UCSD black alumni to gather amidst rising tension

A reunion of black alumni of UC San Diego is scheduled for this week amid controversy over a ghetto-themed, off-campus party and a satirical program aired on the closed-circuit campus television station that defended the party.

The alumni gathering is scheduled for Friday evening at The Stage @ The Pub at the La Jolla campus and is being put together by the Black Alumni Council and the UCSD Alumni Association, according to the university’s Web site.

Last weekend’s party that sparked the controversy was billed as the “Compton Cookout,” and an invitation urged party-goers to dress and act “ghetto.” The school’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity ha denied media reports that it sponsored the off-campus party.

When the invitation was posted on Facebook, it drew fire, especially from civil rights groups and black students, who are about 2 percent of the 29,000 enrolled on the campus, compared to 6.7 percent of the state’s population.

The Black Student Union declared a “racial state of emergency” after the student-run campus TV channel on Thursday aired a defense of the party by an irreverent student group. According to the BSU, the broadcast called critics of the party ungrateful and used the n-word.

Students searching for a tape of the broadcast found a scrap of cardboard in the TV station with the words “Compton lynching” written on it, further fueling tensions.

Student government shut down the student-run closed-circuit TV station while the incident is investigated, and about 200 students, mostly black, staged a march across the campus on Friday and met with school administrators to present a list of 32 demands that included more funding for minority recruitment and retention programs and creation of a safe space on campus for black students.

Tearful black students told administrators they do not feel safe on campus, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who has called the party and TV show offensive, listened to the group’s concerns and agreed to implement many of their demands, but many of the students were still angry.

Vice Chancellor Penny Rue is scheduled to lead a “teach-in” on Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Price Center, exploring “why racially stereotyped events still occur and the impact of these events in our community,” according to the university’s Web site.

Rue issued a statement saying university staff are working on disciplinary processes with the national arm of the fraternity that allegedly sponsored the party, and are trying to determine whether organizers violated the school’s code of conduct.

“I understand that students of color, already finding themselves seriously under-represented on our campus, see this incident as an example of UC San Diego’s unwelcoming climate,” Rue said in a statement posted on the university’s Web site.

“The remedy for dangerous, offensive or extreme speech is more speech, not less,” Rue said in an effort to encourage students to participate in Wednesday’s forum.