A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

More than 300 UCLA scientists condemn acts of racist violence

A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

UCLA Court of Sciences (Photo Credit: UCLA Newsroom)

UCLA Newsroom is committed to promoting UCLA news, including faculty members’ research and their appearances in outside media. We typically do not post letters from faculty about current issues or serve as an open forum of ideas. However, given the gravity of this moment, and out of a desire to illustrate how our community is united in showing support on these important issues, we have decided in this rare case to share the following letter from our faculty.

The full letter and a partial list of signers follows; the full list of signers, which has continued to grow, is posted here

Dear Students and Colleagues,

We are enraged and horrified at the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. We are enraged and horrified at the murder of Breonna Taylor, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the murder of Nina Pop, murders that have occurred amidst a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black Americans. We are enraged at the extreme acts of racist violence on display and we are enraged at the everyday operations of a white supremacist society that precipitates and seeks to normalize pervasive suffering and harm targeting Black people.

As scholars dedicated to the study of the sciences, we know that there are intergenerational effects of trauma, and that the longstanding racism and injustice perpetrated against some of our citizens by police and by others in positions of power has worked to hobble the very nation we love. However, just as efforts to reverse the effect of trauma in individuals can reverse even epigenetic impacts, so we see hope for the possibility that dismantling the systems of oppression in our country – our counties, our neighborhoods, and our homes — will bring healing to “we the people” of all races, religions, and creeds.

We also know that complicity with these systems of oppression is deeply rooted in the origins of this country, from the expulsion and murder of Native Americans, the kidnapping and enslavement of Black peoples for almost 250 years, to generations of Black and Brown communities disregarded and destroyed by settler colonialism and the idea of white supremacy. We seek an immediate end to the perpetration of this injustice and a healing of our land.

In the face of recent acts of racist violence, we recommit ourselves to understanding that the wellbeing of all people is interdependent, and that science and our society are made better by a diversity of minds, viewpoints, and approaches participating as a team in a non-threatening, healthy, and welcoming environment. In the words of Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important — it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole.”

We want you to know that we share your pain, your grief, and your outrage. We will work to ensure that our classrooms and endeavors and workplaces engage and support struggles for racial justice on and off campus, and that our science and teachings will embrace the strength of our diversity.

For those who are looking for resources, we include several below this list of initial signatories.

Signed,

Gina R. Poe, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Alan D. Grinnell, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Barney A. Schlinger, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Ronald M. Harper, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine

Stephanie Correa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Stephanie White, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Liz Koslov, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Aradhna Tripati, Ph.D., Associate Professor,  Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences & Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, American Indian Studies Center, Center for Diverse Leadership in Science

Priyanga Amarasekare, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Jesse Rissman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Deanna Needell, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Michael Hill, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Scott H. Chandler, Ph.D, Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Felix E. Schweizer, Ph.D., Professor Neurobiology, Chair Graduate Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

David Glanzman, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, and Neurobiology

Mark Frye, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology. Department of Neurobiology.

Shanna Shaked, Ph.D., M.A.T., Senior Associate Director, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Robert Eagle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Stephanie Pincetl, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Roy Wollman, Associate Professor, Departments of Integrative Biology and Physiology and Chemistry and Biochemistry

Caroline Beghein, Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Rebecca Shipe, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Deepak Rajagopal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Thomas B. Smith, Ph.D., Professor,Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Ecology and Evolution

Alan Barreca, Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Karen McKinnon, Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Statistics

Jacob Bortnik, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Avital Harari, M.D., M.Sc., Associate Professor, Department of Surgery

Larone Ellison, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Justin Wagner, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Brian E. Kadera, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Kevin Y. Njabo, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Tonya Kane, Ph.D., Lecturer, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Marco Iacoboni, M.D. Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Chao Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology

Dean Buonomano, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology

Jack L. Feldman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Weizhe Hong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Biological Chemistry and Neurobiology

Zili Liu, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Hasan Yersiz, David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplant

Rachel Kennison, Ph.D., Interim Director, Center for Education, Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Morgan W. Tingley, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Lawren Sack, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

William Boyd, J.D., Ph.D, Professor, UCLA School of Law, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Guido Eibl, M.D., Professor, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine

Pablo Saide, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Jasper Kok, Associate Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Marco Velli, Professor of Space Physics Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Elaine Y. Hsiao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Patricia E. Phelps, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Pavak K Shah, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Hakwan Lau, D.Phil, Professor, Department of Psychology

Andrew Wikenheiser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Psychology

X. William Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science

Yi-Rong Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Stein Eye Institute

Michael S Fanselow, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Gal Bitan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurology.

