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The UCLA Department of Communication proudly announces rolling out their new PhD program where the first cohort will begin with the 2020-2021 academic year. The department will be sure to attract the best and the brightest since the undergraduate program is robust and students flock to that major. The expertise the faculty hold within the department and across the campus will offer the graduate students plenty of opportunities to shape their research in innovative ways. The department anticipates that the doctoral students will do well on the job market both in academia and the private sector. They have already seen this with the the assistance of UCLA alum Michael Allen who helped market the program using industry standards that culminated into this VIDEO.

This partnership started through the department’s longstanding relationship and sponsorship of the undergraduate UCLA Bruin Advertising and Marketing Team that competes nationally. Students like Felician Crisostomo, who are on team, also partook in the marketing of this new program. Crisostomo spoke about how this was one of the most exciting and rich experiences he has had at UCLA.

He was contacted by Dr. Kerri Johnson, Interim Vice Chair, this past spring quarter to aid with the project and connected him with Mr. Allen. They took the summer to put together a 5-minute video. Part of the project was for Crisostomo to really get to know the expertise within the department. He was most impressed with visiting professors’ labs and classes and witnessed how different methods are utilized to advance the field. Crisostomo noted that by working side by side with a person who has been an expert in the field with 20 years of experience allowed him to gain many transferable skills.

In particular, Crisostomo appreciated being part of the decision-making process by assisting with the images and messaging for the video. Crisostomo said, “It was exciting, because we got to work with Mike [Allen] an industry expert in marketing and pick his brain about the campaign along with Paul [Connor] for the video. I got first-hand experience with the manuscript, messaging and the actually filing of the video.”

Crisostomo believes that this experience has enabled him to be a more competitive member of the Bruin Marketing and Advertising campus organization and prepared him for work beyond the university.

This process is reflective of the types of expertise the department holds which bridges the expertise of the alumni and community partners to give its students a more comprehensive and suitable experience. Crisostomo has come to understand all the benefits and advantages of the PhD program, so much so, that he himself is seriously considering applying for the program. “Prior to this I never considered anything after undergraduate, but learning more about the program has opened me up to graduate school and [how it’s] applicable in my industry. It has broadened my views on opportunities that are out there.”

Dr. Kerri Johnson shares the excitement for the new program that arises from a department that produces cutting-edge research in three areas: cognitive, political, and computational. She shares that the faculty realized that given the work that the department does alongside their alumni and community partners that a premiere PhD program would inevitably come to fruition. The department is growing with the arrival of three new faculty members that will be available to the first incoming cohort. Dr. Johnson said that this program would provide world-class graduate training based on an interdisciplinary approach that includes multi-method training. Dr. Johnson was very excited to also work with Mr. Allen and Mr. Crisostomo in a collective manner.  She stated, “The team reported to me what we needed for the print material and the video in order to best advertise the new PhD program. Paul is a fantastic videographer that made a difference.”

We anticipate this PhD program will attract a diverse and competitive group of students and will yield cutting edge research that will impact academia and influence different industries. Interested applicants will need to submit their application by December 15.

The demonstration against government and corruption in the The demonstration against government and corruption in the Esplanada dos Ministerios (Marcello Casal Jr / Agência Brasil) (http://www.coha.org/combatting-grand-corruption-in-brazil/)

By Sergio Guedes Reis, UCLA Master of Social Science ‘18

Citizens all over the world consistently rank corruption as one of the most important public issues of our time. For instance, global market research firm IPSOS polled 21 thousand people from 28 countries and found that 35 percent of respondents cited corruption as the most important problem facing the globe today. A close second was ‘unemployment,’ which was mentioned by 34 percent of respondents.

In Brazil, a large-scale criminal investigation initiated in 2014 has unveiled a multi-billion dollar money laundering and bribery scandal involving almost every political party, as well as some of the major engineering and contracting firms and state-controlled oil companies. The subsequent political crisis ultimately led not only to the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, but also a severe decline in people’s trust of institutions.

Interestingly, while narratives about the seemingly endemic nature of corruption in Brazil are widespread, polls suggest that actual levels of corruption may be much lower than the average rates found in other Latin American countries. That said, it is very hard to measure corruption, as it inherently happens under the radar. Taking this issue into account, watchdog organizations and survey companies usually look to gauge citizens’ perceptions of ongoing rates of corruption in their countries, ask local experts for their views on that matter, or even interview contractors about their experiences negotiating with public officers.

So in what circumstances do people accept engagement in corrupt activities or believe that corruption is positive? And why do Brazilians believe that corruption is their #1 problem, when polls consistently show that only a small percentage of citizens claim that they have had to bribe a public official themselves?

Based on this paradox, I decided to investigate what factors influence the tolerance for corruption in Brazil. After all, if so many people think corruption is a big problem in Brazil and nonetheless only a few admit engaging in corrupt practices, then it becomes crucial to understand whether certain conditions provide more room for corruption to happen than others.

In order to do so, I used two of the most recent Latin American surveys on public opinion, the 2016 Latinobarometer and the 2017 Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) surveys.

