Administration at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) finally responded this week to the list of "demands" from the White Student Union (WSU), a campus group dedicated to creating a "safe, supportive and inclusive student community of European descent."
The response was far from supportive, to say the least.
First, the UCSB Dean of Student Life, Katya Armistead, contacted the WSU via social media and asked to meet in order to discuss the demands.
Of course, since the students were bound by anonymity for fear of risking their safety, they did not answer Armistead’s message. Armistead subsequently posted on her personal Facebook page, "There is no such thing as the White Student Union at UCSB! The group was created by trolls."
The Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Margaret Klawunn, then sent out an email letting all students know of UCSB’s plan to respond to various demands made by the Black Student Union at UCSB and other "underrepresented minority" groups.
On many campuses this fall, including here, students of color have brought increased attention to institutionalized discrimination and racism and are asking for improvements in recruitment, retention and faculty hiring to ensure a diverse and inclusive academic community. Last week we met with the leadership of the Black Student Union to advance these crucial goals and to discuss progress and plans. UC pledged to establish four North Hall endowed chairs to recruit tenured professors whose research and teaching includes “knowledge and traditions of the Black World.” To date, the Chancellor and the UC President have raised the funding for three recruitments that already have been authorized. The Black Resource Committee, a Student Affairs Committee with a mission to ensure a supportive educational and social climate, has brought forward additional recommendations for initiatives in recruitment, research, and outreach that we anticipate implementing.
The email also notified students of counseling services and a "bias response team" which aims to protect students from "purposeful attempts to intimidate members of our community that may be part of a backlash, and likely orchestrated by those who are not part of the UC community."
Bias Response Team
As important conversations about all of these topics move forward, we need to treat each other with respect and dignity. We can all step up as allies to each other by resisting racism, profiling, and scapegoating. We are concerned about purposeful attempts to intimidate members of our community that may be part of a backlash, and likely orchestrated by those who are not part of the UC community.
To ensure a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students, we need to be vigilant in responding to hate crimes or bias incidents that target any members of our community. Currently, students can report incidents through the UC Police Department and through the Office of Judicial Affairs. Recent concerns, including incidents this fall on and off campus, such as vandalism at St. Michael’s church, have encouraged us to enhance our educational efforts and communication. As a result, we are creating a campus-wide Bias Response team to bring together students, faculty, and staff to review incidents on campus and in Isla Vista, to examine trends, and to make recommendations on proactive efforts to educate our community. The Bias Response team will issue quarterly reports to the campus.
In addition, we are working to improve communication between law enforcement and students. UC Police Department and members of the University faculty and staff are participating in diversity trainings with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office. Additional opportunities will be offered for students to participate in workshops.
The next day, the increasingly antsy UCSB administration sent out another email to the student body naming its fearful enemy: the White Student Union. The email told of its "investigation" into the organizers of student group and "confirmed that there is no such registered student organization at UCSB."
December 4, 2015
Dear UC Santa Barbara students,
About a week ago, we began receiving reports from concerned community members about a Facebook page that claimed to be for an organization called the “UCSB White Student Union.” At the time, we became aware that similar pages had cropped up on other campuses, including at other UC campuses, and we had reason to believe it was part of a larger effort orchestrated outside our community. We immediately began to investigate. We have confirmed that there is no such registered student organization at UCSB, and no UCSB student or affiliate has acknowledged any connection to such an organization. We attempted to find out where the page originated, but we could not get that information. When we reached out to the organizers behind the page to offer to meet, we did not receive a reply, although they complied with our insistence that they remove the University logo and seal from the page.
To the extent that such organizers are trying to make light of the serious commitment and dedicated efforts to create a diverse and inclusive campus at UCSB, we denounce their attempt to undermine the culture of inclusivity that we strive to attain. Although we respect and uphold First Amendment rights and freedom of expression, we are very concerned by any actions that might be perceived to create a hostile climate at our University. It is possible to express different points of view and debate issues without being divisive and causing distress and upset in our community. We cannot control the actions of those outside of the University, but we can reaffirm our own commitment to civil discourse and reject any efforts that undermine our sense of community and common purpose.
We invite any interested students to join us on Saturday, December 5, from 3-4:30 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion, UCEN, to talk, get support, or express their feelings. We know that students are busy with exams at this time. If you are unable to attend this gathering, we are providing a list of resources you can access for support and/or opportunities for involvement:
Student Commission on Racial Equality (SCORE) https://score.as.ucsb.edu/
AS EVPLA https://www.facebook.com/evplaucsb/
Multicultural Center https://mcc.sa.ucsb.edu/students/resources
Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) https://caps.sa.ucsb.edu/
Just Communities: https://www.just-communities.org/
What the UCSB administration failed to acknowledge is that the White Student Union is a campus group that, unlike other minority groups, feels unsafe both at school and in public and thus cannot afford to blow its students' anonymity by becoming registered on campus.
A student member of the WSU told The Daily Wire he or she "must remain anonymous in light of the hate, bigotry and death threats that have been hurled our way."
"It is so disappointing to see UCSB basically openly declare [email protected] on persons of [email protected] descent while at the same time validating the struggles of our black brothers and sisters and the UCSB Black Student Union," the student said. "The email they sent out shows that there is a campaign of discrimination and marginalization of white identities carried out by the UCSB administration that will inevitably lead to many PED to feel unsafe."
In spite of all the negative pushback it has been receiving, the group continues to use a combination of parody and wit to effectively relay to the university and the public just how unfair and hypocritical the support of other racial identity groups such as the Black Student Union is.
The group has imitated rhetoric used by other social justice warriors to prove its point; in one case, that of UCSB sociology student Sabrena Martin, who posted the following images on her Facebook page:
After Martin decried the UCSB-WSU’s Facebook post as ‘racist’, one person commented, “You’re starting to get how stupid you sound now?”
The UCSB-WSU maintains that it will keep firmly to its plans, which include staging a White Student "Walk Out" rallying for "solidarity with white students" in January, as well as promoting its cause on Facebook and Twitter.