Catia Sternini, M.D., Professor, Division of Digestive Diseases, Departments of Medicine and Neurobiology

Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., MSPH, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Health Policy & Management and Director, UCLA BRITE Center for Science, Research & Policy

Nicholas Brecha, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Neurobiology, Ophthalmology and Medicine.

Kate Wassum, Ph.D., Psychology

Riccardo Olcese, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology

Pamela Kennedy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology

Nanthia Suthana, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Psychology, and Bioengineering

M. Belinda Tucker, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D., Professor, Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Neurology, Radiology, Biomedical Physics, Psychology and Bioengineering.

Catherine M Cahill, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Daniel H Geschwind M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Senior Associate Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor, Precision Health

Christopher C. Giza, M.D., Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Neurosurgery, Interdepartmental Programs for Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

Onyebuchi A. Arah, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Tracy Johnson, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Brenda Larison, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Allen Gehret, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael J. Andrews, Ph.D., PIC, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Albert J. Courey, Professor, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Michelle Basso, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Jerome Engel Jr. M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Robert M. Bilder, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology; Co-Lead, MindWell pod, Semel UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative

Larry Zipursky, Ph.D., Department of Biological Chemistry

Igor Spigelman, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Section of Oral Biology, School of Dentistry

Emeran A. Mayer, M.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry

Gaston M. U. Pfluegl, Ph.D., Director Life Sciences Core Education Laboratory

Peyman Golshani, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior,

Ye Zhang, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences.

Abby Kavner, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Nader Pouratian, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Melissa Sharpe, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Lara Ray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry

Pamela Yeh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Michael Alfaro, PhD, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Mikhail Hlushchanka, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael Gandal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Ron Brookmeyer, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Fielding School of Public Health

Van Savage, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Computational Medicine and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Marilyn Raphael, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geography

Ladan Shams, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychology and BioEngineering

Laura DeNardo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology

Diane M. Papazian, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Rolando de Santiago, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Instructor and UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Alison Lipman, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Greg Grether, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elissa Hallem, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Palina Salanevich, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Marcelo Chamecki, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Jeffrey Donlea, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology

William I. Newman, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences; Physics and Astronomy; and Mathematics

Howard C. Jen, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Diana G. Rickard, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Thomas J. O’Dell, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Gregory A. Miller, Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Xian-Jie Yang, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Diana Azurdia, Ph.D., Director for Inclusion, Graduate Programs in Bioscience

Bogdan Pasaniuc, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Human Genetics, Computational Medicine.

Kirk E. Lohmueller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Sylvester Eriksson-Bique, Ph.D., NSF Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Asgar Jamneshan, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Artem Chernikov, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Ricardo Salazar, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Nicholas Ramsey, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Alan Garfinkel, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Integrative Biology and Physiology

Jorge Torres, Ph.D., Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Hangjie Ji, Ph.D., PIC Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Susan D. Cochran, Ph.D., M.S., Professor, Epidemiology and Statistics

Stefano Filipazzi, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniel Hoff, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Allison Carruth, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of English, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Nina Otter, PhD, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Benjamin Harrop-Griffiths, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Peter Petersen, Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Gregory S. Payne, Ph.D., Professor, Biological Chemistry

Clover May, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Jochen Stutz, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Terence Tao, James and Carol Collins Chair, Department of Mathematics

Paul Micevych, Plumb Professor and Chair, Department of Neurobiology

Wilfrid Gangbo, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Heather Zinn Brooks, Ph.D., CAM Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniele Bianchi, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

James Bisley, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Daniel McKenzie, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Leif Zinn-Brooks, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Joshua Trachtenberg, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Matt Jacobs, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

