On April 30, professors at the UC Davis Chicano Studies Department wrote students and community members expressing “our enormous anger at the recurring incidents of racial harassment and discrimination towards the Chicana/o Latina/o community at UC Davis. Faculty, staff, and students are extremely distressed by the constant macro and micro aggressions that emerge across the institution.”
They write, “We see these acts as reminders of the severe under-representation of Chicana/o Latina/o faculty, staff, administrators, and students within the UC system; a stark juxtaposition to our community’s majority population in the state of California and an indication of the remaining legacy of California’s and the US’s racialized oppressive past. Ultimately, these racist aggressions and the hurtful aftermath become an extra tax on our department, an emotional, physical, and time-based tax that is not felt across the campus nor shared across all departments.”
An April 27 letter by student groups wrote Chancellor Linda Katehi to “express our disappointment in how UC Davis has systematically failed to respond to and prevent incidents of racial insensitivity, hate, harassment, discrimination, and ignorance.”
The next day, the chancellor responded, “Let me also state unequivocally that the incidents you describe in your letter are deplorable and unacceptable. They have absolutely no place on our campus or in our community. I fully understand how painful and demeaning these incidents are to the individuals involved and to our collective campus community. As Chancellor, it pains me to acknowledge that such hurtful incidents have occurred on our campus. Like you, I recognize that to eradicate them we must face these problems head-on with a direct, swift and focused response.”
While the chancellor’s remark was strongly worded, there is concern on the part of some that her response delegated responsibility to Vice Chancellor Adela de la Torre and that “the only concrete action is to schedule a community forum. Students, faculty and staff are tired of dialogue. What are the policies and deep institutional and systemic changes that the administration is going to put into action to prevent these hateful and racist incidents from happening again?”
Below are all three letters in full…
April 27th, 2015
To Chancellor Katehi and Senior Administration of UC Davis:
We are writing to you to express our disappointment in how UC Davis has systematically failed to respond to and prevent incidents of racial insensitivity, hate, harassment, discrimination, and ignorance. It is extremely disappointing that our communities have to experience such disrespectful, ignorant, and harmful acts for several years now on campus. We call on you and your fellow senior administration to acknowledge your failure to guarantee a safe, respectful, and comfortable space for students of color on this campus. We also call on your administration to engage with students of color to develop long-term programmatic, financial, and policy changes to institutionalize UC Davis’ enforcement of its Principles of Community.
There have been several incidents that have made this campus unsafe for underrepresented communities such as:
- Alpha Gamma Rho’s “Lupe Song”
- “Catch the Illegal Immigrant Game” by the Davis College Republicans
- Anti-gay hate speech being found on the stairwell of the Rainbow House
- A wrestling team having a party called “Hoes and Hermaphrodites”
- LGBTQIA Resource Center being defaced with homophobic graffiti
- EOP office being defaced and vandalized with racial slurs
- Having the “Unfinished Dream” multicultural mural at the Memorial Union being defaced and having the Star of David drawn over the Palestinian flag on the mural.
- Having the Lambda Law School Students Association’s bulletin board being defaced with a homophobic slur
- A ribbon being written on with the words “use me as a noose” being displayed on campus during the 2011 UC Davis Student of Color Conference
- The mock KKK hood being found on the African/African-American Living Learning Community
- “Cinco de Drinko” and “Holyland” parties by Coho employees
- “Phiesta” party by the Alpha Phi Sorority and Sigma Chi Fraternity
- Members of the official UC Davis Women’s Lacrosse Team posing as “Mexican gangsters” in a photo.
- Death threats, incidents of Islamophobia and other anti-Arab attacks that have been reported on campus
And many other incidents that go unreported.
These are not isolated events. As the “One UC Davis” campaign proclaims, we are “a global network of people connected to our university”, and thus all these events are connected.
To say that these incidents have upset us would be a disservice to how much pain we and our respective communities are feeling on this campus. These are injustices.
For that reason, we no longer want letters of apologies, but a declaration by the university stating that they as an institution have failed their students in providing a safe, respectful, and comfortable space for them. That the University has failed to “maintain a climate of justice marked by respect for each other” which the “Principles of Community” proclaim . The University has not provided a space that will “confront and reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, status within or outside the university, or any of the other differences among people which have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension or hatred.”
Our communities want these words within our “Principles of Community” to not only be words on the website. They should instead provide the foundation for concerted action. For that reason we also want a declaration and a real commitment by the university to combat these injustices that happen on campus.
We require a prompt response, no more than 24 hours upon receiving this letter, in regards to the hate acts that have been occurring on campus. We require and demand immediate and clear consequences for any future acts of similar nature, and that those consequences be mentioned as clearly as possible to any future students who wish to partake in any similar event .
We deserve to be in a university where we are not attacked, ridiculed, shamed, harassed, or discriminated against based on our identities and appearances. We deserve to be respected, acknowledged, safe and comfortable in this community. We deserve to continue our education in a supportive campus where we can ensure Administration will confront cases of racial insensitivity, hate, harassment, discrimination, and ignorance.
