Wednesday, November 09, 2016

To Students, Staff and Faculty in the UCLA College Division of Social Sciences

Last night we learned the results of a hard-fought election with split results—as of 5pm the day after the election, Hillary Clinton leads in the popular vote but Donald Trump is President-elect due to how Electoral College votes are apportioned.  While this campaign has been exceptionally divisive, we have seen this outcome before—Bush v. Gore in 2000, when irregularities in Florida’s vote count led the election results to ultimately require action by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In that respect, we needn’t look too far back in our history to see that elections can be close and divisive (I realize that for some of you, 2000 seems like a long time ago!).

We have a resilient body politic and a political system that privileges checks and balances by design and, thus, deliberately limits presidential power.  We pride ourselves on the peaceful transition of power, and today President Obama and Secretary Clinton have led by example in that regard.

At the same time, most of us voted in California (though some students may have voted absentee in their home states) where Clinton garnered 5.4 million votes compared to Trump’s 2.9 million.  As a community, we must acknowledge strong feelings on both sides that are likely to persist for some time.  As Dean, I also would urge us to recognize that some students, staff and faculty may feel especially vulnerable given some of President-elect Trump’s campaign rhetoric as well as comments by a minority of his supporters.  

In particular, I have heard today from members of our community who have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Obama’s executive order) status as non-citizens or who have family members who are undocumented immigrants who are alarmed and fearful about the future.  Likewise, members of our community who are Muslim and/or who are perceived as Muslim reacted to the election with great and understandable foreboding.  I have talked today to Bruins who feel that the election results disfavor women of all races, people of color, differently abled people, and/or members of the LGBTQ communities.   For those of you who supported Trump—as it was your right to do—I hope you will take notice of the pain that some of your peers and colleagues may feel today and for some time.  On the other side, I hope those of us who are deeply disappointed with these election results will keep in mind that we are a diverse community with a variety of political views to which individuals are entitled to hold and to express.

As students and faculty in the Social Sciences Division, moreover, we are uniquely situated to be leaders in conducting an open, respectful and rigorous inquiry into why the election turned out the way it did, what its policy ramifications are, and where we go as a nation in the future.  Most obviously, we are home to one of the nation’s best Political Science Departments, and faculty there already are doubtlessly involved in piecing together what occurred.  But the election is too important to leave only to the political scientists (to borrow a phrase usually aimed at lawyers).  We are home to scholars of the past who can put this year’s election in historical context, to experts who study political communication as a sub-set of communication studies, to sociologists and anthropologists who study politics and political economy, to social geographers who can help us put the electoral map in perspective, and to economists who will analyze the election’s impact on both Main Street and Wall Street.  UCLA Social Sciences is also home to four departments and one interdepartmental program that consist of scholars (often with split appointments in other social science departments or other UCLA divisions or colleges) who specifically study how politics and social movements on the basis of gender and race come to be and how they impact society: Gender Studies, Chicana/Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies, African American Studies and American Indian Studies. 

Students, undergraduate and graduate, enrolled in courses in all of these departments have the opportunity to engage in dialogue and intellectual inquiry as well as conversations in which they unpack strong emotions about the election and fears about the future.  I urge you to take advantage of our unique intellectual community in the days and weeks to come to engage these and other questions as an enactment of our nation’s ongoing civic debate about policy and about the nation we hope to be in the future.

To read statements from other UCLA campus leaders about the election results, please see Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh’s website here.