Thursday, August 17

Submission: Moore Hall sit-in addressing discrimination lacked open, tolerant spirit


BY STEPHANIE KIM

Like much of the UCLA community, I was moved by Sy Stokes’ recent video denouncing the lack of diversity efforts in student admissions policies, and outraged over the inadequate responses by administration to reported discrimination against faculty members of color. For many of us, race and racism are part of daily campus life – perhaps the most troubling implication of Stokes’ video and the recent report on faculty discrimination is that racism is not confined to acts by an ignorant few, but is deeply embedded within the institutions that make up UCLA. Both, however, have opened up issues of institutionalized racism into our public discourse in a much-needed direction.

Supposedly in the spirit of this discourse, on Thursday, Nov. 14, students of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies congregated in Moore Hall for what the Daily Bruin reported as “a sit-in … in response to a report released in October outlining how UCLA insufficiently treated incidents of racial discrimination.”

According to the Daily Bruin, 25 students, who claim to represent “most of the students of color in the (Social Science and Comparative Education) division,” filled Professor Val Rust’s class while it was in session. Some of the 25 students were students of his class but most were not. As can be seen in the photograph that accompanies the news story, the 25 demonstrators appear to be encircling Rust and several seated students. A letter was read aloud detailing personal experiences of racial discrimination while the encircled professor and seated students were photographed by both demonstrators and Student Media photographers.

Prior to this act, the organizers of the sit-in did not seek broader support from the division, whether from students of color or otherwise. The organizers never addressed their grievances in our divisional town halls. The organizers also did not share their letter widely with the other students and faculty members.

What the contents of the letter include, as those of us who have read it know, is a naming-and-shaming list of alleged offenses made by faculty members in the division. Rust and those five seated students were not given prior notice of the sit-in directed specifically at Rust’s class. Those five students – all white or Asian – indicated to me afterward that they felt publicly humiliated by what had happened.

On one hand, the demonstrators and Student Media reporters and photographers violated the safety and privacy of the classroom. On the other hand, the encircling of only white and Asian students sends a message that, along with Rust, white and Asian students are those responsible for what the demonstrators call the “hostile and toxic environment for students of color here in Moore Hall and throughout the campus.”

Based on the tension reverberating throughout the division, I believe that the sit-in was a deliberately mean-spirited circus that creates exactly the hostile and toxic environment split along unsettling racial lines that the demonstrators claim to be fighting against.

Perhaps the most tragic consequence is the emotional scars inflicted, not just upon Rust and the five students, but upon everyone in the division. As a student of the division, I am outraged that this one-off act of belligerence was used as a form of activism for a legitimate cause.

As a woman of color, I am deeply saddened that my adviser and mentor for the last five years, Rust, was unjustly demonized as the symbol of white male oppression as a cheap way of arousing public support.

And lastly, I am dismayed at the carelessness of reporting by the Daily Bruin that failed to provide a more nuanced story that includes the perspectives of Rust and those five students, or the perspectives of the larger student and faculty bodies of the division.

Racial discrimination exists at UCLA, and the grievances of students affected by this must be addressed – that is what is at stake here. In the undergraduate writing seminar that I teach, I show a YouTube video of former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace making vulgar remarks against Asian students because it’s an important piece of a larger dialogue on race and racism that I believe all UCLA students should be having. While watching this video, my students and I discuss issues of white privilege and reflect upon critical race theory readings that I assign – and I can see that my students become more thoughtful and engaged members of the UCLA community because of it.

These freshman students, almost 15 years my junior, often surprise me with their insights on race and racism that I can also learn from. It is in this open and tolerant spirit that the demonstrators should share their grievances, and transform what was otherwise a clumsy and disingenuous act into a constructive forum for much-needed dialogue.

Kim is a graduate student in the Social Science and Comparative Education division of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

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  • Troy Keali’i Lau

    This article is about alignment of loyalties, not a discussion of the facts, or larger more pressing issues of race, gender and sexuality outside of that one SSCE course. You use a small sliver of the overall population in the UCLA Education Department, because Asians and Pacific Islanders are joining the Graduate Students of Color in this Call 2 Action. Please don’t speak for us Asians and Pacific Islanders… we’ll speak for ourselves, and some of us choose to disagree, be confrontational, and discontinue the process of internalizing the microagressions that have been inflicted upon us. Do not position Students of Color against Whites and Asians. I would like to believe that we also have White Allies. Our experiences are real, and we wish to share our own narratives. So, thank you for the opportunity to share mine…

    An event has taken place that has allowed Graduate Students of Color and their Allies to form collective action. This action is in direct response to apathetic and flippant responses to racial, gender and sexuality issues here in Moore Hall. These racialized, genderized and sexualized experiences are not new (as indicated within the Moreno Report), and the failure to enact transformative change in our learning environment has created a place where Students of Color endure the “thousand daily cuts.”

    In the Moreno Report, our professors expose and document outright aggression, and violent microaggressions, here at UCLA. As Graduate Students of Color that breathe the same air, we are exposed to the same toxic experiences. In an effort to transform our space, and support our professors’, we submit this petition to you as a first step to creating praxis. Moore Hall is more than an ivory tower for the production of knowledge to be dealt out to our communities. This is a space where communities have come to participate in the creation of their own knowledge, from their own perspective and use of narratives, and from an epistemology and framework of their choosing. Some Students of Color, not all, feel that the current learning community here at Moore Hall does not reflect this philosophy.

