Now, more than ever, racial tensions are off the charts. While it’s true that the majority of cases hitting the news are concerning the police and minorities – primarily African-Americans – this case has nothing to do with law enforcement of any kind; just rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalization enforcement.
UCLA houses a group called Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color, and they’re upset. They allege ‘several incidents,’ but the most notable is a tendency (in their eyes) of professor of education and information, Val Rust, to correct the grammar, punctuation and capitalization of the assignments handed in by minority students.
According to this group, correcting a black student is deemed ‘micro-aggression.’
Staging a sit-in during another meeting of the class (only five of the 25 in attendance at the sit-in even being students in the class, which has 10 students), the group penned the following to the college: “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] barrage of questions by white colleagues and the grammar ‘lessons’ by the professor have contributed to a hostile class climate.”
While the main target of the sit-in was Professor Rust, the students had issues with ‘UCLA’s handling of racial issues that went far beyond just one classroom.’
Rust said in a statement to his colleagues (as he is lecturing out of the country at the moment), “I have attempted to be rather thorough on the papers and am particularly concerned that they do a good job with their bibliographies and citations, and these students apparently don’t feel that is appropriate.” He further stated that he meant no offense to any minorities in his class.
According to Kenjus Watson, the organizer of the sit-in, one such correction was Professor Rust telling a student that she shouldn’t have capitalized ‘indigenous’ in her assignments. Kenjus claims this correction was ‘ideologically-motivated.’
Professor Rust admitted likely making matters worse by not taking the side of a minority student who was in an ‘argument’ with a white student. The minority student had argued with the white female student that she had no right to feel oppressed. Rust hadn’t agreed with either side; simply choosing to stay out of it.
Rust explained, “Two weeks ago, a Student of Color and a white female student got into a big discussion. She wants to use Standpoint Theory [a method of analysis based on the idea that all knowledge is subjective and based on one’s position in society] in her dissertation, and the Student of Color told her she had no business claiming that she was a member of an oppressed group.”
“[The white female student] came back saying there are all kinds of oppression. I likely did not handle the situation well, because I chose not to stop the discussion between them, so it went on for quite a while, and the Students of Color apparently interpreted my silence to mean I wasn’t supporting them,” Rust continued.
UCLA’s minority community, however, reiterates that it’s upset about more than just Rust’s class. There was recently a report claiming that minority professors are consistently the victims of discrimination and racial bias, and urged the university to ‘strengthen its bias incident response procedures and hire a Discrimination Officer.’
“What we’re speaking to is part of a larger, institutionalized culture on campus,” said Kenjus Watson in a statement.