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UCSD settles with federal government in racial harassment case

April 13, 2012 | 12:50 pm

UC San Diego has agreed to “take several steps to prevent racial harassment on campus” as part of a settlement with the federal departments of Justice and Education, officials announced Friday.

The two departments launched an investigation after fielding complaints of “multiple incidents of racial harassment” including a noose left in the campus library, students wearing KKK-style hoods, and an off-campus party called Compton Cookout that mocked Black History Month, officials said.

Among other things, UC San Diego has opened an Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination to receive, investigate and resolve harassment complaints. Administrators also agreed to provide mandatory training for staff and students on the university’s policies against harassment.

Russlyn Ali, assistant secretary for the Education Department’s office of civil rights, praised UC San Diego for its actions. “We hope the entire school community learns from experience and works together to overcome ignorance and intolerance,” Ali said.

UC San Diego spokesman Jeff Gattas said that the voluntary agreement “is further illustration of our commitment to systematic change through enhanced training, outreach programs and ongoing communication.”

In July 2010 UC San Diego invited 20 students from Compton High to a three-week program titled “Focus on the Future: The Compton-UCSD Connection.” The campus is commited to “continue to offer this program or a comparable one involving local schools,” according to an agreement signed by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.

Hosted by a fraternity in February 2010, the Compton Cookout invited women to dress as “ghetto chicks” who “usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama and wear cheap clothes.” The invitation, posted on Facebook, promised chicken and watermelon.

When news of the event became public, it was immediately blasted by student leaders, civil rights activists and the chancellor.

African American students contended that the party was part of an overall attitude of harassment and exclusion at the La Jolla campus, where African American students comprised less than 2% of undergraduates.


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Photo: A rally at UC San Diego in February 2010 protesting the Compton Cookout party held off-campus. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times