SAAC protests campus ‘climate’

    On March 4, the Student Affirmative Action Committee held a “Speak-Out” rally in response to the airing of pornography on Student-Run Television. The rally was also meant to address the problems of racial and sexual domination at UCSD, which have been overlooked by the A.S. Council and the media, according to SAAC Chair Emily Leach.

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    “Something is wrong on campus, but does anyone notice?” Leach said. “I see hurt. I see disempowerment. I see anger. Things border on hate speech and hate crime, and we are the voices of resistance.”

    More than a dozen people spoke at the event, which was meant to serve as a forum for students who feel silenced, with students watching from the audience.

    While some of the speakers addressed the campus “climate” in general, many focused on their personal experiences and their opinions of the Koala. Asian Pacific-Islander Student Alliance Representative Mohan Kanungo said that he has faced racial slurs and jeers of “terrorists” while passing by Porter’s Pub.

    The coalition also discussed the existence of the Koala, whose editor appeared in the Feb. 3 SRTV sex video. Leach said the Koala isolates minorities by making them targets of the publication’s humor — a subject of campus controversy in past years.

    “We are terrorized and targeted as images for satire and comedy,” Leach stated in a letter to the A.S. Council, expressing her disappointment with its response to the porn video. “We are told that we do not belong, that we have unnecessary privileges, and when we raise our voices, we are told that we are ‘too sensitive.’”

    Speakers at the rally echoed Leach’s frustrations with the publication. Thurgood Marshall College freshman Kyle Samia said that he felt the publication was offensive.

    “The Koala has defiled the intent of free speech, and it offends me as an American,” Samia said. “We — the religious, the queer, the ethnic — are not here for the entertainment of the campus. Until we are treated with equal respect, we will be offended.”

    Koala Editor and A.S. Elections Manager Steve York said that there have been problems with the publication in the past, but that he hopes to move away from its controversial history.

    “While I understand the Koala and many groups on campus have had a confrontational history, it is not my aim to target these groups in my role as editor,” York said. “I see the Koala in my term more as a social and entertainment organization, and it is my aim to make it so. Certainly there will be problems given the history; it’s just ridiculous for people to assume because the editor produces adult material that it automatically has racial and sexist overtones.”

    Leach also told the A.S. Council that SAAC was frustrated with the responses of both the media and the council to the broadcast — featuring York and an unidentified woman performing sexual acts — which she said reflects of the continuing isolation of campus minorities.

    “Unfortunately, all the media attention and the A.S. Council’s response has not shown how the Koala and other mechanisms of socialization at UCSD have created an unsafe environment for targeted students,” Leach stated in the letter to the council.

    Councilmembers discussed the issue at their March 2 meeting and several listened to comments at the rally, though no consensus was reached.

    “The Koala has an extremely negative effect on campus climate, but what disturbs me is the link that was made between queer people and people of color, and pornography,” Thurgood Marshall College Junior Senator Kate Pillon said. “Beyond the fact that it was heterosexual sex between two white people on ‘Koala TV,’ I see no connection.”

    Vice President External and Queer People of Color principal member Rigo Marquez said that the connection was in the privileges given to people based on their race and gender.

    “It’s not about the white men in the room,” Marquez said. “Your identity gives you privileges. Holding hands is a privilege that heterosexual couples have. White male privilege is a theory about the way people see things.”

    Some members of the A.S. Council, including Warren College Junior Senator Josh Martino, said that the theory of white male privilege did not accurately portray the complexity of the issue.

    “[Leach’s letter] was purely emotionally driven,” Martino said. “Her usage of the ‘white male’ was also disturbing. Extreme generalizations are being made that are extremely hypocritical.”

    A.S. President Jenn Pae said that she has personally witnessed the discrimination described by the members of SAAC and that she hopes that students see the A.S. Council as a forum for voicing their concerns.

    Most senators said that the climate on the A.S. Council poses a problem in need of its attention. Although the issue was discussed at length, they remained divided on the reasons cited by Leach, however.

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