Students walk out of UC San Diego teach-in on 'Compton Cookout'
Nine days after an off-campus student party mocked Black History Month, UC San Diego went through a day of protests, tumult and self-examination Wednesday, especially concerning the small number of African American students enrolled at the beachside campus.
University administrators sponsored a teach-in on racial tolerance that attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,200 students, faculty and staff to an auditorium in the student center. But halfway through what was to be a two-hour session in response to the offensive racial stereotypes at the Feb. 15 "Compton Cookout" party, most students walked out in protest.
They then held their own noisy but peaceful rally outside the building. Administrators may have thought the teach-in “would make us quiet,” said Fnann Keflezighi, vice chairman of the Black Student Union. But she said minority students don’t believe that UC San Diego will take significant steps to make them feel more comfortable on campus and increase their numbers.
The controversial party, she and others contended, was just the spark that ignited new activism about long-simmering issues at the university. Many wore special black and white T-shirts that proclaimed: “Real Pain, Real Action, 1.3%” -- a reference to the percentage of African Americans among the campus' undergraduates, thought to be the lowest in the UC system.
The teach-in moderator, Mentha Hynes-Wilson, an African American who is dean of students at UCSD’s Thurgood Marshall College, continued the meeting for several hundred people who remained in the room after the walkout. "I was not necessarily offended or taken aback by their actions,” she said of the student protest. “That’s what they needed to do, and we need to honor that.”
UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox attended the teach-in but did not speak publicly. Administrators said the campus is taking many steps to boost recruitment of African American students and to provide more counseling and security on campus. The university is also investigating whether it can discipline the organizers of the off-campus party, which invited guests to dress like ghetto caricatures from Compton and eat chicken and watermelon.
Several days after the party, racial tensions were raised further when a satire group on campus used a derogatory term about African Americans on a student television show; the student station has been temporarily suspended, as has student government funding for some other publications.
-- Larry Gordon, reporting from San Diego
Photo: Amid a rally of thousands, student chant in solidarity after walking out of a university organized "Teach In" on February 24, 2010 on the campus of UCSD in La Jolla. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times