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UC Leaders Pledge Support to Find Strategies to Combat Intolerance

March 1, 2010

MERCED, CA— President Mark Yudof and UC
Regents Chairman Russell Gould met face to face Monday with
students concerned about recent incidents of intolerance at
University of California campuses and pledged to focus attention
systemwide on strategies to prevent such acts in the future.

“These are the worst incidents of racism I have seen on campuses
in 20 years,” Yudof told about 100 students who were staging a
sit-in on the sidewalk in front of the UC Center Sacramento
building on K Street. “I understand that students don’t feel safe,
they don’t feel comfortable on their campuses.”

Student and UC leaders were meeting at the center before setting
out Monday for joint visits with legislators and Gov.
Schwarzenegger to ask for budget support for the university and for
Cal Grants, a financial aid program for low-income students. About
400 students had attended the annual UC Student Association
leadership conference in Sacramento over the weekend, and some
200-300 students took part Monday in a rally and march at the Capitol.

Victor Sanchez, president of the systemwide UC Student
Association, and other student leaders asked Yudof and the
chancellors and regents assembled for the advocacy day to take
action in response to a series of incidents that included a noose
left in the UC San Diego campus library and anti-gay graffiti
sprayed in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource
Center at UC Davis over the weekend.

“The university is in danger of losing the trust of its
students” given the spate of incidents, said Jesse Cheng, student regent-designate.

Cheng was among those students asking UC leaders to endorse a
request they delivered to 120 legislative offices Monday for
legislation that would declare across California’s three systems of
public higher education there is a “ZERO tolerance policy for acts
of hate with intent to terrorize.” The students’ proposal would
require students who commit such acts to be expelled and have their
actions included in their permanent academic records.

“The sentiment of the bill I agree with,” Yudof told students,
adding that he would look at the proposal but did not want to put
forth something that would not stand up to constitutional
challenges in court. He also cautioned the students that due
process had to be followed in determining disciplinary actions
against students responsible for the campus incidents. He said he
has asked the Irvine and San Diego chancellors to move quickly on
those processes.

Calling the recent incidents a “black eye for the university,”
Yudof also said he would meet with student leaders next week to
discuss strategies for addressing the racial incidents at UC San
Diego and a Feb. 8 incident at UC Irvine where students heckled the
Israeli ambassador to the United States at a public lecture on
U.S.-Israeli relations. He said he was sensitive to the students’
related concerns about the lack of underrepresented students on UC
campuses and the need to bolster outreach programs to recruit and
retain them.

Gould told students that the regents were deeply disturbed by
the recent incidents of intolerance and he would allow extended
open comment periods to air students’ feelings during the March
23-25 regents’ meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. Gould last
week also called for chancellors at affected campuses to provide a
special report at the meeting on the incidents and the actions
being taken to ensure that these types of confrontations do not
occur in the future.

When the American Black Caucus holds its annual conference at UC
Riverside later this month, Chancellor Tim White said there would
be another opportunity to discuss strategies for UC to address the
student concerns.

Before setting out on legislative visits, Gould asked students
to stay focused on the issues they came to Sacramento Monday to
air: support for UC’s budget and students’ financial aid.

Without state financial support, Yudof said, it is difficult to
maintain recruitment and retention of underrepresented students.
When state budget cuts force UC to limit freshman enrollment and
financial aid is cut, he said, that affects access for all
students, particularly low-income and underrepresented students.


Donna Hemimila