Student groups from both UCLA and USC hosted a joint town hall session Wednesday evening at UCLA in an ongoing response to the racist flier targeting Asian women that was mailed to both the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and USC Asian Pacific American Students Services. This followed a panel on social justice hosted by USC’s student groups last week.
Though the event focused on the response by the UCLA student community, Gloria Kim and Alison Chang, executive and assistant director, respectively, of the USC Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, were present as part of a panel discussion and made a statement expressing solidarity with UCLA.
“It’s very difficult to respond to micro-aggression as individuals, and that’s why it’s important for us to respond as a community,” Chang said. “Looking beyond our two campuses, it’s a broader issue for the APA community and for other communities of color.”
Representatives from UCLA Asian Pacific Coalition said that the administration has been helpful so far in responding to the incident.
“UCLA administration has been very supportive of our efforts, starting from the very first day,” said Anh Q. Nguyen, a UCLA student and president of the Vietnamese Student Union. “However, it has been a lot of student-initiated efforts, starting with the rally and now the photo campaign that’s taking place across California.”
She said that though dialogue is important, this is not the first incident to occur at UCLA and is indicative of a larger problem.
“Nothing has been done to give us a tangible solution,” Nguyen said. “This is a systemic problem, but it needs to start from the policymakers. We need more [Asian Pacific Islander] community members at the decision-making level so that there is someone who understands our concern.”
All panelists agreed that the focus should be on adjusting the culture surrounding the issue and apprehension of the suspects is secondary. They did note, however, that both USC and UCLA campus police have been treating the issue seriously.
“Our very existence [as minority students] is a revolutionary act,” said Jazz Kiang of UCLA APC. “Even with the limited resources that we have … this attack is on a personal level, the objectification of Asian women was very apparent in the flier and that is something that people in the community suffer from.”
Following the panel discussion, the floor was opened to comments from the audience. A graduate student and native Hawaiian spoke about previous incidents of racism at UCLA, including an altercation with a white professor and refusal from the administration to take action.
“How many more incidents need to happen before UCLA realizes we have a lack of diversity education on this campus?” said a student who identified himself as the president of the Muslim Student Association. “People don’t know about other cultures [and] we can’t wait any longer — urge the academic senate to include a diversity requirement.”
The event concluded with a reading of a joint letter from USC APASA and UCLA APC, citing incidents of racism on both campuses and requesting support from the community. The letter also included demands from the Asian Pacific Islander community to UCLA’s administration, including annual programming for cultural groups, more Asian Pacific Islander representation on the chancellor’s staff, a multicultural center and a summit paid for by the chancellor.
Kim said USC APASA is focused on starting a dialogue with students and hopes to bring the conversation to the student community at large.
“We’re starting conversations with students,” Kim said. “But the reaction at USC has been quieter than at UCLA, and I think people will chalk this up as an isolated incident, and say we don’t have much of a history [of racial incidents], but we want to engage them and reach out to student leaders from other organizations outside the APA community.”