The UCSD Overreaction & the Death of Free Speech

Gabriella HoffmanGabriella Hoffman 11 Comments


From Alec Weisman, Editor-in-Chief of the California Review about UCSD’s latest attempt to restrict free speech on campus:

Alec Weisman, Editor-in-Chief

Last weekend, individuals from several fraternities decided to throw a racially-themed party mocking Black History Month, called the “Compton Cookout.” This ghetto-themed party was definitely offensive, as it urged people to wear specific outfits and fulfill various stereotyped behaviors. The party was obviously meant to be funny although the theme was definitely in poor taste.

In response, the administration of UCSD sent out not one, not two, but three emails within a week condemning the party. The email urged that respect for the UCSD Principles of Community be observed by rejecting acts of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and political beliefs and asked that students come together to show support for the black community at UCSD. Although the initial letter from Penny Rue, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, urged that the “The remedy for dangerous, offensive or extreme speech is more speech, not less,” this attitude was not to last.

On Thursday, Koala TV decided to capitalize on the excessive reaction of the administration by ridiculing the school and critics of the party. It is claimed that the Koala used certain derogatory words to describe black individuals, and commented that the critics of the party were ungrateful for a party thrown in their honor. However, this is in the nature of the Koala, which is written to deliberately offend every race, religion, and belief system. In fact, the leadership organization of the Koala is made up of exclusively minority students this year.

Following this, the Black Student Union held a rally on Friday, which nearly 200 students attended. Holding signs reading “Racism= individual, institutional, systemic, structural” and “Stop Racism” the Black Student Union was furious about insensitivity at UCSD. After screaming at the Chancellor “Real Action! Real Pain!” dialogue began between students in the Black Student Union and Chancellor Fox. Allegations were made by several students that “we are in danger! It’s that serious” along with claiming that they feel “isolated every day on this campus.”

Both Chancellor Fox and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Rue expressed their strong dislike for the Koala and their free speech. The students at the rally showed themselves to be extremely self-centered, believing themselves to be entitled to all their demands; one of them screamed “I’m expecting all kinds of action from you, and all of these demands to be met, as soon as possible. Meaning Now!”

It was particularly depressing to watch some of the legitimate concerns of the BSU become sidelined as the crowd adopted a mob mentality. The rally became a joke, as half of the rally concerned students ranting about justice and the other half consisted of demands and threats made to the administration. During the Chancellor forum, one student stood up and said “The facts are people are hurting right now. The facts are that people are threatened right now. The facts are is that we need change right now. Those are the facts that you need to take into account. Those are the facts that are all you need.” This is extremely troublesome, as the entitlement of these angry students displays their lack of concern for legal procedure and the Constitution.

Looking at the the list of demands made by the Black Student Union in their 16 page “Do UC Us” report, they list an assortment of studies and testimonials regarding black students on UC campuses, with emphasis on UCSD. In fact, their goals for making black students feel comfortable on campus are reasonable and should be supported. They include:
• Phone-A-Thons: Have BSU members call admitted Black students
• Black Admit Welcome Package: includes a Welcome DVD, letter from BSU and UJIMA, Black Directory, Postcard invitation to Admit Day, and a T-shirt/lanyard
• Black Admit Overnight Program for the 2010 UC San Diego Admitted African-American Students

The disconcerting fact is, although the BSU is rational, many of those people participating in the rally and forum were not. Many of the students’ arguments amounted to promoting equality of result rather than equality of opportunity. This flies in the face of American notions of freedom and equality. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, which eliminated the consideration of race for admission to college campuses and government hiring. This ended the quota system previously in existence whereby a student of a minority background could be accepted with lower grades to a university over a much more qualified student of a different ethnic group in order to fill a specific quota required by law.

Although UCSD has the lowest proportion of black students at a UC campus, as blacks represent 1.5 percent of students at UCSD, this statistic is misleading without reference to both the overall racial distribution of UCSD students and that of the state population as a whole. According to census estimates, in 2008 California consisted of 42.3% white individuals, 6.7% black individuals, 12.5% Asian individuals, 36.6% Hispanic individuals, and 1.9% being either American Indian, Pacific Islander, or mixed race. If we look at this in comparison to UCSD admissions, we get a stark contrast. Although black underrepresentation (7% of state population, 2% of UCSD students) relative to their fraction of state population is nothing to scoff at, whites (42.3% of state population, 26% of UCSD students) and Hispanics (36.6% of state population, 13% of UCSD students) are also seriously underrepresented under that metric. Who takes up the largest proportional increase then? Asians, who comprise a 49% plurality of UCSD undergraduate admits despite being only 12.5% of the state’s population. So before the irrational and emotional students freak out about the underrepresented black population, they should look at their own over or underrepresented population at UCSD and decide how they feel about their poorly thought out quota idea. However, the poor choices of the school administration continued.

