Our UCLA faculty must do better to ensure that, in this moment, students’ grades are a reflection of their resiliency, rather than their trauma. It will never be enough to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, and then proceed to continue teaching classes as if those same Black students are unaffected by what’s happening.
On May 25, 46-year-old George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for more than seven minutes, all while other officers did nothing but watch. In the same vein, our nation’s history underscores that this is not an isolated incident, but rather that police brutality and anti-Blackness are deeply woven into the fabric of our society.
Many of our students who are impassioned and embroiled within the fight for the Black community are on the frontlines, figuratively and literally. There have been UCLA students who have gone to show their solidarity and have been brutalized by police at these protests, whether they were shot by rubber bullets or tear-gassed for exercising their constitutional right to protest. There have been countless students who have made a choice to set aside their formal academic studies to call for justice in the United States. Such a decision should be honored.
Beyond those who are on the ground, many of us have been active on social media and bombarded with images of murder and the mass militarization of our neighborhoods while simultaneously attempting to organize online.
We must hold our university faculty and professors accountable to hear these concerns and not be complicit in their response. The current political climate not only weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of Black students, but white, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous allies who are far too tired and fed up with the injustices we face as Black people. This is not just a “Los Angeles” uprising, but rather an international movement.
As UCLA students, we are intimately aware of the fact that we attend one of the nation’s most prestigious and challenging institutions. Yet, as if it was not enough to witness the killings of Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, we are still amid the world’s worst public health crisis in decades. It is because of these circumstances, that we must place the well-being of our students above that of academic rigor.
We call upon professors to move to making finals optional wherever possible, or provide accommodations such as those listed within the Academic Senate’s guidelines regarding final examinations. You cannot expect students to study, write papers and take tests under these types of physical, mental and emotional conditions.
The university has committed to value the lives of Black students, and we must not leave out our professors from that very same promise.
Naomi Riley, 2020-2021 Undergraduate Students Association president
Elijah Wade, 2020-2021 Undergraduate Students Association general representative 3
Promise Ogunleye, 2020-2021 Undergraduate Students Association Cultural Affairs commissioner
Alexandria Davis, Afrikan Student Union chairperson 2019-2020
Alex Dunkwu and Simone Walker, Afrikan Student Union co-chairpersons 2020-2021
Ky’Tavia Stafford-Carreker, Afro-Latinx Connection de UCLA president