UCLA Student's Anti-Asian YouTube Rant: Do Colleges Need Mandatory Diversity Classes?

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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A UCLA student is in hot water after filming a disturbing anti-Asian rant and posting it online. Last Friday, political science major Alexandra Wallace taped an almost three-minute video called "Asians in the Library," and over the weekend, it went viral on YouTube. In the video she attacks Asian students for everything from talking on their cell phones to having elderly relatives come visit. Although the university has condemned her tirade, the incident raises the question, what should colleges do foster a truly inclusive learning environment and prepare students for a diverse world?

Wallace complains about "these hordes of Asian people that UCLA accepts into our school every single year," and then bashes them for their so-called bad manners. She demonstrates her "good" American manners by insensitively criticizing Asian students who used the phone after the tsunami hit Japan saying, "I swear they're going through their whole families just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing."

She goes on to add, "Hi, in America, we do not talk on our cellphones in the library... Every 15 minutes I'll be like deep into my studying... and over here from somewhere it's "Ohhh! Ching chong ling long ting tong? Ohhh!"

UCLA's student body is 40 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander and Wallace's statements reflect a common bias against API students on college campuses. A statement from UCLA's Asian Pacific Coalition notes Wallace's comments perpetuate "the view of API’s as the model minority and the foreign 'they' who unfairly get accepted into 'our' school."

UCLA chancellor Gene Block issued a statement reiterating the school's commitment to "fostering an environment that values and supports every member of the community," and also voiced his concern that Wallace's commentary "undermines that environmen­t by expressing hurtful and shameful ideas about others in our community."

Associate vice chancellor Robert Naples also told the school paper, the Daily Bruin, that he's received more than 100 email complaints. And, although school officials have yet to meet with Wallace, Naples said that they hope to soon, and they'll "be taking a look at the language that she uses in the video to see if it violates any codes under the student code, perhaps regarding harassment." However, Naples noted that the school's student code doesn't trump Wallace's First Amendment rights to free speech.

On Monday afternoon, Wallace released an apology to the Daily Bruin, saying

Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate. I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would. I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.

Such statements and apologies are all well and good, but given the global nature of our world and the need for colleges to produce a competent 21st century workforce, is it time for schools to mandate a class that teaches students how to work with people from diverse backgrounds? The Asian Pacific Coalition has issued a "call for the UCLA Academic Senate to pass a requirement in the general education curriculum grounded in the UCLA Principles of Community." After all, just because Wallace is the only student to post her thoughts on video doesn't mean others on campus don't share her opinion. And, what's just as wrong is that Wallace has now received several death threats and has been advised to "reschedule her final exams in light of the death threats and information posted online that listed her class schedule and exam locations."

Regardless of the consequences UCLA imposes on Wallace, or what steps they take to educate the student body about working with diverse people, given the permanent nature of whatever we post on the internet, this video is going to haunt Wallace for the rest of her life. Just think, every time a prospective employer does an online search for her name, this rant is going to come up.