Tuesday, July 16

‘Higher Learning’

‘Higher Learning’

Melnitz, AAP team up for discussion on Singleton film,
affirmative action issues

By Rex Polkinghorne

The recent debates over affirmative action have generated one
idea that everyone can agree on: We need to talk about it. Melnitz
Movies teams up with the Academic Advancement Program and student
groups tonight to present Films and Forums, where a free screening
of the film Higher Learning will be followed by a discussion on
affirmative action with a panel of experts.

"It’s a different way to educate and facilitate dialogue," said
panel moderator Took Took Thongthiraj, "we’re encouraging people to
state their opinions, to be open minded and to challenge
themselves. We want people to come away with answers, and the film
is to make the process interesting."

John Singleton’s film Higher Learning, depicts life on a
fictitious college campus, which was intended by the director to
serve as a metaphor for America, where people of every race, color
and creed come together and often clash.

"People may see the film as exaggerated," said Thongthiraj, "but
if we don’t start talking about these issues, it might escalate to
what we saw in the film. There were misconceptions and
miscommunications in the film that we hope to avoid. We’re going to
focus on the fact that it deals with racism on a campus and how
that affects individuals."

Students will receive a packet of information as they enter
Melnitz Theater containing a history of affirmative action and AAP,
UCLA’s affirmative action program. Intended to give a historical
perspective, this packet will contain information about affirmative
action’s inception and purpose, the first cases to use it, the
recent attacks against it and a list of myths and facts about the

The racially and academically diverse panel represents different
parts of the university including faculty, administrators and

"Hopefully," says Dan Bernardi, AAP tutor and liaison between
AAP and Melnitz Movies, "they will have some different points of
view for different ways to analyze the issues."

The panel includes Richard Yarborough, an English professor;
Margie Zamundia, a former AAP student, tutor and graduate mentor
who witnessed AAP go under fire when it was almost discontinued
years ago; John Delloro, a graduate student who has studied
affirmative action and other retention programs at length; and
Jioni Palmer, the undergraduate coordinator of the African Student

"As tutors, we feel as though we need to say something about all
this," Thongthiraj says. "This is a serious issue and it will get
on the ballot. We need to learn from the mistakes we made with
Prop. 187 in moving too slowly and educate early this time."

Although the issues are heavy, the debate will not be. "It’ll be
cool and relaxed," says Bernardi, "No pressure, no moralizing, just
a dialogue. People don’t even have to stay for the discussion, but
hopefully it’ll be stimulating, educational and fun."

FILM: Higher Learning at Melnitz Theater, 7:30 p.m., April 12.
Free tickets available at AAP and Melnitz box office. For info call

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.