TIm Austin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Anna Lau, Professor, Department of Psychology

Ziva Cooper  Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Melissa Paquette-Smith, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Sumner, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Alicia Izquierdo, Professor, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Silvers, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

James Cameron, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Craig Enders, Professor, Department of Psychology

Bridget Callaghan, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Jonathan C King, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Adriana Galvan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Sorin Popa, Professor, Mathematics

Noah White, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michelle G. Craske, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology & Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Theodore F. Robles, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Samy Wu Fung, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Douglas Black, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Noa Pinter-Wollman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Roger Woods, M.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Paul Mathews, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Neurology and The Lundquist Institute

Matthias Wink, DPhil, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Samantha Butler, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Jonathan Mitchell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Lauren Ng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Stan Schein, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Carolyn Houser, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Katherine Karlsgodt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Yiannis N. Moschovakis, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Mathematics

Carrie E Bearden Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology

Steve S. Lee, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Istvan Mody, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Physiology

Tina Treude, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Science, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Carole H. Browner, Distinguished Research Professor, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

Karen H. Gylys, Ph.D., R.N., Professor, School of Nursing

Christina Palmer, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Department of Human Genetics, Institute for Society and Genetics

Jessica Gregg, M.Ed., Associate Director for Educational Development, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)

Katherine Narr, Professor, Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Alex Hall, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Baljit S. Khakh, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology

Sandra K. Loo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Mackenzie Day, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Ursula K. Heise, Professor and Chair, Department of English

Carolyn Parkinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Marcia Meldrum, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor, Center for Social Medicine and the Humanities, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Joel Braslow, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and History, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities

Laura Cladek, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Joseph DiNorcia, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Minna K. Lee, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Michael Willis, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Yuen Huo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Thomas Bradbury, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology

Marco Marengon, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Wotao Yin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Nathan Kraft, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ippolytos Kalofonos, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities, International Institute, West LA VAMC

Please see this webpage for the full, current list of signers. The page also includes links to books, websites and articles chosen by the authors about racism. It also lists resources for members of the UCLA campus community:

●      UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (310-825-0768)

●      For mental health related concerns, consider signing up for STAND. An online questionnaire is followed by professional care if necessary.

●      Wellness resources for UCLA graduate students

●      Behavioral Wellness Center for confidential counseling for biosciences graduate students (310-825-9605)

The faculty members also provide links for donating to the NAACPACLU, and SPLC.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of a student meditating during a break.

UCLA Students Find COVID-19 Silver Linings

Commentary on mindful awareness training by Sara Melzer, Professor Emerita of French & Francophone Studies:

Surprising as it may sound, some of my UCLA students are finding meaning during the pandemic. One student reports: “I’m excited at the inner changes this quarantine is bringing out in me.” Almost all the students are discovering that their lives are fuller than they had realized – when they re-direct their attention. This training is the work of a mindful awareness.

Mindfulness is not necessarily spiritual or mystical, although it can be. Mainly, it trains our most fundamental faculty: our attention. If skillfully cultivated, our attention can dramatically transform our experience and promote well-being, even during a crisis. This claim may seem astonishing because we are not taught to value our attention, even though it is the ever-present background to all thought and experience.

Mindfulness highlights the vast potential of this resource. Our attention is a muscle — a mental muscle that needs to be trained, just as athletes train their bodies, insists Shinzen Young, founder of Unified Mindfulness and my teacher for 20 years.

My students experienced the power of their attention to transform their relationship to pain in a class experiment where I had them hold ice-cubes in one hand, for two rounds. In round one, I offered no guidance and they relied on their standard coping strategy. After five minutes, they were in agony. In round two, I guided them to hold the ice mindfully. One student reported, “I felt blissfully calm. I could have held the ice forever.”

What made the difference? Their attention – what they focused on and how. In the first round, they tightened their bodies and narrowed their lens to block the pain. This mental image, a cortical homunculus, simulates the brain mapping the body from the inside: hands swell up like balloons and dwarf the body.

A photo of a student meditating during a break.