Then, I defined 3 basic forms of tolerance for corruption:

1) When citizens say they accept “corrupt, but efficient governments”

2) When they state that “bribing is sometimes acceptable”

3) When they declare that they do not feel personally obliged to report a case of corruption

There are several interpretations to why corruption exists in a society. For example, authors argue that people who advocate for authoritarian values are more prone to accept corruption, because they believe that being compliant with democratic procedures does not solve one’s own problems and thus people must take illegal, yet efficient action to achieve their goals. Others propose that low levels of trust (in other people and in institutions in general) are positively related to corruption, as discrediting others leads subjects to adopt more self-interested behavior to get things done.

I opted to test variables associated with these and other possible explanations in order to comprehend the issue at stake.

The most important findings I had were:

  • Depending on the type of tolerance towards corruption, a different set of factors was more strongly associated with it. Variables associated with authoritarian values and socio-economic and demographic attributes (such as low development, high income and inequality) were more correlated with acceptance of corrupt (but efficient) governments, justification of bribery, and low levels of trust with avoidance of reporting cases of corruption.
  • Individuals who trusted in people in general, had confidence in certain institutions or were well informed about them (the Parliament, political parties, and even groups from civil society) were also more prone to accept corruption.
  • Citizens who stated they believed in typical markers of the status quo (such as claims about the fairness in the distribution of income, the impartiality of the Judiciary branch or the existence of equality of opportunity among Brazilians) were also more likely to accept corruption.

Survey-based research can usually only capture subjects’ opinions regarding a given topic, and not their actual practices. So, it is not possible to state that a moral agreement with corruption would imply acting corruptly in a real setting. Nonetheless, a pro-corrupt attitude may represent an open door for the occurrence of rule violations if the context allows. In the Brazilian case, the presence of structural factors (such as inequality and developmental levels) as predictors of tolerance towards corruption suggest this issue to have deep roots in the country’s social fabric. It also indicates that anticorruption solutions need to be connected to welfare and redistribution policies if they are to become more efficient and effective.

Future research considering other countries, cultures and contexts may disentangle other factors and particular mechanisms through which corruption becomes an acceptable enterprise. For Brazil, at least, it seems that fostering democratic values, political accountability, social equality and education would offer a way out of the large-scale turmoil it currently faces.

 

Sergio Guedes Reis is a Federal Auditor at the Brazilian Ministry of Transparency and a 2018 graduate of UCLA’s Master of Social Science (MaSS) program.

Credit: Getty Images via Inc.com

By Sarah Gavish, UCLA Master of Social Science ‘18

In an era where adult Americans consume 12+ hours of media per day, the relationship between media and public perception has never been more complex – or fascinating.  Does media actually have potential to shape our perceptions?  If it does, how, and why?  Some studies claim that the news media is responsible for stoking our greatest fears.  I interrogated this claim, as well as existing literature and research methodologies, with the following questions:

  1. To what extent do Americans consume news media that caters to their fears?
  2. What are the factors that may influence this relationship?

My investigation began by looking at the top 10 fears in America as reported by Chapman University’s Survey of American Fears in 2017, a random sample of the fears and anxieties of the US population.  The ranking top 10 are listed below listed below:

  1. Corrupted government officials
  2. American Healthcare act/Trumpcare
  3. Pollution of Oceans, Rivers and Lakes
  4. Pollution of Drinking Water
  5. Not having enough money for the future
  6. High Medical Bills
  7. The US will be involved in another World War
  8. Global Warming & Climate Change
  9. North Korea using weapons
  10. Air Pollution

I examined the relationship between these fears and news consumption habits, considering individual consumption of three of the top news networks in the United States: MSNBC, Fox News and CNN.  Immediately I found that higher levels of fear of the Survey’s top 10 were associated with higher consumption of MSNBC and CNN, while lower levels of fear of these topics were associated with higher consumption of Fox News. To me, this very interesting finding begged further investigation.

Let’s consider timing: The 2017 Survey of American Fears was deployed and compiled in June of 2017, within six months of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, conservatives and Republicans watch more Fox News, while liberals and Democrats watch more MSNBC and CNN.  With that in mind, the study yielded two additional relevant findings: conservatives and Republicans (who watch more Fox News) say that they have little to no fear of the top 10 issues.  Liberals and Democrats on the other hand – who watch more MSNBC and CNN –  say they are afraid or very afraid of all of these things.

What we can determine, then, is this simple idea: both the news media and our fears are not only politicized, they’re partisan. 

It is important to note that conservatives and Republicans are not necessarily without fears altogether, is it simply that the top 10 fears in America in 2017 more closely mirror those of liberals and Democrats..  Further research might dive more deeply into the Survey’s sampling methods, or the sample population’s characteristics to understand if there were other socioeconomic or influencing factors pointing to specific fears, beyond political leanings.

I would hypothesize that there is an entirely separate set of politicized fears held by conservatives that are in turn stoked by the programming they regularly watch – namely, FOX News.

The screaming presence of division across party lines in our media and our fears is no coincidence, especially if you consider the content put out by these networks. Using keywords from the daily News Minute put out by the Associated Press and UCLA’s NewsScape database, I found that CNN, which bears a significant audience overlap with MSNBC, showed the most coverage of the top 10 fear topics. Fox News showed far less and, in some cases, the least.

