Do you remember the Compton Cookout? When UCSD students were invited to dress in “baggy pants” or “dreads” with “bonus points if boxers contain a reference to basketball or rap or money.”
What about two weeks ago, when students were told by an Associate Master at Yale that it was alright to be “a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” in regards to their Halloween costumes.
What about last week, when the Dean of Claremont-McKenna college emailed a Latina student saying she would work to serve students who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”
Let’s step back a bit and reminisce on some recent history. In 2011, Governor Schwarzenegger shared his thoughts, condemning the Compton Cookout for its “intolerable acts of racism and incivility.” Following his condemnation, that next Fall, UCSD unveiled its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requirement. What did this mean? At UCSD, the DEI requirement was created to instill a “knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion is required of all candidates for a Bachelor’s degree who begin their studies,” as assessed by students passing (one) four-unit class.
This Fall, UCSD only offered two classes within their title explicitly address race (particularly in regards to marginalized groups). In total, the school is only offering 16 classes that fulfill the DEI requirement this quarter. Mind you these are the only courses that UCSD feels are designed to provide a “knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion”, sufficient enough to fulfill the DEI requirement. If we are to believe the school thinks that this is adequate enough for an undergraduate student population of over 24,800, then there are some serious considerations to be had about the current state of education in regards to addressing the structural racism that exists on the UCSD campus. And even all through this, one has to consider: how impactful is one course on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the long run? Is this level of education enough?
Students have been working countless hours developing yield programs for the black students that will succeed but now more ever we are conflicted. We want to increase the numbers of African-American students on this campus but we do not want them to experience the hostile environment that we have to deal with. – UCSD Black Student Union Statement – February 2010
In 2010, the UCSD Black Student Union’s February published their “State of Emergency Student Union Address” in UC Irvine’s New University, their official campus newspaper. The document explicitly notes that UCSD has never seen “a black population of over 3 percent” despite “students on this campus that make continual efforts to undermine the history of oppression of African-Americans in this country and the racism and bigotry we have surmounted.” Three years after the events and thirty-seven years after the founding of the Black Student Union, in 2013 UCSD established the on-campus Black Resource Center, which notes in its history that the need for the center was created by “a series of racially motivated events during the Winter Quarter of 2010 elevated the need for a campus space.” DEI has existed as a requirement for only four years. Where did UCSD students get their “knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion” before the DEI’s creation? It’s very jarring to consider that when asked, many students are likely to know little to nothing about the Compton Cookout.
KBPS Coverage from the Compton Cookout and Aftermath
Last Friday, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla addressed the “recent troubling incidents at universities” mentioning that “as a community, we will continue our work to create a campus where inclusion and respect are the norm.” This speaks to a broader problem on college campuses across the United States. Should we as a community feel comfortable tackling these issues with a slow march toward progress?
To the students of color at Mizzou, Yale, and across the country we, the student allies at UCSD, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, we are not only watching, but questioning.
If we can’t take a step back and remember the incidents of our recent past, how are we going to measure progress? How long will it be acceptable to live in a world where the question is not, “How can we create a more informed campus?,” but “who’s going to feel unsafe next week?” And when it comes to critique, should these issues of solving the systemic problems on college campuses fall entirely on students who are also pursuing a four-year degree? How about those students trying to maintain a work and life balance?
Screenshots of the Compton Cookout Event
The implication here is that on college campuses across the U.S there needs to be a visible problem, one that can be both easily publicized and potentially harmful to campus branding/rankings, for administrations to even consider making change. Then that change needs to be at least as superficial as the coverage of the visible problem in order for everything to somehow even out.
Racism didn’t just come into a brief glint of existence with the Compton Cookout, it has always existed and continues to exist at UCSD. How did it take 51 years for a school with self-described “local impact, national influence and global reach” to realize that “[a] knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion is required”? How was this knowledge not considered to be meaningful enough to be addressed in (one) 4-unit class beforehand? Is it perhaps that our academic institutions, whose responsibility is to further the understanding and progress of the American people, choose to perpetuate the myth of a “post-racial” United States instead of engaging in a broader discourse that might upset traditionally accepted dynamics?
The answer, if you’re paying attention, is yes.
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