A student meditating during a break. (Photo Credit: Christian Ibarra)

Their hand defined their whole body. When we are in pain, physical or emotional, we often identify with the ailing part and let it become the whole.

Alternatively, we can re-frame our attention. I invited my students to expand their focus beyond their hands to include their feet, where they noticed pockets of calm.  I activated their attention’s telescopic lens when I had them zoom their awareness out, first to sounds inside the room, then outside, before extending to the silence beyond. While they felt their hands throb, they simply included it within a wider attentional field. The impact of the ice was diffused. Just as a few drops of red dye can define the water’s color in a fish-bowl, but not in a lake, my students could dilute and transform their experience of pain by enlarging their attentional frame.

The momentary shift of attention is actually not the hard part. Keeping it there is. To achieve this, Unified Mindfulness emphasizes sensory clarity as a key attentional skill. It can open up our awareness to a fascinating “something” within the seeming “nothing” of our ordinary experience. Take the breath, for example. Using a microscopic lens, we zero in on the outbreath to notice a subtle release of air. Other forms of release – in the jaws, shoulders, rib cage – ripple out. This inter-connectedness is a source of wonder.

Sensory clarity helps anchor our attention because our sensory world becomes more richly layered and attention-grabbing.  One student wrote, “I invited my family to join me in my mindful eating exercise. For desert, we had grapes — just ordinary grapes. They exploded with extraordinary taste sensations. Waves of sweetness, then sourness rippled out towards my ears, then throughout my whole body. It was so satisfying I almost felt full.” When we tune into the nuanced layers of something as ordinary as an exhale or a grape, any experience can anchor our attention and nourish us.

Managing our attention in this way contrasts with our standard notion of concentration. The term “concentration” in English mainly signifies a forcible narrowing of focus to bear down on an object. But our bodies tighten and we slip back into a version of the ice-cube scenario. What we resist, persists! Mindfulness, however, emphasizes that the truest concentration comes from an ease that unifies our energies. Coupled with sensory clarity, concentration holds our attention not through coercion, but fascination and wonder.

Of course, the COVID crisis is much more serious than ice-cubes. But the underlying principle still pertains: include the ailing part within a larger whole so that fear does not occupy all our attentional space or define our whole life. One student described how a shift in her attention helped ease her panic after learning that the “shelter-in-place” would continue longer than expected. Initially, she was glued to social media which convinced her “all of life was closing up shop.” Finally, she remembered she had a choice. She could re-frame her attention to include her anxiety within a wider container that diluted its power. She did not deny her fear but included it within a larger lens. As poet Maya Angelou wrote: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can choose not to be reduced by them.”

When all their attention was not colonized by fear, my students freed up energy to explore what was available to them. I had asked them to notice their COVID-19 Silver Linings. Since they were on the look-out for them, they found them. They used their mindfulness muscle to soak their awareness into them and anchor their attention there. Many experienced a surprising inner freedom when they discovered creative resources they didn’t know they had.

Creativity thrives when we are confronted with constraints. Let us seize this opportunity to turn our focus towards what remains possible and open up their hidden depths. In this way lies freedom and well-being.

Sara E. Melzer is a Humanities Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her latest book is Colonizer or Colonized: The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture. Currently, she is working to integrate mindfulness into Higher Education through UCLA’s EPIC program

A photo of Cecilia Menjívar.

Don’t call it ‘social distancing’

Opinion by Cecilia Menjívar, Jacob G. Foster and Jennie E. Brand

Editor’s Note: Cecilia Menjívar is Professor of Sociology and Dorothy L. Meier Social Equities Chair, Jacob G. Foster is Assistant Professor of Sociology, and Jennie E. Brand is Professor of Sociology and Statistics, all at the University of California at Los Angeles. The opinions expressed in this commentary belong to the authors. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN) – Public health officials tell us to minimize physical contact in order to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. While the public, thankfully, is hearing the message, there is a hidden danger: As we retreat into our homes, we can lose sight of our essential connections to one another and forget about the plight of those most vulnerable to the fraying of social bonds.

It is important for us all to realize that when they recommend “social distancing” — a phrase that has rapidly entered the public lexicon — what health experts are really promoting are practices that temporarily increase our physical distance from one another in order to slow the spread of the virus.

