In March 1881, the California State Legislature authorized the creation of a southern branch of the California State Normal School (now San José State University) in downtown Los Angeles to train teachers for the growing population of Southern California. The Los Angeles branch of the California State Normal School opened on August 29, 1882, on what is now the site of the Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library system. The facility included an elementary school where teachers-in-training could practice their technique with children. That elementary school is related to the present day UCLA Lab School. In 1887, the branch campus became independent and changed its name to Los Angeles State Normal School.
In 1914, the school moved to a new campus on Vermont Avenue (now the site of Los Angeles City College) in East Hollywood. In 1917, UC Regent Edward Augustus Dickson, the only regent representing the Southland at the time, and Ernest Carroll Moore, Director of the Normal School, began to lobby the State Legislature to enable the school to become the second University of California campus, after UC Berkeley. They met resistance from UC Berkeley alumni, Northern California members of the state legislature, and Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California from 1899 to 1919, who were all vigorously opposed to the idea of a southern campus. However, David Prescott Barrows, the new President of the University of California, did not share Wheeler's objections.
On May 23, 1919, the Southern Californians' efforts were rewarded when Governor William D. Stephens signed Assembly Bill 626 into law, which transformed the Los Angeles Normal School into the Southern Branch of the University of California. The same legislation added its general undergraduate program, the College of Letters and Science. The Southern Branch campus opened on September 15 of that year, offering two-year undergraduate programs to 250 Letters and Science students and 1,250 students in the Teachers College, under Moore's continued direction.
Southern Branch of the University of California's Vermont Campus, 1922.
Under University of California President William Wallace Campbell, enrollment at the Southern Branch expanded so rapidly that by the mid-1920s the institution was outgrowing the 25 acre Vermont Avenue location. The Regents searched for a new location and announced their selection of the so-called "Beverly Site"—just west of Beverly Hills—on March 21, 1925 edging out the panoramic hills of the still-empty Palos Verdes Peninsula. After the athletic teams entered the Pacific Coast conference in 1926, the Southern Branch student council adopted the nickname "Bruins", a name offered by the student council at UC Berkeley. In 1927, the Regents renamed the Southern Branch the University of California at Los Angeles (the word "at" was officially replaced by a comma in 1953, in line with other UC campuses). In the same year, the state broke ground in Westwood on land sold for $1 million, less than one-third its value, by real estate developers Edwin and Harold Janss, for whom the Janss Steps are named. The campus in Westwood opened to students in 1929.
The original four buildings were the College Library (now Powell Library), Royce Hall, the Physics-Biology Building (formerly the Humanities Building and now the Renee and David Kaplan Hall), and the Chemistry Building (now Haines Hall), arrayed around a quadrangular courtyard on the 400 acre (1.6 km²) campus. The first undergraduate classes on the new campus were held in 1929 with 5,500 students. After lobbying by alumni, faculty, administration and community leaders, UCLA was permitted to award the master's degree in 1933, and the doctorate in 1936, against continued resistance from UC Berkeley.
A timeline of the history can be found on its website, as well as a published book.
Maturity as a university
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with: History after 1951. You can help by adding to it. (June 2016)
During its first 32 years, UCLA was treated as an off-site department of UC. As such, its presiding officer was called a "provost", and reported to the main campus in Berkeley. In 1951, UCLA was formally elevated to co-equal status with UC Berkeley, and its presiding officer Raymond B. Allen was the first chief executive to be granted the title of chancellor. The appointment of Franklin David Murphy to the position of Chancellor in 1960 helped spark an era of tremendous growth of facilities and faculty honors. By the end of the decade, UCLA had achieved distinction in a wide range of subjects. This era also secured UCLA's position as a proper university and not simply a branch of the UC system. This change is exemplified by an incident involving Chancellor Murphy, which was described by him:
I picked up the telephone and called in from somewhere, and the phone operator said, "University of California." And I said, "Is this Berkeley?" She said, "No." I said, "Well, who have I gotten to?" "UCLA." I said, "Why didn't you say UCLA?" "Oh", she said, "we're instructed to say University of California." So the next morning I went to the office and wrote a memo; I said, "Will you please instruct the operators, as of noon today, when they answer the phone to say, 'UCLA.'" And they said, "You know they won't like it at Berkeley." And I said, "Well, let's just see. There are a few things maybe we can do around here without getting their permission."
On June 1, 2016, two men were killed in a murder-suicide at an engineering building in the university. School officials put the campus on lockdown as Los Angeles Police Department officers, including SWAT, cleared the campus.
In 2018, the university came into the national spotlight when the Los Angeles Times reported that four UCLA employees had filed lawsuits against UCLA and the UC Board of Regents having accused their workplace supervisor of sexual harassment and the university of failing to properly handle abuse complaints. The harassment allegedly started in early 2016, according to the lawsuits. The women faced retaliation from other supervisors after they filed complaints. The retaliatory behavior included making the women do more work and not allowing them to take time off to see their attorney. They are seeking more than $120 million in damages.
Subsequently, an audit by the California State Auditor found inconsistent discipline in UCLA sexual misconduct cases. The state audit also found that UCLA did not follow university policy or Title IX requirements.