Walk-out disrupts UCSD teach-in on racism
Thousands of students and administrators attended a “teach-in’’ at UCSD Wednesday to address a recent ghetto-themed party intended to mock Black History Month and the racial unrest it sparked on campus, but the event was disrupted when the bulk of students in attendance walked out.
About an hour into the event at the university’s student center, two female students with the Black Student Union stood up and blasted the teach-in, with one saying, “The university and our community will not be fixed by a two-hour teach-in.”
Saying the university was doing little to address racism on campus, the pair urged their fellow students in the packed auditorium and overflow room to march out of the event, and the vast majority complied. The students filed out of the auditorium, loudly chanting “Whose university? Our university!”
The students then gathered en masse outside the auditorium, continuing to chant. Members of the Black Student Union work black T-shirts with the slogan “Real Pain Real Action.”
The teach-in continued in the auditorium, but only with about 100 to 150 people, including a handful of students.
Racial concerns on campus stemmed from a President’s Day party that was intended to mock Black History Month.
Called the “Compton Cookout,” organizers urged to attendees to dress and act in a manner that school officials say perpetuated racist stereotypes. An invitation on Facebook urged female participants to dress as “ghetto chicks” and said chicken, watermelon and malt liquor would be served at the party.
The situation was inflamed several days later when racially insensitive language was reportedly used on a student-run television program called KoalaTV during a discussion about the party.
Utsav Gupta, president of the UCSD Associated Students, described the program as “deeply offensive and hurtful”’ and cut funding to all fee-supported student-run media organizations pending a review. Associated Students also revoked the charter for the student-run television station.
UCSD administrators have condemned the racially themed party and said in a statement they are investigating the incidents for violations of the student code of conduct.
At Wedesday’s outdoor demonstration, a black student named Inga, who declined to give her last name, said she lived in Compton.
“When you grow up in a neighborhood where you can’t play outside at night, where your friends are shot and police helicopters shine lights at your house, you don’t think it’s a joke,” she said.
Another black student, Terrell Green, a doctoral candidate in bio-engineering, said: “No one’s been held accountable yet.
“The university is hiding behind freedom of speech, which is interesting because they try to limit speech in other cases,’” he said.
Ironically, most of the people who addressed the students who walked out of the teach-in were faculty members.
Literature professor Jorge Mariscal told the students racism at UCSD was institutionalized.
“We need structural change,” he said. “The university only responds to pressure from below. You’re making history right now.
“This institution will no longer be the same. I’m sure of that.”
The teach-in continued in the auditorium, but only with about 100-150 people. Those numbers, however, grew to about 500 by the time it wrapped up. The entire demonstration wrapped up about 2:30 p.m.
Earlier Wednesday, UCSD’s Black Student Union held a rally to urge administrators to address what they described as an environment of fear on campus.
“The university is allowing the African-American community to be racially demoralized by a group of students on campus,” according to a statement from the Black Student Union.
“Moreover, the university is in direct violation of its ‘Principles of Community,’ creating an even more hostile and alienating environment. Students do not feel safe on their own campus, and it is interfering with their everyday lives. We need direct action from the university immediately,” it continued.
In a statement issued by UCSD following Wednesday’s rally, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said the university, “stunned recently by hate- and bias- related events,” will commit its legal, moral, ethical, communal an educational resources to making changes on campus.
“As we continue to meet with the UC San Diego Black Student Union and leaders with San Diego’s African-American community, we are committed to working together to keep our students safe and to discuss and address the issues on our campus so that we can heal and rebuild,’” Fox said.
“We are making significant changes based on the BSU’s recommendations,” Fox said. “And we are creating a campus climate in which students will know, each and every day, that this university respects them and their communities. We cannot prevent the kind of deplorable events that have happened — and may happen again — but we can ensure that our students feel supported and respected so that they can succeed.’'
On Feb. 19, Black student leaders had presented UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox with a list of 32 demands seeking to “change the campus climate” toward underrepresented minorities. Two items on the four-page listed included creating a safe, central space for black students on campus, and fully funding recruitment efforts for black students.
Fox agreed immediately to providing solid funding for the African-American studies minor and ethnic studies programs. Some of the other more complex demands, such as creating a “diversity sensitivity requirement” for all undergraduates, Fox delegated to vice chancellors for further study.