They are not recommending social disconnection, social exclusion, or rampant individualism.

To combat those social ills, we should replace the term “social distancing” with the more precise “physical distancing.” In fact, when we practice physical distancing, we need social connectivity and social responsibility more than ever.

A photo of Cecilia Menjívar.

Cecilia Menjívar (Photo Credit: UCLA)

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced strict new measures for isolation (as California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom did the day before). In his televised remarks, Cuomo noted the difficulty — but crucial necessity — of maintaining physical distance from loved ones.

But even as he rolled out these drastic measures (including civil penalties) to ensure physical distance, he underscored the importance of maintaining social connections, touchingly recounting how he is doing this himself with his daughter, who was in isolation for two weeks.

“I was very aware of what she was dealing with and what she was feeling,” he said. “I tell you the truth I had some of the best conversations with her that I have ever had … we talked about things in depth that we didn’t have time to talk about in the past, or we didn’t have the courage or the strength to talk about in the past.” He urged people to be “mindful” that those “three word sentences can make all the difference: ‘I miss you;’ you know ‘I love you, I’m thinking about you; I wish I was there with you; I’m sorry you’re going through this’…”

Indeed, a large body of research points to the immense physical and mental health benefits of such social connections. Social isolation, by contrast, brings risk, especially for older folks.

In the difficult circumstances we are facing now, we can still connect and take social responsibility — even as we are trying to stay physically distant. Social responsibility and connectivity come in different forms, and they go hand in hand with empathy, compassion, and humanity.

So how do we remain socially connected and responsibly engaged at a time when physical distance is critical?

For one, we can use technology to strengthen friendships and support one another through telephone, social media, text, video chat, and even gaming. If you are able to work from home, consider taking the time you would have spent commuting to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors — even and especially those who might not have heard from you in a while.

People and organizations are also rapidly re-thinking membership and group participation in imaginative ways. They are holding virtual religious gatherings, and other social events — famously, now, singing together from balconies in Italy; streaming opera nightly (as the Metropolitan Opera began this week), having virtual parties, happy hours and celebrations.

Now is the time to unleash our capacity for collective creativity and find new ways to build meaningful community and connection.

We can also turn our creative energies toward social action. Seattle, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, is witnessing an impressive flourishing of outreach: people helping each other out. One Seattle resident — an artist — made a Facebook live video where he read guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Ethiopian-American community — in Amharic — in order to replace swirling rumor and misinformation with hard science.

Even the writing of this piece has been a group effort — by UCLA sociologists concerned that the call for “social distancing” risked doing unintentional harm — and needed to be replaced with the more precise language of “physical distancing.”

Physical (but not social) distancing still allows us to provide material support to the most vulnerable in many ways, like asking neighbors if we can pick up groceries, pet food, and other essentials for them — delivered from a safe distance — to minimize travel. We can refrain from panic shopping and the hoarding of essential resources, which creates artificial scarcity that affects everyone.

We can organize to provide enrichment for youngsters who are suddenly being homeschooled, as in the #openschools project. We can combat the spread of misinformation online and enhance the collective intelligence of social media discourse about Covid-19. And we can call on our leaders, employers, and corporations to provide needed resources and coverage for people who cannot afford to work from home so that they too can practice physical distancing.

In California, the most populous state in the country, Gov. Newsom has ordered residents to stay home and closed restaurants, bars, gyms, retail stores, offices, and all non-essential establishments to ensure physical distancing.

Gov. Cuomo’s mandate directs 75% of the New York workforce stay home. Similar mandates across other states will follow. These radical but necessary steps to ensure physical distance will result in significant job losses and likely a recessionary economy — and undoubtedly create considerable stress for millions of workers.

We must be particularly supportive of those among us who are vulnerable to contagion — unable to “physically distance”– precisely because of the work they do. This includes not only health care workers but also service and delivery workers, domestic and home care workers, cashiers, sanitation workers, janitors, store clerks, farm workers, and food servers who quietly but vitally sustain our collective lifestyles, even in a pandemic.