    Please consider participating by clicking on the following link. The list of demands are fluid, and we look forward to your participation and/or support in shaping demands that will encourage the fulfillment of our democracy here in Moore Hall. While I expose myself to personal and departmental retribution for my involvement, I do so willingly and humbly, and respect that I cannot ask this from all of you.

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/931/772/264/ucla-call2action/

    Your friend and ally,

    Troy Keali’i Lau

    • Lycos50

      So I followed the link. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an assembly of rubbish presented with what seems like earnestness. It seems these kids have been pampered all their life because of their minority status and now demand that academic life adjusts to their unique “needs.”

      But I like their complaint about the “effects of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and other forms of institutionalized oppression have manifested within the department and deride our intellectual capacity, methodological rigor, and ideological legitimacy.” I nice sentence to use whenever the question of the seriousness of their issues arises.

      • Troy Keali’i Lau

        Sorry I stopped reading after the generalization of minority status and “their” issues. I probably should have stopped reading after the “kids” comment, but I thought someone that hide behind a “call name,” or alter ego, would have more to add to the discussion. Oh well, there will be no short supply of racist narratives throughout the coming events.

        • Lycos50

          I am sure you are right about racist narratives (and racist presumptions). Unfortunately, more often than not these are coming nowadays from the so-called “minorities.”

        • Jason Westerly

          Again, you must be silent. As a person of color, I will NOT have you speak for me. You must not speak!!! I require you to retract what you have said. That you would DARE to claim group identity as a person of color, then claim spokepersonship is a huge aggression. I will not tolerate it. I hope that you are expelled for your blatant oppression. You must NOT SPEAK FOR THE GROUP! CRIMINAL!

          I can only pray that you are punished for the damage you have created to our cause. Heteronormative racist pig!!!

        • Cobra_x30

          You ARE the racist. I mean holy crap there are guys with shaved heads and swastika tattoos that don’t even come close to your level of racism.

    • Wesley Harris

      Please be aware that white is no longer an acceptable epithet for a person of lesser skin tones. We now prefer the term Persons of the Snow. It is much less derogatory, and will not allow you to so forcefully disregard and insult us as you have been doing for so long now.

    • Jason Westerly

      You do NOT speak for me! How dare you! That you would group identify is a crime against our race. You multiply the aggressions against us by claiming to speak. Filth!

  • ChicanaPhD

    I am too annoyed with your response to educate you in a polite manner. You obviously do not understand the racist and gendered attacks on students prior to and during this class that finally pushed them into action. “Prior to this act, the organizers of the sit-in did not seek broader support from the division, whether from students of color or otherwise. The organizers never addressed their grievances in our divisional town halls. The organizers also did not share their letter widely with the other students and faculty members.” False. I cannot speak for other departments but the issues addressed by these brave students have been ongoing and reoccurring within the Education department and specifically in SSCE for years! The students DID reach out to other students and shared the letter. For the last seven years, other students have reached out to faculty members and administrators, only to be ignored. Please learn some of that history of the division and department before speaking on this matter. At least our new Dean is serious about addressing this issue–because the students have spoken up. “Perhaps the most tragic consequence is the emotional scars inflicted, not just upon Rust and the five students, but upon everyone in the division.” Please do not generalize to “everyone” in the division. You do NOT speak for me.

    • Sparky

      What “racist and gendered attacks”? Who’s being accused of what here? Put up or shut up.

      • szpappa

        …by zoombies. Someone needs a lesson on passive voice.

    • Wesley Harris

      How dare anyone have an opinion, especially one differing from your own

    • Jason Westerly

      You shame our cause. You are a racist pig.

  • Student

    I am glad this issue is finally coming to the forefront. As a student of color in Moore Hall, I have never experienced more racism in my life. The irony is that the racism comes from other students of color. CRT students are the biggest bullies in Moore Hall. If you are a (non-white) student who doesn’t subscribe to CRT, you are considered ignorant, even if that framework is not relevant to your research abroad. There is room for different research perspectives. Let passion guide our research, not dogma.

  • SSCE Student

    I agree with the student below. CRT students ONLY look from the perspective of their experiences and are quick to disregard the opinions and experiences of their white counterparts, and even other students of color. I have felt intimated or even disrespected in discussions and courses where CRT students are constantly attacking other students and professors with the narrow view of their experiences and beliefs. There is too much finger pointing from these students and not enough understanding or even an EFFORT to understand others.

  • AnonymouseIsAWoman

    I had no idea that I was a minority being discriminated against while I was in graduate school. My professors were prone to correcting punctuation, spelling, grammar, and citations in the days before home computers. I had classes that used the Chicago Manual of Style, the APA style, and two or three other styles of writing that were specialized for scientific fields. I had to learn *all* of them. I even had a professor who decided we needed to use the LEX word processing system on the mainframe and the mini-computer – which meant knowing both VMS and UNIX – and using an acoustic coupler that raced at a blinding 300 baud from the workstation to the campus computing center.
    I think some people need to recognize that academia is a highly stylized environment, and that academic English likely qualifies as a dialect in its own right. I think that the students need to rethink their career paths if they need to be “rescued” from a discussion as to which groups qualify as oppressed since if they go into academia, they will need to be prepared to defend their own ideas and neither the professor nor mommy is going to rescue them.
    I knew there was a reason I turned down that PhD fellowship in history and decided to earn an additional BS in Computer Science. B^)