Crosstown rivals USC and UCLA are teaming up in response to alleged on-campus racism and to a derogatory flier sent to both schools in early February, the schools announced via Facebook.
Asian-Pacific Islander (API) students from both universities hosted a joint town hall at UCLA on Wednesday night to “end the targeting of people of color, especially the often ignored racism against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.”
"Nothing has been done to give us a tangible, solid solution," UCLA student Ahn Nguyen said at the town hall Wednesday night.
Earlier this month, two on-campus groups received identical copies of a flier riddled with racist and sexist slurs. The offensive missive, in more words than less, deplored Asian women for "worshipping" white males.
“This is a huge issue,” Uyen Hoang, director of UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition (APC), told NBC4. “We wanted to collaborate because these are not campus-to-campus issues; this is a community issue and a perception of Asian women that has been around for decades.”
The fliers were given to UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and USC’s Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS).
The document mirrored the sentiments, grammar and spelling of a sign posted outside UCLA’s Vietnamese Student Union Office during the school’s fall 2012 quarter. The sign read “Asian women R Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores.”
"The UCLA PD and the USC PD have labeled these two incidents as hate incidents and they’ve each launched their own investigation," UCLA student Jazz Krang said at the town hall Wednesday night.
According to a letter signed by UCLA’s APC, Samahang Pilipino, Pacific Islands Student Association and Vietnamese Student Union, among other organizations, the two pieces of hateful literature fall in line with an existing “toxicity” present on campus.
"UCLA used to be this great dream school and now I don’t like it here," one student told NBC4.
USC student leaders also penned a response to the flier on Feb. 11 calling the letter a “racist and misogynistic attack with clear intentions not only to target the collective [Asian Pacific American] community, but also to pit people of color against one another.”
The student organizations seeking to empower API students have frequently cited Alexandra Wallace’s viral video, “Asians in the Library,” as well as a slew of 2012 incidents, which allege hostile campus climates -- not just at UCLA and USC, but on campuses throughout California.
Voices from both campuses are calling for administrators at institutions of higher education to make the necessary adjustments to improve conditions for all students of color -- not just students with Asian backgrounds.
"How many more incidences must happen for UCLA to realize that we have a problem, we have a lack of diversity education on this campus," a representatitve from the Muslim Student Association said at Wednesday's town hall.
UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea emailed a statement to NBC4 saying “the hurtful language in the flier is contrary to the values of respect and inclusion promoted” by the university.
“Campus leaders condemn [racism] in the strongest possible terms and share the concerns expressed by students,” Ritea said. “Improvements are needed, and broad consultation is required.”
Hoang, a 21-year-old senior majoring in international development studies, said racist and sexist -- sometimes both -- incidents have occurred “without fail” every year she’s been enrolled at UCLA.
The administration makes "empty promises," she said, and has failed to curb racist incidents.
But UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and other top administrators are hopeful the student-planned town hall will be a constructive step in ensuring the "welcoming environment our campus community deserves and expects," Ritea said.
In an open letter to the USC community from the beginning of the month, director of USC’s APASS, Mary Ho, said: “The Trojan community prides itself on creating a campus of support and inclusion and we will continue to promote an environment that affirms all identities.”
Ho also said that USC’s Department of Public Safety had been notified and was investigating the flier.
USC’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Ainsley Carry, emailed a statement to the Trojan community late Tuesday night denouncing the language in the letter and supporting the responses offered by the student organizations.
“I am especially proud of the way students at USC and UCLA have responded,” Carry said. “Our diversity is a point of pride and strength for us, and an asset to our community.”
Students of Asian origin comprise 23 percent of the USC undergraduate population, Carry said.
Comparatively, UCLA’s fall 2013 undergraduate numbers boast an Asian or Pacific Islander enrollment of roughly 35 percent, according to demographic data on the school’s website.
Hoang has acknowledged the large size of UCLA’s API population and said she wants to know: “Why do these things keep on happening and why are people so insensitive?”
The goal of the town hall, Hoang said, is to take the issue past the confines of UCLA and USC’s campuses.
“This flier is a symptom of a larger issue,” Hoang said. “We can’t solve small issues if we don’t see the bigger picture.”
Faculty members were invited to the town hall, but none spoke at the meeting, according to an NBC4 report.
Demands of students at the town hall include the university chancellors paying for future diversity summits to encourage diversity education on campus.