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An Open Letter On the Attempted Closing of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

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The UCLA-owned Japanese Garden is a marvelous plot of land unique to the Los Angeles landscape. In lieu of making real budget cuts to exorbitant administrative costs, Chancellor Gene Block has led the charge to sell-off this one-of-a-kind property under the public eye.

Send him your own e-mail at chancellor@ucla.edu and SIGN THE PETITION! Here’s my response…

Chancellor Block:

U-C-L-A FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! These words echo down the long hallways of our campus, perhaps more than any other song composed or cheer written in our prestigious near-century in Los Angeles. We are indoctrinated in press material as prospective students, at Carpe Noctem for orientation, at sporting events and pep rallys, to FIGHT. But not just to fight our adversaries on the field, or some theoretical boogyman closing in our campus. We are taught in and out of the classroom to fight for what we believe in.  I was taught to fight for Los Angeles, for public services, for the arts and for equal access. The last time I fought for my campus was to save the prestigious Arts Library, which still continues to be underfunded compared to the immaculate Business Library. Before that, I fought for my very major to remain a place to explore the radical world of art and culture through the lens of multi-culturalism, protest and art-making. So, you see, Chancellor Block, we have gone toe-to-toe before, and I continually find myself on the side of the People, and the voice of those who pay your salary, and not the other way around.

Bruins Roam the Hills of Westwood: It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since I walked off my esteemed campus, diploma in-mail, and into the scary realms of business, non-profit, more-than-profit and education. As I looked over my shoulder, I saw the campus that I worked tirelessly to protect from the devastation of budget cuts, administrative impropriety and misguided prioritization of allocation and preference. Your latest infraction, a legal subterfuge of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, an immaculate gift from one who truly loved Los Angeles, is incomprehensible. The attempt to sweep the deal under the rug, away from the public eye has, not surprisingly been a shameful mark on the transparency you are legally obligated to provide in your role as Chancellor. The Public University is no place for backroom deals, no matter how privy you might feel toward their results.

For We’re Loyal To the Southland: I understand that budget cuts must be calculated in a methodology related directly to the prestigiousness of services provided to students, faculty, graduates and alumni. The entirety of the UCLA entity is what you are entitled to protect. As UCLA services diminish, our international recognition becomes endangered. But more important than our international recognition is our contribution to our local biosphere. In this time, 20 years from the LA Riots, we must be especially aware of how UCLA treats its public space, and how it interacts with its neighboring communities. Instead of determining that the Japanese Garden was a cash-cow yet to be capitalized upon, what if the same committee had set out to find a way to better use that land to impact classes, services and the UCLA community as a whole?

The voice of the people will be heard, and the legacy of UCLA will live on past your own tenure. What will be your personal contribution? Will you be a creator or a destroyer? Fight, Fight, Fight.

Wesley Pinkham
World Arts and Cultures, 2010

 

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