Students Are the Real Heroes in UCLA’s “Asians in the Library” Saga

They used a personal attack to push for institutional change.

By Asraa Mustufa Mar 30, 2011

Did UCLA’s administration react well enough to Alexandra Wallace’s infamous YouTube rant against Asian students? According to the Los Angeles Times, some people think so. While the school ultimately decided to not pursue action against Wallace, saying that the university does not punish free speech, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block did denounce Wallace’s remarks in an email sent to the campus community, saying that "speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people …is indefensible and has no place at UCLA." 

Rick Rojas at the Los Angeles Times writes that Block went a step further by posting a video response online, where the controversy began.

Chancellor Gene Block sat down in the broadcast studio that the university recently constructed and made a statement condemning the student’s video. Block’s response was then posted on YouTube, the same place the controversy began.

By the time the chancellor’s statement was posted, it was just one in a slew of videos on the subject. Some were light-hearted, others angry; some were politically correct, others as crude as the first. Hampton said it was crucial for UCLA’s administration to inject its voice directly into the conversation.

UCLA’s administration should be applauded for its response. They took to YouTube and addressed the situation directly, whereas similar racist incidents sparked outrage at UCSD only solicited an email to the student body. 

But it’s the students who should be applauded most. Jorge Rivas has already outlined how students were quick, assertive, and constructive in their response to the video. The Asian Pacific Coalition also noted the continued relevance of ethnic studies programs, which are facing termination at Cal State LA, dissolution at UC Santa Cruz, and are banned in public schools in Arizona state. A student op-ed also appeared in the Daily Bruin, condemning the sexist and racist backlash and intimidation Wallace has received, and urging the UCLA administration to take action through sensitivity workshops at freshman orientation, a diversity General Education requirement, and sustained diversity program on campus, and forums.

"The campus must collectively prove that it is worthy of the multiculturalism it promotes by fighting stereotypes and building alliances," students wrote in an op-ed.