They cannot afford to be absent from work, cannot work remotely, and often do not have health insurance.

In large cities, like our own Los Angeles, these workers are often immigrants who also bear the weight of negative stereotypes and discrimination and often experience social and institutional exclusion. Our notions of social connection and responsibility must be big enough to include the vulnerable among us. As coronavirus has made abundantly clear, health is not an individual matter. Such diseases do not respect social or political divisions.

While the Covid-19 pandemic will eventually pass, its consequences will be with us for years. The fallout will disproportionately harm many of the same people who are suffering now: the socially and economically marginalized. But this is not inevitable.

Just as physical distancing can give us a fighting chance of combating this virus, finding creative and socially responsible ways to connect in crisis can have positive and long-lasting effects on our communities.

We must be physically distant now — our health depends on it. But we should redouble our efforts to be socially close. Our health depends on that, too.

This article originally appeared on CNN.com.

Arthur Ashe’s Most Impactful Serve – The National Junior Tennis League

Fifty-one years ago, Arthur Ashe became the first (and last) African American man to win the U.S. Open, which begins tomorrow. As is fitting, last year the tennis community celebrated this remarkable achievement. This year, however, marks a 50-year milestone that likely meant much more to Ashe, and has truly shaped America’s communities with a positive and lasting effect that extends far beyond the sport of tennis, yet has received far less attention.

If we are looking to impact, and the ability to make a difference for young people from families of modest means, Ashe’s most meaningful contribution to the world – and there were many – arguably came as a result of a partnership with his fellow UCLA alum, Charles “Charlie” Pasarell and Sheridan “Sherry” Snyder (UVA) in the form of the National Junior Tennis League, now National Junior Tennis and Learning.

The three friends and accomplished athletes decided 50 years ago that the sport of tennis deserved the presence and participation of all Americans, including those who didn’t belong to country clubs or with the means to travel or hire coaches, all the accoutrements of success desirable in those days, and the result was the establishment of the NJTL. Ashe insisted that the organization be more than about bringing the talent of the inner city to tennis courts; he advocated for the creation of academic support programs for each chapter. This was idea was transformative.

Building the NJTL was not an easy feat – the founders had to convince the mayors of cities to endorse using their tennis courts for this programming. They convinced companies like Coca-Cola, Chase and many others to become financial sponsors. The friends diligently recruited competent coaches willing to work for a pittance with young people less privileged than those they may have coached in the past. Children of color had to be encouraged to see themselves as tennis players. To its credit, in 1985 the United States Tennis Association (USTA) took over the administration of NJTL, but Ashe, Pasarell and Snyder remained, as we say today, “all in.”

One of Ashe’s protégés shared with me the story of having Ashe himself watch him play tennis when he was a young man. As a black college student, he hoped tennis would be his ticket to success.  Ashe watched him play several times and several times the tennis phenom couched his assessment that while the young man would be a good tennis player, he didn’t have the skill set to thrive at the professional level by saying, “So you are keeping up your grade point average, right?” The protégée took the hint, kept his GPA high and with that coaching, became a successful business man who now keeps up his tennis game at the country club where he holds a membership. This of course, is just one small example of Ashe’s personal impact.

To be sure, it is challenging to single out which of Arthur Ashe’s many accomplishments is the most significant. Because I teach a focused freshman seminar called Fiat Lux on Arthur Ashe and oversee the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund at UCLA, I am often asked to weigh in on what he should be most remembered for. Given what he packed in during his 49-year life, this is a bit of a fool’s errand.  After all, his tennis accomplishments are etched in the record books—in addition to the U.S. Open, he was the first (and last) African American male to win the finals at Wimbledon (1975).

But aside from his well-known successes on the court, off the court he was never still. He was a quiet but effective friend to the Civil Rights movement in the United States and became an ardent and respected advocate for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  His commitment to social justice causes was life-long; within months of his death he was arrested for protesting what he had concluded was the unfair treatment of Haitian immigrants.

