The University of California at Los Angeles has come under fire multiple times this fall for the state of race relations there, reports InsideHigherEd. “First, concern over the treatment of minority professors prompted a sobering report detailing instances of race-based discrimination against faculty members. Next, Sy Stokes and other black male undergrads made their now-viral video about their slim ranks on campus.
“Now some graduate students are weighing in on what they see as a climate of hostility toward minority students, both in the Graduate School of Education’s Information’s Social Science and Comparative Education division and at UCLA as a whole. But the grad students’ interruption of a class session with a sit-in has other graduate students questioning their tactics — and some say their accusations are unfair.
“What we’re speaking to is part of a larger, institutionalized culture on campus,” said Kenjus Waston, a black Ph.D. candidate in the division and an organizing member of UCLA Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color. The group staged a sit-in, or what it called a “teach-in,” during a second-level dissertation preparation course in the division this month. Watson said members hoped to address racially motivated “microagressions” – seemingly innocuous but ultimately hurtful comments or actions – that have marked their time at UCLA.
“About 25 students participated in the sit-in, in the classroom of Val Rust, professor emeritus of education. Watson – a student in that class – said Rust’s course was one of many in which students of “color and consciousness” have experienced discrimination. Of about 10 students in the class, 5 participated in the sit-in. Participants read a letter listing their complaints and a series of demands for reform. Regular coursework was suspended for about an hour because of the sit-in.
“A hostile campus climate has been the norm for Students of Color in this class throughout the quarter as our epistemological and methodological commitments have been repeatedly questioned by our classmates and our instructor,” the group’s letter reads. The statement accuses “the professor” (it does not identify Rust by name) of correcting “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies” and “repeatedly questioning the value of our work on social identity and the related dynamics of oppression, power and privilege.” The “barrage of questions by white colleagues and the grammar ‘lessons’ by the professor have contributed to a hostile class climate,” it continues.”