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Submission: Block should hold town hall to address racism on campus

By camayak

June 1, 2015 1:36 a.m.

Dear Chancellor Gene Block,

We appreciate the email that you sent out in response to the recent events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and the incendiary stickers that were posted around campus in response. We understand that you have a great responsibility as chancellor of an internationally renowned university to be the voice of UCLA. Ultimately your efforts, however, were superficial and part of a larger misrepresentation of diversity on this campus.

As first-years enrolled in a seminar analyzing interracial dynamics in America, it has come to our attention that the historical issues we are studying are still prevalent in today’s society, especially at UCLA. We are nine students, each from different ethnic, socio-economic and racial backgrounds who came to this institution expecting a racially interactive environment, but we are disappointed to say that we have been sold a lie. Diversity was one of the distinguishing factors that allowed us to individually make our decisions to come here rather than another school.

Yet, when we look at a typical day on Bruin Walk, we see students mingling within their own separate ethnic groups, indifferent to the ambush of flyers advocating for other issues that don’t pertain to them. When entering any lecture hall, segregated diversity immediately becomes apparent when we see students socializing only with those of similar backgrounds. The same can be seen in dining halls and many other social settings. The indifference toward this problem has for too long been cultivated and encouraged on this campus. Your recent letter addressing these issues only perpetuates the problem.

If commitment to diversity is truly “a part of UCLA’s DNA,” as you once stated, then why is UCLA infested with the problem of self-selected segregation? And how do we expect our student body to “find ways to work together and drive the conversation in productive ways,” as you say in your letter, if the university is unwilling to initiate the same? The passivity of the letter’s language reflects and underscores a so-called racially colorblind society without taking significant action and reform to truly make a difference. This significant action and reform must start with you.

What makes your letter even more troubling is that it only came after you were pressured to address the incendiary stickers posted on the Afrikan Student Union’s doors as if it were an isolated incident. We all know for a fact that this is not true.

The solution is not just the removal of incendiary stickers. Neither is it the appointment of Jerry Kang, the hiring of discrimination prevention officers, appointing departmental equity advisors, nor finally approving the diversity requirement. While these structural changes are crucial to improving campus climate, there still needs to be collective action taken by the community.

This was not done in your letter. This cannot be done in a letter.

This is why we write to you, Chancellor Block. We are asking you to spearhead a town hall meeting, to occur in fall quarter of 2015, to explicitly address and discuss the racism and lack of diversity on our campus. We plead for you to bring this urgent matter to the attention of all students and faculty members. We demand that you, as our chancellor, lead by example.

We look forward to hearing from you and working together to organize a town hall meeting in fall quarter to address these issues.

Lorraien Bentum is a first-year biology student. Brad Fingard is a first-year political science student. Emma Finn is a first-year undeclared life sciences student. Sally Lee is a first-year statistics student. Gage LeMunyan is a first-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student. Sara Levy-Lambert is a first-year business economics student. Tal Newfield is a first-year political science student. Justin Park is a first-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student. Donisha Wilburn is a first-year business economics student. Kristen Hillaire Glasgow is a doctoral candidate in the history department.

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