When Ashe was afflicted with heart disease in his mid-30s, he agreed to tell his story for the American Heart Association as part of its campaign to encourage Americans to know the warning signs of cardiac disease. While such a public proclamation seems tame today, in the 1970s, there was significant reputational risk in letting the public know of his weakened condition. His HIV-AIDS diagnosis in 1988 coincided with the dark early days when the disease and those who suffered from it endured enormous and often intractable stigma. While he didn’t immediately go public with his situation, once he did, he was all in as a spokesperson for research and fair treatment for sufferers.  Prior to his death and thanks to the tireless efforts of his wife following it, millions of dollars were secured for research.

And yet, according to the many members of the NJTL community that are celebrating this 50-year anniversary, Ashe was to the very last devoted to the cause of raising up young people in diverse communities. He was as willing to run drills with and coach during the first years of the program, when he was a tennis star himself, as he was in the last summers of his life, when he was afflicted with HIV.

No male African American has surpassed Ashe’s tennis achievements—a dispiriting fact that would sadden him profoundly. But his other legacy, off the court, is just as compelling, if not more so, than his profound achievements as an athlete. It is not an exaggeration to say that because of the shared passion and unflagging engagement of Ashe, Pasarell and Snyder, tens of thousands of young people from New York, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and other cities went from their playgrounds to college to positions and lifestyles commensurate with their highest goals.

Ashe never stopped championing equality and community through the NJTL – a remarkable legacy that has resounding and relevant impact even today.

 

Patricia Turner is senior dean of the UCLA College, and dean and vice provost of UCLA’s Division of Undergraduate Education. Turner is an expert in World Arts and Cultures and African-American Studies, and teaches a freshman seminar on Arthur Ashe’s significant accomplishments.

The Cost That Holds Back Ed-Tech Innovation

By John Lynch

This article was originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Recently, I had an unexpected revelation as I watched a colleague of mine work with a pair of instructors to “hybridize” their introductory foreign-language class.

The team spent weeks breaking down their expected learning outcomes, then more weeks drafting scripts for videos (to supplement the existing textbook) and quiz questions to help students practice those skills, then months recording the videos and building those quizzes in Moodle, our campus learning-management system. Finally, after almost a year of planning and production, the instructors were able to begin testing their new tools by rigorously comparing the learning outcomes of students in the hybrid sections to those of students in traditional-format classes.

Illustration by John W. Tomac for The Chronicle

Recent research indicates that creating an instructional environment rich in real-time data about student achievement is perhaps the most powerful positive intervention that an instructor can make. So I was excited to see that the new hybrid materials were designed to collect substantial data about student achievement and behavior throughout the course. Want to know how well someone understands past-tense verb conjugation? What about the vocabulary for giving directions? Or matching the gender of nouns, articles, and adjectives? All of these data are available, and given a properly designed dashboard, a skilled instructor could use them to personalize the learning experience of every student in the class. Alternatively, motivated students could use these data to direct their own practice.

But if such an intervention is so effective, why aren’t we doing this in all of our classes? The answer, of course, is cost — but not the cost that I expected. Specifically, it wasn’t the technological cost. Although the instructors used some innovative technologies in their course redesign, none of those is critical to the personalized-learning aspect: The quizzes could be delivered by any learning-management system, or even on paper, and one could reveal the same data in almost-real time with only a properly designed spreadsheet. Nor was it the cost of the instructional designer, or the educational technologist. The single greatest cost of the course redesign that I watched was the faculty instructors (or “subject-matter experts,” as they’re often referred to), who spent hundreds of hours planning and designing all of the new content.

More important, I also realized that faculty will be the biggest cost for just about any successful educational technology project. Instructional designers can advise instructors on learning outcomes and ways to measure them, but they cannot actually design the assignments or reconfigure the readings and other supplemental materials. Technologists can build a quiz in a learning-management system from a spreadsheet listing questions and answers, but they cannot create the spreadsheet in the first place, without an expert’s knowledge of the course content, and they certainly cannot record videos on an instructor’s behalf, authoritatively explicating a subject, even from a script!

A technology platform might be able to transform structured data into an easy-to-parse graph or dashboard, but it cannot structure that data by itself, and we’re still a long way from being able to effectively and efficiently measure “critical thinking and analysis” or “written communication skills” via multiple-choice questions. The instructor, the content expert, is the thread that ties all of these other pieces together, the one without whom the others would be irrelevant.

