Katehi: 'A few individuals grossly violated' campus's diversity promise
March 29, 2010
By Dateline staff and UC Office of the President
SAN FRANCISCO—The UC Board of Regents pledged March 24 to take responsibility for stamping out intolerance in the UC system and voiced support for strategies aimed at increasing diversity on the 10 campuses.
Chairman Russell Gould apologized for the recent “disgusting displays of bigotry” that included, at UC Davis, swastika displays on a dorm room door and elsewhere around campus, and a graffiti attack on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.
“It breaks my heart to report to you this morning the acts of hatred and intolerance committed over the past few weeks on the Davis campus—a campus that is widely known for its exceptional civility,” Chancellor Linda Katehi told the Board of Regents in her prepared remarks.
“Sadly, a few individuals grossly violated the promise we make to one another when we join the UC Davis family—a promise to learn from and celebrate our differences.”
The regents also heard from two other chancellors: Marye Ann Fox of San Diego, where a fraternity threw a “Compton Cookout” party in mid-February to mock Black History Month, and where someone hung a noose from a light fixture in Geisel Library later in the month; and Michael Drake of Irvine, where police arrested 11 students on charges of interrupting a Feb. 9 speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Katehi described a UC Davis town hall meeting on March 1, when the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center “brought our community together … to consider who we are and what we stand for.”
“We raised our voices together in denouncing the hate and committing ourselves to positive change to ensure that each and every one of us feels safe and respected,” Katehi said. “What kind of a campus can we be without that very basic guarantee?”
She also outlined the work of the Campus Council on Community and Diversity, which met March 11 in emergency session “to consider how best to confront these hateful incidents and, most importantly, how to ensure a campus climate that is accepting, affirming and recognizes that diversity is one of our greatest advantages.”
The council is scheduled to meet again April 1, in another emergency session. One item up for discussion is Katehi’s proposal to declare UC Davis a “hate-free campus.”
“The words declare our intention,” she told the Board of Regents. “Our actions are essential if we are to turn this aspiration into reality.”
To accomplish its mission, Katehi said, the council will add a standing committee, including representatives from the Hillel House (a campus organization for Jewish students) and BECA (Blacks for Effective Community Action).
And, Katehi continued, the council will review the many proposals from the March 1 town hall meeting, and from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Resource Center and the Black Student Union.
“I am eager to receive the council’s recommendations and to help support their implementation,” Katehi said.
She noted that the campus had already sought the counsel of the Anti-Defamation League, met with the executive director of the Davis Hillel House, and spoken with rabbis from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“I am looking forward to joining the rabbis at the Museum of Tolerance this spring. I hope to be accompanied by student leaders who would bring back insights from the museum’s ‘train the trainers’ program,” Katehi said.
She said the campus also is exploring the possibility of bringing in playwright Moises Kaufman for a residency. With members of the Tectonic Theater Project, he wrote The Laramie Project, a play about people’s reactions to the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard outside Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.
Chancellors on the right track
Yudof voiced confidence in the three chancellors, noting that each of them was taking the necessary steps to address the climate on his or her campus and taking appropriate disciplinary actions when needed.
He asked for full reports from the Davis, Irvine and San Diego chancellors, and advised them to cooperate fully with the authorities.
Katehi said the campus Police Department responded quickly to each incident at UC Davis “and continues to vigorously investigate, assisted by the FBI.” She said the campus will seek prosecutions to the full extent of the law, including penalty enhancements for hate crimes.
Yudof promised to continue working with students in an effort to develop appropriate campus hate-crime legislation.
“We do not shy away from examining our own problems, from acting decisively and with dispatch to address them,” Yudof said.
‘Harder than rocket science’
The regents also heard from Christopher Edley, dean of the UC Berkeley law school, who is an authority on civil rights issues and who is serving as a special adviser to Yudof and the San Diego chancellor.
Edley said the San Diego leadership had impressed him, as had the students who are working to resolve racial tensions and craft initiatives to improve the campus climate.
The racial issues that arose at San Diego can be found throughout UC and the nation, he said. Rooting out bigotry will depend on a strong commitment to implementing change and monitoring progress.
“This is not rocket science,” Edley said. “It is harder than rocket science.”
Dozens of UC students traveled to the regents meeting at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus during spring break to participate in the diversity discussion. Gould extended the public comment time from 20 to 40 minutes to allow a frank discussion on the incidents.
“I deeply regret that any member of the UC community had to endure such disgusting displays of bigotry,” Gould said. “Whether they were perpetrated out of ignorance or hateful intolerance, such actions have no place at the University of California. They are a disgrace to the values of this institution and of the individuals sitting before you.”
Students said they had seen no progress from previous studies of UC diversity. This time, the students said, they want more than studies and recommendations.
“At UC San Diego, this is an issue of safety for students,” said David Ritcherson, a member of the campus’s Black Student Union. “The campus climate cultivated this toxic environment.”
Student Regent Jesse Bernal said he saw the same kind of outrage over intolerance in 2001 when Muslim students experienced bigotry in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
That outrage lost its momentum, Bernal said, adding that he does not want to see it happen again.
Yudof says: ‘Enough’
Yudof assured students that actions would be taken and progress aggressively tracked, and he joined students in saying UC does not need more studies that are going to sit on shelves.
“It’s time for the vast majority of us, for those of us who revere diversity and tolerance, civility and respect—the true values of this university—to stand up and say ‘enough,’” Yudof said.
He outlined strategies to build tolerance throughout the system and to increase the number of underrepresented students at UC.
“It’s incumbent on every one of us, on every single member of the UC community, to visibly and vigorously challenge expressions of bigotry wherever, whenever and however they occur,” Yudof said.
He also called on alumni and friends of UC to come together to raise funds for scholarships for underrepresented minorities. Too often, he said, talented students go to private universities that have more dollars to support them, he said.
Holistic review of applicants
Additionally, Yudof asked for a systemwide review of undergraduate admissions procedures.
“I want a system that more effectively considers multiple factors beyond test scores and GPA,” Yudof said. “I want one that has a larger pool of applicants that will be considered.”
Both of these goals should be met, he said, by the new undergraduate eligibility requirements approved by the Board of Regents last year and scheduled to take effect with the incoming class of 2012.
Yudof said he has asked the Academic Senate to consider policy revisions under which the campuses would be required to adopt consistent processes of so-called holistic reviews of applicants and to adopt best practices.
Holistic review allows for more flexibility in considering students’ life experiences, as well as their test scores and grades, in the context of the opportunities and challenges that each student has faced. This allows the campuses to do a better job of assessing the whole student and his or her potential for success.
Donna Hemmila, managing editor of the UC Office of the President’s Integrated Communications, and Dave Jones, associate editor of Dateline UC Davis, contributed to this report.
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