As the university moves forward to becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, we believe it will be of utmost importance that campus leaders and administrators intentionally shape our campus organizational culture to create more inclusive environments for our racially and ethnically diverse student populations.
If the university continues to ignore these repetitive harmful acts of hate, discrimination, and ignorance then it will be clear to us that this university does not care for the safety and well-being of their students. If this issue is not resolved internally with institutionalized support, we will then push to have this addressed externally.
Your students and community…
April 28, 2015
Dear Students and Campus Community Members:
I have read your detailed and thoughtful letter. When issues arise on campus that are troubling to you, I very much want to know about them, so let me first say thank you for taking time to reach out to me.
Let me also state unequivocally that the incidents you describe in your letter are deplorable and unacceptable. They have absolutely no place on our campus or in our community. I fully understand how painful and demeaning these incidents are to the individuals involved and to our collective campus community. As Chancellor, it pains me to acknowledge that such hurtful incidents have occurred on our campus. Like you, I recognize that to eradicate them we must face these problems head-on with a direct, swift and focused response.
The sense of community UC Davis is known for cannot be truly healthy or welcoming when incidents occur like those you describe. They are an affront to us all. That is why we need a commitment from every member of our community to redouble efforts to change the culture on campus and make sure these incidents stop. You have my commitment as Chancellor that we will take action and work with you to achieve this goal.
I agree on the need for a strong, clear and decisive course of action to address this problem right now. Our Principles of Community are important, but we must do more. I have directed Adela de la Torre, our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, to assist me and the UC Davis community in immediately beginning to identify tangible actions we must take now and in the future to forcefully address these climate concerns.
I have also asked Vice Chancellor de la Torre and her Student Affairs colleagues to meet with you, our students, as quickly as possible and to hear your thoughts about what must be done now and moving forward. I appreciate some of the good ideas students have shared already, including introduction of a restorative justice program and mandatory diversity education for all entering students, and I know you will have more constructive recommendations.
As such, Vice Chancellor de la Torre has arranged a meeting to discuss the issue with students this Thursday, April 30th at 12:00 p.m. in Meeting Room 1 of the ARC. With our students’ and the community’s help, we will identify concrete steps needed to improve the culture and direction of our campus. We cannot do this alone. We need your help and support from the entire campus community to bring about this much-needed change.
We share great pride about the outstanding work our UC Davis students, faculty and staff achieve daily in so many areas. To ensure that these collective accomplishments are never compromised or diminished, and so everyone at UC Davis feels safe, supported and welcome, we must all do a better job on the types of climate issues you have identified.
I commend you for standing up to be heard. You have my commitment to work diligently with you to address these concerns as swiftly and directly as possible.
Linda P.B. Katehi
Dear Students, Community and Familia,
We are writing to you to express our enormous anger at the recurring incidents of racial harassment and discrimination towards the Chicana/o Latina/o community at UC Davis. Faculty, staff, and students are extremely distressed by the constant macro and micro aggressions that emerge across the institution. We see these acts as reminders of the severe under-representation of Chicana/o Latina/o faculty, staff, administrators, and students within the UC system; a stark juxtaposition to our community’s majority population in the state of California and an indication of the remaining legacy of California’s and the US’s racialized oppressive past. Ultimately, these racist aggressions and the hurtful aftermath become an extra tax on our department, an emotional, physical, and time-based tax that is not felt across the campus nor shared across all departments.
We are writing to voice our unconditional support to our Chicana/o and Latina/o students, staff and community at this time. As UC Davis moves towards becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, we seek meaningful institutional change that creates an educational community that protects, values, and structurally supports under-represented students, faculty, and staff.
Racist events across campus are often seen as isolated incidents. Yet, as indicated in a recent letter sent by students who have been hurt, marginalized, and alienated by the latest racist incident, these racist behaviors by members of different university’s organizations, sports teams, and individuals are part of a long history of racist acts that have not been repaired institutionally. Within the student’s recent letter (attached here as an addendum) a lack of safety and respect on the UC Davis campus is expressed. Faculty in Chicana/o Studies share these feelings of institutionalized racism, as we too carry the burden of seeking to persist within a campus community where micro and macro racist aggressions take place constantly. This is not an isolated incident but rather an issue that demands institutional change at a time when the state of California is facing dramatic transformation.
As the state of California continues to transform with an ever growing Chicana/o/Latina/o population and as UC Davis moves to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, we seek institutional change in every sector of the campus; the Academic Senate, the Classroom, Student-Life, and in meeting the mission of the Land-Grant institution to apply research and solutions to the State’s needs; the under-representation and risk factors facing the Chicana/o Latina/o community being a priority.
Moving forward the faculty and staff in Chicana/o Studies pledge that there will be one place on the UC Davis campus where we can guarantee everyone will be valued/respected/supported and that place is within our hallway and in the classrooms of our Department. The faculty and staff also pledge that we will work with all who seek to create meaningful transformation and to fulfill the mission of public higher education within the state of California.
For now, as always, we are at your service,
Signed by the Chicana/o Studies Faculty