Unfortunately, when it comes to improving instructional outcomes, giving instructors adequate time and support for course redesign isn’t how most universities seem to spend their money.

Anecdotally, I can think of instructional “innovations” at many institutions where the administration paid a high price for a new, much-praised technology platform while expecting faculty members to voluntarily commit their own time to learning it and putting it in place. Unfortunately, technology platforms are rarely the holy grail. That is to say, they do not solve problems merely by being licensed. Instead, they must be learned and used, and using such tools effectively generally requires labor far beyond what faculty members can afford to do while still meeting their other job requirements, whether they are tenure-track or contingent.

Recent data indicate that faculty members broadly agree. A 2016 study from Inside Higher Ed examining faculty attitudes toward technology found that only 26 percent of faculty members think that they are fairly compensated for developing online courses.

The New Media Consortium reports that 66 percent of the respondents in a recent survey “felt that faculty members lack critical support to advance new teaching and learning practices.”

“Scaling innovative teaching and learning practices requires resources and incentives, yet pedagogical efforts are seldom incorporated in tenure review,” the report says.

I am excited by a lot of the cutting-edge ideas in educational technology, such as personalized learning and predictive analytics. I believe that college students at all levels would benefit greatly if we could all evolve our teaching method from “the sage on the stage” to a data-rich “conversation” with clear learning outcomes, effectively turning every class, no matter how big, into a small seminar. Even for the most qualitative of the humanities, there are viable models that would let us implement these teaching techniques without sacrificing any of the content, depth, or diversity of experience that has traditionally characterized our fields of study.

But if we want to see serious experimentation with such teaching models, we need to first seriously consider how to compensate our instructors for the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours that such experimentation will take. Obviously, one possible approach is to actually pay them to spend extra hours on course redesign, via summer appointments or buyouts from other responsibilities. But there are other possibilities. For example, if leading universities took steps to ensure that evidence-based instructional innovation counted toward tenure advancement as much as an equivalent amount of time spent on research does, I expect that we’d see an explosion of valuable experimentation in this area.

I believe that the real barrier to widespread instructional innovation is not technical but cultural. The greatest cost of leveraging a new technology isn’t the tech itself, or the technical support for it; it’s the time required by local experts to build, revise, and sustain content that will make the most effective use of it. And since most universities do not compensate their instructors for this time, in either the short or the long term, that innovation isn’t happening nearly as fast as it could.

If successful teaching truly matters, universities (and the elected officials, donors, and other figures who influence them) need to invest more in giving faculty incentives to engage with evidence-based and learner-centric models. Will such an approach be expensive and full of false starts? Sure. But no more so, I suspect, than another 10 years spent buying software licenses in hopes of finding the holy grail.

John Lynch holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and cultures and is academic- technology manager at the Center for Digital Humanities of the University of California at Los Angeles.

UCLA faculty voice: Oroville Dam shows urgent need for climate adaptation

The crisis at Oroville Dam should be a wake-up call to those making infrastructure decisions today that will affect Californians for many years to come.

UCLA faculty voice: Americans tend to be married to their political party

People often ask me “who these people are” — those who elected Donald J. Trump or those who voted for Hillary Clinton. They’ll ask, “What’s the single best description of Trump supporters?” My answer often disappoints them.

UCLA faculty voice: Obama should not feel obligated to go quietly

If Mr. Trump expected Barack Obama, who will be the first president since Woodrow Wilson to continue living in Washington, to retire to silence, he got a rude awakening on Wednesday.

UCLA faculty voice: Putin is Trump’s most dangerous best friend

In the 1962 political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” a hostile government uses covert measures and secret agents in an elaborate plot to get its favored candidate elected president of the United States. The scenario seemed fanciful even at the height of the Cold War.

UCLA faculty voice: The One-China policy benefits China, Taiwan and the United States

Although Trump’s questioning the “One China” policy may seem like a quick and clever way to get China’s attention, this decades-old policy’s ambiguity actually benefits United States, China and Taiwan.