This past weekend I attended the Parents Weekend at UCLA but I had to do so under the stealth of night because truthfully I was not even supposed to be attending. You see as a student parent, Parents Weekend is not for me. It is for the real parents of UCLA, not student parents. In fact, if you look at UCLA student parents are treated no more than your average club, not a real population. Now if I was gay and attending UCLA, I would have at least 20 different organizations to join that promote my choice in being gay. From BlacQue to TransUP and Queer Alliance, I would have a real voice in how things are done at UCLA.
For instance, even though 15,849 women attend UCLA and make up 55.3 percent of the campus, [http://www.aim.ucla.edu] it is important to have transgender bathrooms because we can’t have a small fraction of people using the facilities that correlate with their biological sex, that is just not fair to the 0.5 of the population who feel like they are “women.” After all, it is not like sexual assault exists at UCLA and it is not like some sexual predator will use such a ruse to sexually assault women. Granted a sexual predator doesn’t need an excuse to victimize women but let’s make it easier all the same. So why do transgenders have such a more powerful voice than the women? It is because they have aligned themselves with the burgeoning gay community on campus and therefore have more of a say.
Now try to find 2o student parent organizations, it is not happening. There is just one-Students with Dependents. Before the weekend I asked for the demographics for the student parent population. They had none. About 300 students are a part of the program. There are 166 members of their Facebook page. Beyond that there was not much they could tell me. There are 3.8% or roughly 1100 Black students at UCLA. The average age is 21 at UCLA and 6% is over 25 at UCLA. Given that I am a Black 44 year old woman, I am used to being the minority. However, to have absolutely no statistics on the student parent population is downright disgraceful especially for a school that prides themselves on being “diverse.”
Let me preface all this by saying no one loves UCLA more than I do. Let me give you my back story. I arrived on the UCLA campus during the Fall of 2012. I was a transfer from LACC (By the way the transfers are 29 percent of the population and now have a new representative on ASUCLA) but as the quarter progressed, I began to get sicker and sicker. So I went to the Ashe Center to see what is wrong. If you take nothing else from this remember this: ALWAYS opt in for USHIP, ALWAYS!!! At the Ashe Center I met my guardian angel, Fara Anzures. After examining me she saw I was seriously ill and sent me to 100 Medical Plaza across the street for further tests. There I met Dr. Kamran Shamsa, the world’s greatest cardiologist if ever there was one. He became my advocate and fought for me to get surgery on my heart. I would require a triple bypass and have my aortic and mitral valves replaced. The surgeon who performed the surgery was none other than Richard Shemin, the best in the country when it came to this kind of complicated heart surgery. So I owe my life to these three angels. It is therefore with a heavy heart that this episode of feeling rejected by the same people who saved me-UCLA-leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
So now back to the Parents Weekend. When I filled out the form for Parents Weekend I had to lie and state that my 11 year old son was my guardian. Now remember when you apply to UCLA you give them information about your parents. I told them that my parents were deceased, yet I still receive letters that read to the parents of Dena Leichnitz. Why do you even ask the question, if you are not going to utilize the information? In any case, my son was my surrogate “father.” I paid the money and then on Friday I went to the dinner. Being that I was a parent, I had to pick up my son from school before I could attend. So that meant missing out on all the activities that take place on Friday, which is basically everything. Nothing really happens on Saturday.
The day I picked up my badge and other parent weekend necessities, I went through everything and put on my badge. Initially, I wore it with a certain amount of pride until I realized everyone who was a student had a badge that read their name and was followed by UCLA College, Los Angeles. Mine said Dena Leichnitz, Los Angeles, California. The parents badge had written their name UCLA Parent, I had nothing. Not UCLA College, not UCLA Parent, nothing, I might as well been a party crasher and considering that is how I felt, it cut deep. It sounds silly but I wanted to cry. I wasn’t even being credited as being part of the school. So I wrote in big letters STUDENT AND PARENT. It was my outward sign of defiance.
On Saturday I attended one event. My son during this whole time was on the computers in Powell Library. After all, this wasn’t his idea no need to make him sit through a history class on a Saturday. On Sunday, he did sit through the Parent’s Council and once again I was told the higher ups would do what they could to have student parents on the Parents Council. I signed up my name as being interested in that was that. Even when I talked to Chancellor Gene Block, who was cordial overall, when I brought up how wrong it was not have student parents be a part of this thing I was blown off. “Well this is more for parents who are visiting out of town, we have other things for our diverse population.” And if that is not a verbatim quote, it is close enough.
As a right wing zealot I should be the last one giving people a lesson in “diversity.” After all, no one is more for tradition, no more for mothers being called mothers and fathers being called fathers. No one is more for protecting the traditional family and marriage than I am. So then how did I become the one who has to be the one to tell the university that it is not okay to discriminate against a whole group of parents just because they do not happen to be a parent of UCLA student but ARE the UCLA student. How then am I then the one saying, your idea of parent needs to change? The whole thing seems surreal. I guess the lesson for UCLA is twofold, start paying attention to your student parent population, we are here and we matter and two next time you give someone a new heart be sure you don’t inflame a new passion.