Letters to the Guardian editor
These just came out. The originals (w/ online comments) can be viewed HERE. -J.F.
We submit that the so-called “Compton Cookout” incident has less to do with the racist culture of a particular fraternity or the Greek system in general (although that is certainly a factor) than it does with long-standing structural problems at UCSD — lack of a critical mass of faculty and students of color, generic (specific, community-neutral) approaches to improving campus climate, a very low profile and poorly funded African-American and Chicano studies curricular programs, etc. Together all of these institutional weaknesses produce a campus climate that emboldens the kind of racism we saw in the language and proposed activities of the “Compton Cookout.”
We urge the administration to avoid psychological interpretations of the incident. Individual behavior and attitudes are not the primary source of the problem. It will not be enough to oppose racist speech with “more speech,” with lessons about the limits of satire or even with well intentioned but ultimately symbolic campaigns such as the proposed “Not in Our Community” initiative.
This incident, and the potential for others in the future, should convince campus policymakers that serious structural changes are long overdue. In our opinion, the administration should take immediate action and 1) commit to permanent and substantial funding and staffing for the African American Studies Minor, 2) establish an Organized Research Unit to conduct research on local communities of color that are underrepresented at UCSD, 3) create a task force to study the desirability of rotating public art installations linked to underrepresented minority communities (preferably local) and 4) reorganize the office of the Chief Diversity Officer in order to facilitate the writing of a campuswide plan for addressing campus climate with a focus on how climate affects specific groups.
We understand that in a time of budgetary constraints, some of these proposed solutions will be difficult to implement. And yet these kinds of changes ought to receive the highest priority if we are to believe Chancellor Marye Anne Fox when she says the campus has a serious commitment to diversity. What is undeniable is that UCSD must change what it has been doing on the diversity front up until now. It’s simply not working.
— Jorge Mariscal
Professor, Literature Department
— Patrick Velasquez
Director, Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services
The university was right to condemn the “Compton Cookout” party. It was both insulting to the African-American community, and degrading to UCSD’s image. But the administration’s response to this racist off-campus event ignores one of UCSD’s most embarrassing, racist, on-campus publications: the Koala.
The Koala, notorious for its humorless and unintelligent satire, takes every opportunity to insult minorities of every race, religion and orientation. Though their offensive rants are largely unread and ignored, I must ask: Why there is a lack of outrage on behalf of the administration or the Black Student Union regarding the material published in the Koala?
The Koala receives its funding from the university through the Associated Students. On Feb. 15, the Koala submitted yet another funding request to the A.S. Council. They declared themselves a publication, type: “Tabloid, not offensive,” and asked for no less than $3,471.15 (All of this information can be found on the A.S. Web site). Where does this money come from? Tuition? Student fees? Who knows. Could this money be better spent? Absolutely.
It is hypocritical for the university to come down so strongly against the unaffiliated cookout, while simultaneously ignoring the racism spewed by the Koala, which is funded by the A.S. Council. The administration and the Black Student Union should regularly come down on the Koala, as they did in response to the cookout. Finally, Associated Students needs to cut funding to the Koala. At the very least, it can do this by citing the erroneous description of “Tabloid, not offensive” on the Koala funding request form.
— William Wolfe
Eleanor Roosevelt College