I consider the results of my research a sincere call to action for conscious news consumption.  The “fact” of the matter is, if you watch, read, or listen to the same news sources all the time, it is very likely that you’re operating in a political echochamber of your own thoughts and fears.  It is important as individuals and as a society to recognize that our fears can be shaped by the news we consume, and that the news we consume is often airing topical programming that caters directly to our fears.

 

Sarah Gavish is a social scientist interested in solving humanity’s problems through conversation, collaboration, and an eventual upheaval of unquestionably flawed cultural institutions.  She also likes to meditate, cook, argue, and read books.  Sarah is not on social media and is happy to explain why (you shouldn’t be either) if you email her.

 

 

By Rahim Kurwa

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

“…They came in with shotguns. They came in in vests. They came in in riot gear, and they held guns on us like we were wanted criminals. They surrounded my house… And when I say they looked, they did a massive search on my house. They went in my drawers. They held guns on my kids. They went in my kitchen drawers. In my son’s drawer. They pulled out an I.D. and some money and said bam – threw it across the table at me and said hah, who is this? That’s what the officer said. Yeah. We got her. Who is this?”

Sandra is a black woman living in the Antelope Valley – Los Angeles County’s northernmost suburb. In this quote from my interview with her, Sandra, who uses the Section 8 voucher program to rent her home, describes the experience of a surprise housing inspection. In this case, inspectors thought they had caught her violating the program’s residency rules (which bar unauthorized tenants from living in the home), but she was able to prove that her son had been approved to live there. Had she not, the inspection might have led to her eviction. Stories about inspections like this are a common thread in the interviews I conducted with voucher renters in the Antelope Valley. But how and why did this encounter occur – in a historically white suburb with little history of low-income housing assistance?

The explanation in large part traces back to the Civil Rights Era and the ways that white hostility to black residents has changed over time. The year 1968 produced two major housing landmarks – the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and the publication of the Kerner Commission Report. The first barred discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. The second identified racial segregation as foundational to a broader system of racial inequality and urged integrationist housing policy in response.

In the 50 years since, programs like housing vouchers have come to dominate federal low-income housing assistance, on the premise that vouchers could help renters move out of poor and segregated neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, the program tends to generate movement either within South Los Angeles or to far-flung suburbs like the Antelope Valley. But like white residents around the country who generally prefer not to have black neighbors, many in the Antelope Valley have also resisted racial integration.

A map of L.A. County, the Antelope Valley shown in orange. Photo: laedc.org

When I talked to local residents who weren’t using vouchers, I found that two-thirds were opposed to the program, voicing stereotypes and misconceptions about it and its participants that echoed the ideas used to undermine other “social safety net” programs over the past several decades. Some local residents referenced the city’s nuisance code as a tool they could use to exert power over neighbors or get rid of them altogether. They knew, for example, that five calls made about a single rental property could penalize the property owner or landlord, pressuring them to evict the tenant. I think of these practices as a participatory form of policing, illustrating the ways that policing operates outside of the traditional institutions and actors we associate with the term.

Nuisance laws are notoriously vague and subjective. The version employed by the city of Lancaster (one of the Antelope Valley’s largest cities) considers a nuisance to be anything that is “indecent,” “offensive,” or otherwise interferes with “the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” It isn’t hard to see how these codes can be weaponized against people based on their race, class, or gender. In other cities their applications have had disastrous consequences for tenants. Here, local residents could simply observe unwanted neighbors and then report their perceived infractions to this hotline as a way to trigger fines, inspections, or even evictions. Some proudly admitted to doing so. And while many voucher renters I spoke to were determined to stay, they often knew others who had been evicted or simply decided that their neighborhoods were too hostile to remain in.

50 years after the landmark Fair Housing law that marked the legislative end of the Civil Rights Movement, we can now more clearly see how the attitudes of that time have persisted until today, and how their expression has adapted to changes in our country’s laws. To better combat racial segregation, we must see how policing contributes to it.

 

Rahim Kurwa recently completed his Ph.D. in Sociology at UCLA and will be an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall of 2018.

 

The UCLA Alumni Association will be honoring several distinguished alumni for their contributions to UCLA and beyond at this year’s alumni awards on June 2.  Among the honorees are several alumni from the Division of Social Sciences, including:

Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi, marathoner and Olympic medalist, who graduated with a bachelor’s in communication studies in 1999, and is this year’s recipient of the UCLA Award for Professional Achievement.

Angela Sanchez, who graduated with a bachelor’s in history in 2013 and a master’s degree in education with a focus in student affairs in 2015, will be receiving the UCLA Award for Community Service for her important work assisting K–12 homeless students in navigating postsecondary education.

Mark Stull, who graduated with a bachelor’s in political science in 1971, will be honored with the UCLA Award for Alumni Volunteer of the Year for his work as an active board leader in the UCLA Club of San Diego and as a vice chair of the San Diego Chancellor’s Society Board.

For information about the awardees, click here, and for more information about the alumni awards ceremony, click here.