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Outrage Over Racist Acts At Three UC Campuses

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UCR Takes A Proactive Approach

By Chris Levister –

UC Riverside Chancellor Tim White added his voice of outrage over the recent string of racist events at UC San Diego, UC Irvine and UC Davis.

“We are all diminished by such despicable and unacceptable behaviors by a few individuals…such racist bigotry and ignorance have no place in a civilized society,” White said in a statement posted on the University’s website.

In a joint statement signed by Chancellors of the ten UC campuses, UC President Mark G. Yudof said, “We will not allow the actions of a few speak for this university.”

White called racially-charged events at the UC San Diego particularly troubling. He met with UCR students Wednesday in an effort to assure, them his administration takes the incidents seriously. He committed to be proactive in identifying, confronting and eradicating racism.

White joined a growing list of UC officials, government, civil rights, community, and student leaders to include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in condemning the incidents.

“I’m deeply troubled by these horrific incidents,” said Schwarzenegger. “There is no excuse for this kind of behavior in our system and it will not be tolerated.”

UCSD students held a number of protests last week, including a sitin staged by African American students inside the chancellor’s office – after the discovery of a noose hanging on a lamp fixture atop a seventh floor bookcase in the campus main library.

A female student acknowledged responsibility for placing the noose. Police did not release the woman’s name. She told authorities she did not view the act as offensive.

She was suspended pending further investigation.

The noose was discovered less than two weeks after an off-campus party mocking Black History Month. Promising a taste of “life in the ghetto,” an invitation posted on Facebook by members the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity said the Feb. 14 “Compton Cookout” themed party urged “female participants to come as ‘ghetto chicks’ with gold teeth, cheap clothes, short nappy hair and a limited vocabulary while consuming chicken, watermelon and malt liquor.”

Garron Engstrom, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, criticized the event and said the party was neither planned nor endorsed by the social club. UC officials have launched a probe to access the fraternity’s involvement and whether it should face discipline.

Participants used the N-word on a student run television station to describe critics of the cookout. UC officials subsequently suspended funding for 33 media groups funded by the Associated Students.

Last month a Jewish student at the Davis campus found a swastika carved into her dorm room door.

Over the weekend authorities report vandals targeted the campus Lesbian, Gay, Transgender Resource Center. Anti-gay slogans were sprayed on the door and sidewalk leading up to the center.

In mid February, 11 UC Irvine students were arrested for interrupting a talk by Israel’s ambassador Michael Oren.

"How sad it is that in 2010, after having seemingly come so far, we still have to address racism on or near a public institution of higher learning like UCSD and while it doesn't make it right, we as African Americans are not surprised, given we have had to deal with the issue of institutionalized racism all of our lives," stated Riverside NAACP Branch President Woodie Rucker- Hughes.

She continues: "I commend the Chancellor of UCSD for taking swift action to denounce these acts of ignorance and to seek ways to insure that a climate of hate not be welcomed on her campus. I think the Chancellor should take advantage of this sad moment to enter into a honest dialog and meaningful next steps to create a climate of tolerance and respect while seeking ways to increase the numbers of students of color attending UCSD as well as the number of full-time and part-time faculty of color working at UCSD.

Additionally, given that the use of a noose as an act of intimidation, is against the law and is punishable with both a fine and jail time, I would ask the San Diego DA's office to prosecute those responsible for this act.

Finally, I want to see the fraternity at its National level, issue an apology to the African American community for the pain and grief this act has put upon all persons of color and I believe all students associated with the fraternity should be required to engage in a dialog with their fellow students of color to help them understand the magnitude of the actions of a few who claimed they were representing the PI fraternity."

“This is so hurtful, it’s just plain sickening,” said UCR senior Shelia K. “It’s troubling that the UC administration is merely “distressed” by these incidents. To write letters of condemnation and voice concern is not enough. This kind of racist behavior should be outlawed. Persons involved in these acts can not go unpunished.”

Protests and sit-ins at UCLA and UC Berkeley this week underscored the fact that while the events are no longer capturing headlines, racial tensions continue to boil.

“We are all brothers and sisters. We have to stand in solidarity,” said a Hispanic student at Riverside who read about the events on the UC website. “If campus climate is important, a message needs to be sent that this is not acceptable. When you have a student say hanging a noose is not offensive you have to ask what next.”

Several UCR students dressed in black in support of UCSD students.

Some gathered at the African Student Programs center on campus Monday. Most expressed support for Chancellor White’s proactive approach to confronting racism.

“He’s outraged,” said Ken Simons, Director of African Student Programs.

“Fortunately I think our students see the benefits of UCR’s on-going efforts and proactive approach to intolerance and racism. The rich diversity and the principles of respect and civility espoused here instill confidence and encourage cooler heads to prevail.”

“Watching these events play out at other UC campuses I think our students have a greater appreciation for their experiences, at the Riverside campus. They’ve developed a strong resolve and commitment to assist their friends and colleagues at San Diego,” said James Sandoval Vice Chancellor Student Affairs.

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