Home > "Compton Cookout", Statement > Excerpts from letter by Prof. Ivan Evans (Sociology)

Excerpts from letter by Prof. Ivan Evans (Sociology)

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

From Prof. Ivan Evans…


[This is an extract of a letter I sent to the Chancellor and Prof. Paul Drake}:
February 21, 2010 10:17:29 PM PST

Dear ——-:

…The hornest’s nest that has been stirred this week seems  to have had opposite, but equally distressing effects on African American students. Some vowed this weekend not to quit but to “endure” and  complete their degree here, “no matter what they do to stop us”. Others said that they intend to transfer to Berkeley, UCLA “or even Santa Barbara” if they remain unhappy this year. Only half jokingly, the latter said that they would present themselves to the other UCs as “political refugees”. They are confident only when they are together, they said, but feel menaced and vulnerable when walking alone on campus. These are absolutely astonishing sentiments by any measure. At the meeting, the representative of an outside mental health organization offered her company’s services to students who seem strained to the breaking point. Again, remaining engaged with these students has fallen to a small number of faculty and TAs, in part because the students report that they are disaffected with the administration.

It is against this backdrop that I want to echo what students are saying and record my own disgust, and the growing anger of others, with the near lily-white composition of the personnel who comprise the university’s public face, the one that is most clear and immediate to undergraduates. Having resisted the notion for years, I am now increasingly of the opinion that the racial monopoly over senior administrative positions is not accidental but seems to be the product of something that is inscrutably systematic and even sinister. We have watched the administration almost go out of its way to circumvent suitable minority candidates to appoint white colleagues in ways that, I feel sure, would not withstand scrutiny at the the two flagship universities within the UC system–were such racial effrontery ever attempted at those two illustrious peers in an age when no self-respecting state institution openly flaunts racial domination. The failure to de-racialize the university administration can no longer be attributed to factors such as the conservative weight that the hard sciences enjoy at this campus. And so the endlessly repeated promise to “promote diversity” is now greeted as mere cant at this campus. These ritual incantations to “diversity” are now also viewed as insults, as something that the administration knows that it can and regularly does get away with. Appalling statistics annually confirm the resultant “hostile campus climate” that minority students often refer to and which drives away minority faculty. Hence, the simmering disillusionment amongst undergraduates about this issue now resonates amongst minority faculty as well.

And now there is talk that some of the students who were involved in the past week’s events might or should be expelled. Certainly, the connection between what appears to be a predominantly “Whites Only” administration at UCSD and the “Compton Cookout” affair is neither linear nor singular–permutations of other factors are at play as well. Still, one reason why I am reluctant to support calls for the expulsion of students who seem to have clearly violated university codes, and engaged in criminal behavior to boot, is that these acts were perpetrated in an institution that has never placed  “diversity” issues at the top of its agenda. Everybody knows this, but few have seriously challenged the quotidian rhetoric that the university administration devotes to the issue. Expulsion is therefore too easy a solution. However justifiable, expelling guilty students smacks of scapegoating.

Stunned observers on and off this campus are slowly grasping a bitter truth: the university administration’s flaccid commitment to “diversity” has emboldened some students to behave as they did this past week. The rhetoric they employed–“Niggers should be grateful we let them in here”–expressed in vulgar form what the university’s own tepid “diversity” policies have been suggesting for a long time: “this is not a fundamental issue for us”. This is how I responded when the current whites-only Council of Provosts issued its well-intended but ironic statement, “Condemnation of Off-Campus Party and Affirmation of Principles of Community”. The university would no doubt like to, and in my opinion, should turn to senior and familiar African American office-bearers to present the administration’s response to race-baiting students. But it cannot because no such person seems to exists. This is astonishing. The path to redemption for the university begins with conceding telling points such as this.

Precisely because there is such a dearth of trust between the students and the administration, an adversarial relationship has opened up when instinctive unity between the two in the face of loathsome KKK behavior would seem obvious. Students have therefore taken on the burden of organizing meaningful events that will not just stabilize but, they hope, substantially transform the university. The task is Herculean because the problem’s roots are decades old and deeply sunk in the marrow of UCSD.

The greatest safeguard that UCSD can devise for itself is to elevate rhetoric about “diversity” into the guiding and non-negotiable principle of internal reform. Anything less will court disaster for this institution.

Ivan Evans
Assoc Prof
Sociology Dept
UC San Diego

  1. James- UCSD Grad 09'
    February 25, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Great statement. Clearly captures the sentiment of students in relation to the structured inequality built into the fabric of the UCSD through its elite white administration.

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