As the forum progressed, Vice Chancellor Rue added to the irresponsible remarks, stating that there will be no “Racism, not in our community! That’s what we can say! We need more speech. We might not be able to shut them up, but our voices can be so loud that they cannot be heard!” What part of this behavior that Chancellor Rue advocates is any different from the behavior of those students during Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine? Shouting down people who you disagree with only serves to limit free speech. Now as stated before, any comments made by the Koala that were intended to provoke and insult the black community were made for that purpose, NOT to generate hate or crimes against black students.

As the forum began to conclude, AS president Utsav Gupta stated that “I’ve frozen all media organization funding until we rework these rules … It is still unacceptable that we still have the Koala. We’ve tried throughout this year to redo those rules and essentially not fund them. I don’t know if we’ll get rid of them, but on the part of the AS, we can defund them. We absolutely can defund them, and I believe we must defund them.” On this point, I must add (although I consider Utsav to be a good AS president and know him personally) that by admitting this fact on camera, he outed the Associated Students as being full of liars, as they swore during a media forum that their legislative attempt to form a media oversight board was not explicitly targeted toward the Koala. Utsav concluded by stating that “from this point forth no media organizations will get funding” until new media guidelines have been written.

Now why is the California Review weighing in on this story? First, we feel that the reaction of the school is excessive. Next, although we feel that the comments made by the Koala and the party organizers were inappropriate, THEY ARE NONETHELESS permitted by their freedom of speech. Third, we are directly affected by this media freeze, as up to this point we have been totally funded by the AS UCSD. Finally, it was brought to my attention that the California Review has been brought into the controversy by a staff writer of the Union Tribune due to our “Underwear Bomber” cartoon during the January issue of the paper.

In fact, we had to do a reprint of the issue because certain staff refused to allow it to be distributed until their names were removed from the issue and they were allowed to resign. As editor, I would like to state that although the cartoon was an anonymous contribution to the California Review, it was intended to be a satirical representation of the Underwear Bomber and RADICAL ISLAM, in a similar vein to the Danish Cartoons that were published in 2005. The cartoon was thus drawn to prove free speech existed on campus, and this was believed to be the case UNTIL this controversy over the party and the Koala arose.

The best part of the drama has got to be the latest few updates in this twisted story.

First, apparently the party was the brainchild, not of the frat boys, but rather the DJ for the event, who just so happens to call himself Jiggaboo Jones. He recently posted a youtube video explaining the real nature of the “Compton Cookout.” In it he called out the Black Student Union, the UCSD administration, and the Associated Students for blowing the event out of proportion.

Also, on Saturday February 20th, a facebook event was created by a UCSD student planning a Cultural Stereotypes Party, designed to allow people to pick a culture and harmlessly make fun of its stereotypes. The event is scheduled for March 4 at 8pm. And parties with offensive racial themes continue to draw students who want a good laugh and a stereotypical theme. To attend the “Compton Cookout Part Deux” click this link. Also, a facebook group has been established for everyone who is angry with the reaction that the school and media have had toward the “Compton Cookout,” click this link. Finally, another group was established for those angry with the Associated Students for shutting down free speech at UCSD, click this link.

Finally, state lawmakers (outgoing state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D) and incoming speaker John Perez (D) in particular) are showing their desire to play race politics by jumping on this issue and urging for sanctions and suspensions against the students who were involved in the “Compton Cookout” party. Also the NAACP got involved and urged similar punishments.

Is this Political Correctness gone crazy? You be the judge.

In the meantime, please stand with us to oppose the UCSD AS’s attempt to destroy free speech.

More articles on this to come. In the meantime, please weigh in and comment.


Comments 11

  1. Riddle me this, if this was a Jigga Boo Jones promotion party, why wasn’t that mentioned in the invites? Why did the students do all the organizing if it was his event? The invitation clearly said that this event was dedicated to Black History Month, it said nothing about it being a dvd release party. The only people who believe that this Mr. Jones had anything at all to do with this party are those who want to believe that because it makes the situation easier to handle. People have to take responsibility for their actions, it’s apart of life.

  2. I read this twice…are you asking us to rally against a university who wants to stop funding a media outlet because they promoted a party that made fun of American blacks by perpetuating negative stereotypes during black history month? And based on supporting the First Amendment to the Constitution? An amendment put in place to stop the government from suppressing speech that was inflammatory toward the government thereby keeping the people from a tyrannical ruler?

