anti-Immigrant Statements Written Around Campus

By Jacky To // April 14, 2016

Photo by Gabriella Fleischman

Five unidentified hooded white males vandalized UCSD with chalk statements supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant policies on April 8, CBS 8 reported. The messages — which included “TRITONS 4 TRUMP” and “BUILD THE WALL, DEPORT THEM ALL” — were written on Library Walk and the sidewalks near the Raza Resource Centro.

Furthermore, more pro-Trump statements were found written in chalk outside Peterson Hall on the morning of April 14. The chalk has since been removed.

UCSD’s Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellors released a joint statement following the first incident in which they deemed the content of the statements reflective of America’s “divisive political climate” and contrary to the university’s Principles of Community.

“Unfortunately, late Friday evening graffiti promoting the deportation of undocumented immigrants and the construction of a wall on the border of Mexico was discovered chalked on UC San Diego’s campus sidewalks,” the statement said. “This graffiti runs counter to our campus values of equity and inclusion. We value diversity and respect for all cultures.”

Eleanor Roosevelt College Provost Ivan Evans condemned the statement a day earlier in a Facebook post for targeting “Mexico and Latino/a students” and called upon the campus community to not give the culprits credibility.

“ERC therefore urges the campus at large to reframe this incident as an occasion to acknowledge the persistence of gross insensitivity in American society and insist on greater multicultural understanding on campus,” Evans said. “Whoever furtively inflicted this incident on campus does not deserve the attention they cannot receive through rational discourse and open debate.”

Senior Advocate for the A.S. Office of Student Advocacy Randon Herrera told the UCSD Guardian that the actions could constitute several student conduct code violations. These include, “conduct that threatens health or safety of any person” (VII.H), “verbal, written, electronic, or other threats of violence” (VII.I),  and “conduct (e.g. harassment) that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities” (VII.J).