UCLA needs to roll out the welcoming committee

by Summer Brotman

After I submitted my application to UCLA in 2019, I barely slept until the acceptance letters rolled out. Perhaps that’s excessive, but so was my enthusiasm when I got my acceptance letter. My hard work and dedication felt like they were finally starting to pay off. That’s why despite the unexpected occurrence of a global pandemic, I was eager to join UCLA’s ranks and have a part in its prestigious community.

Summer flew by, and as fall inched closer, the school announced its plans for remote learning, sending welcome gifts and ID cards to its newest freshman and transfer class. But other than that, UCLA was silent. It felt underwhelming to finally become a Bruin; what should have been excitement and eagerness slowly faded into boredom and disappointment. While we all know no one can be absolutely prepared for how the world traverses a pandemic, many students had opinions in regards to UCLA’s attempts to bridge the disparities between the students and their new home, the Bruin community.

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Many students defend the school in their decisions to keep most classes remote and limit in-person classes for safety purposes. Established students understand that there is a learning curve to dealing with a pandemic. Junior undergraduate Dira Kapoor remarked that the school is doing the best it can with its given circumstances. “The administration is about as communicative as I expect from a large university, and I think they upheld their professional duties to notify us about changes in administration and academic life.”

That communication influences how students receive news, engrain themselves within the UCLA culture and find their specific niche. The way the school communicates makes a big difference for some students and how they feel within the UCLA community, which has been dormant since moving to remote learning.

Kapoor doesn’t hold the school responsible, however, saying, “I don’t know anyone who feels at home at their university right now. I don’t blame them at all for not making me feel at home. It’s very hard to reach through someone’s screen and make them feel welcome to a place that doesn’t exist to them tangibly.”

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And that’s fair. The school cannot plan nor provide the same lifestyle that an unrestricted, in-person environment does. Students of previous years remember the hustle and bustle of a lively university and thus know UCLA’s capabilities in creating a community. With academics, sporting events, clubs and organizations, UCLA has a lot to offer incoming students.

However, some new freshmen and transfer students, many of whom have never actually stepped foot on campus, were disappointed by the lack of communication and reception that came with the online disconnect. Freshman student Ahmad Rajwany discussed his journey so far as a Bruin, saying, “I definitely think the school could have reached out more, especially to first-year transfers and freshmen. What I’m most worried about is having my freshman experience as a sophomore, meaning the learning curve that is adapting to college while taking harder classes.”

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With events such as Bruin Day getting canceled or rescheduled to undisclosed times, newer students express frustration. Not only were the Bruin initiations postponed, but the school’s attempt at rectifying this distance was with a welcome box. While the box is a nice sentiment, it doesn’t excuse the lack of attentiveness with students and their concerns.

“I actually had to email the undergrad admissions department multiple times to get my box and finally received it around November,” Rajwany said. “Most of (the) administration I talked to (was) unresponsive with my questions and concerns, especially being an out-of-state student.”

As a first-year transfer student myself, I understand that while the exclusive swag box is cool, it doesn’t replace the warmth of a campus you’re hoping to call home. The prospect of being a UCLA student is a dream to most of the students who attend its hallowed halls; however, the prospect of bridging a community founded on attentiveness and warmth is ultimately what makes students feel better about their decision to attend, especially the newer students who haven’t yet experienced UCLA’s liveliness in person.

The UCLA administration could benefit from reaching out to its students more, inviting them to be part of activities across campus rather than those that are solely major-related. Students have entrusted UCLA with their well-being, so checking in and establishing a stronger connection, even if it’s online, is sorely needed. While students don’t expect miracles, they do expect the school to comfort them in their decision to choose UCLA as their stomping grounds; after all, home is where the heart is.

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