    This is about as toxic a subject as I’ve seen. From the lack of comments it looks like my ten foot pole isn’t the only one that is not long enough to touch this.

    Well, college is as good a place as any to learn that perception is sometimes even more important than reality. Years from now these kids will be sitting in a cubicle working and they’ll come up with a great stunt to pull at work that will get everyone’s attention and be really funny. A stunt that will really show that boss of theirs what they really think of him. Then they’ll think back on their college days (all 7 years of them at the rate they are going) and think better of it and because they want to keep their job.

  3. Post

    Well, if you read closely, the conservative students at USCD condemn that racist party. The whole issue of First Amendment, and what it specifically entails is also covered, and unfortunately, it’s a complicated issue in regard to the Koala. Frankly, most of the conservative students, including myself, don’t approve of the material or rather paraphernalia they purport. Yet, to silence them if they don’t tread into the abyss of free speech violations (obscenity, libel, hate speech, slander, etc.), would be contradictory. Yet, if they get cut, then all other papers go down too (including the California Review). Surely enough, this issue is very complicated, and comes with many perspectives. If you read this on its original page, and the fact that I’m an insider and contributor to this paper, there have been over 1000 to 2000 views on our blog page in the last two days and over 23 comments. People have found reason to my editor’s arguments, and the demands from the BSU are too demanding in the fact that the university can barely sustain itself financially, let alone hand out more money to any specific group. People fail to realize that Republicans and conservatives are not racist as liberals paint us to be. Since the liberals have full control of welfare, government subsidies, and other things that widely appeal to minorities (although I’m not advocating that those espousing right-leaning views to adopt this to win the minority vote), they will point at us if we don’t support their other “unnecessary” demands that are often aggrandized by the liberals in the first place.

  4. You really can’t take these uneducated UCSD white trailer trash anywhere. This is what happens when more than one of these guys puts their minds together.

  5. “Well, if you read closely, the conservative students at USCD condemn that racist party.”

    but clearly most people don’t read that closely, including a lot of the educated conservatives here, which is exactly why the Republican party is negatively labeled and why we have such a hard time reaching out and connecting to people. Young or old, we need people who are ready for prime time. I’ll keep looking.

  6. This post is so poorly thought out and written that I am stunned it made its way to the San Diego Rostra.

    I was not familiar with the Compton Cookout until today, when I first read Michael Schwartz’ reply to this post. After reading his reply, I knew I needed to see the original post. After reading it at least six times, I finally was able to condense it as follows:

    1. Editor-in-chief Alec Weisman feels that the Compton Cookout to mock Black History Month was definitely offensive, but it was also funny at the same.
    2. Mr. Weisman feels that UCSD reacted excessively to the Compton Cookout. This excessive reaction entailed sending three emails, encouraging people to follow university policy and to support the black community.
    3. Mr. Weisman states that Koala’s reaction to UCSD’s emails was intentionally provocative and insulting to the black community; yet he also states that these same provocative and insulting statements were not intended to generate hate or crimes against black students.
    4. Mr. Weisman states that some of those in BSU reacted irrationally to Koala’s intentionally provocative and insulting statements.
    5. Mr. Weisman promotes the second Compton Cookout by posting a link to it.

    The university was well within its rights to condemn Koala. It has a duty to all of its students, not only to those who promote hatred cloaked as free speech. If Mr. Weisman had only read the First Amendment, he would see that it applies to Congress, not other parties.

    The only point I agree with was in freezing media funding for the entire campus; that does seem excessive. Otherwise, no rational person could support any of his other statements here because almost all of them are completely contradictory or clearly unreasonable. If this only appeared in a campus newsletter, fine. That is the purpose of a campus newsletter, to let would-be writers cut their teeth in a smaller environment.

    The problem with blog postings? It’s far too easy to post something meaningless, poorly written, or offensive for the entire world to see. Easy come easy go.

  7. To clarify: The powers that be do not pre-approve posts on SD Rostra and will not do so. All bloggers’ opinions are their own; there is no Rostra opinion on any one matter. This is a forum for debate and discussion; Mr. Schwartz’ guest commentary was offered as a rebuttal to the prior post for that very reason. Mr. Weisman is not the editor-in-chief of Rostra, he holds that position at the UCSD California Review. His commentary was re-published here by one of Rostra’s bloggers, which is her choice. A review of the Weisman column indicates at no time that he found the party in question funny, rather that those who held it meant it to be, even though it was not. Mr. Weisman in fact says it was offensive. There is nothing in the column that comes close to a reason for taking it down from the site, although the opinions may of course cause heated disagreement. All are of course free to rebut it as they see fit, within the rules. It appears that is taking place.

  8. Dear Chancellor Fox:

    I am writing to you concerning the continued racial controversies at various University of California campuses. Since the noose left at the UCSD library has been removed, I’m contemplating to send you a new one. Why? Because a good old-fashioned lynching is in order.

    Before you rush to conclusions, let me explain.

    The current episode of turmoil began with a local party whose theme poked fun at stereotypes supposedly representative of South Central LA. Any reasonable person would readily perceive this approach as satire, a longstanding literary and dramatic device. Was it offensive? As with most satire, it definitely was – and that is good.

    You see, when we are offended, we are likely to react. Unless that reaction is simply a knee-jerk response (such as that by your office), a reaction requires activation of one’s brain. You may agree that activating our brains is infinitely preferable over mindlessly swallowing whatever b.s. we happen to be served.

    One particularly unpalatable piece of b.s. that is shoved down our collective throat is “diversity.”

    In its original form, diversity is highly desirable. In nature, biologically diverse ecosystems are less vulnerable to diseases and more productive than monocultures. On a university campus, opposing (or even merely different) viewpoints spur lively debate, which in turn fosters creativity and innovation. Without question, humanity collectively benefits from the contributions inspired by a large variety of backgrounds and experiences.

    Why has the University of California chosen to adopt race/ethnicity as the single decisive factor in furthering diversity? Are you ensuring UCSD receives a balanced mix of Republicans and Democrats? Gays and heterosexuals? Opera lovers and metal heads? Meat eaters and vegans? How about students who prefer the writings of Ayn Rand versus those of Karl Marx? Perhaps a proper mix of students interested in quantum physics and aspiring poets (and those writing poetry about quantum physics)? Folks that can appreciate Dr. Seuss on a subversive level, and those who can’t? I’m virtually certain that more diverse viewpoints will result from any of these arbitrary traits than the color of someone’s skin.

    I assumed that college application essays served to differentiate students beyond grades and test scores. It appears that with all the budget cuts, there is no staff to read them. Therefore, instead of treating students as the unique individuals they are, it seems easier to simply lump them into categories with emotionally charged labels.

    Sure, race and ethnicity, along with height, weight and gender, are the most obvious traits we notice about people we meet, before they have a chance to open their mouths and let us glean some insight into more substantial aspects of their personas. But isn’t that precisely the sort of simpleminded superficiality higher education is supposed to eradicate?

    Throughout history, people with their own agendas have used arbitrary traits to unite, divide and discriminate against people. Each time, they applied a nice, shiny euphemism. “Preserving family values” – sounds like a good thing, right? How about “preserving the pure blood of the Aryan race?” It gives us cold chills today, but it sounded perfectly benign, even laudable, during the Nazi era.

    Another shiny euphemism is “diversity.” If we add more “blacks” (however you may define that label), we will create a student body that is more balanced and representative of our society – so goes the reasoning du jour. Are we going to assume that “blacks” … come from challenged socioeconomic backgrounds? Are more conscious about human rights? Have rhythm? Jump higher?

    I am not privy to UCSD’s list of stereotypical “black” traits. Make no mistake, that list exists, even if it is only implied – because every time we attempt to force a group of diverse (in its original meaning) individuals under a labeled (or red and white striped) hat, we give birth to such a list. Such a list, while perhaps not offensive at first glance, is far more damaging than the list of attributes used by the Compton Cookout as the recommended attire, behavior and attitude of its attendees. Because any list that is born under the auspices of a prestigious institution such as UCSD will automatically be imbued with a sense of legitimacy.

    The characteristics we choose to identify others and ourselves mark the dividing lines between social groups. By focusing on race, we are furthering this broken model of diversity.

    If we allow racial definitions to divide us, if we allow the fear of symbols to control us, if we allow the threat of persecution to silence us, our race – the human race – will succumb to the worst form of slavery.

    This is my call to hunt down and publicly execute the ignorant and racist notions that have hijacked the concept of diversity. What better place than a library, a place of learning and organized knowledge? Let’s hang these ill-conceived ideas from the rafters and let their rotting corpses remind us that if we want to vanquish racism, we must start by treating all people equally.

    For if we allow misguided preconceptions to live, we are bound to witness the death of the accomplishments brought by the Civil Rights Movement, of free speech, and of our human dignity.

    Yours sincerely,

    The Cat in the Hood

  9. Cat:

    Anonymity on the blogs is fine for many reasons. Yet, Chancellor Fox will care less about an opinion, no matter how well reasoned and written, from someone afraid to use their name.

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