UC Davis representatives met with the Museum of Tolerance Jan. 18 in hopes of a collaboration to live in better accord with the campus’ principles of community.
The Los Angeles-based multimedia museum, dedicated to the examination of racism and prejudice in the United States, was called upon by the university as a response to the series of hate crime incidents that have occurred on campus over the past two years.
“The UC Davis-Museum of Tolerance discussions began almost two years ago following the incidents of hate and violence that were occurring at the university and other University of California campuses,” said Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor and leader of the Office of Campus Community Relations. “As a result, Chancellor Katehi took a group of staff and student leaders in April 2010 to the museum and spent the day visiting and talking with their professional development and educational experts about implementing on our campus.”
The initial meeting took place after a series of incidents that occurred on the campus, starting in 2010. These incidents included the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center (LGBTRC) vandalized with homophobic graffiti, swastikas spray painted on the sidewalk and a swastika carved on a Jewish student’s dorm, according to a press release.
“We wanted to address these incidents to try to deal with and create a more welcoming environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Reed said.
Since the initial discussion in 2010, there have been continuing discussions between UC Davis and the Museum of Tolerance’s professional development trainers to create collaborative activities that can work jointly with the campus, Reed said.
UC Davis met with the museum’s staff to create professional development and educational training activities for faculty and staff on Jan. 18. Several representatives from the university’s community and representatives from the UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) met to continue previous discussions.
“We are working together to make campus climate safer and more inviting and a climate that does not disenfranchise, discriminate or harass people,” said Rabbi Aron Hier, director of campus outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Resource Center. “It is very complicated because free speech is an inalienable right for all Americans; it is about a lasting and emerging relationship. We are constantly learning new things.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Resource Center, a branch from the Museum of Tolerance, has discussed with the campus that a way to face hate speech is to increase the level of moral outreach and create new ways to leave free speech unchanged, but to use potent ways to “decontextualize” hate speech or elements of it even when those forms of speech are legally protected.
One of the issues that has been in current discussion is the pepper spray incident in November and the deterioration of the relationship between UCDPD and the campus community, Reed said.
Initial discussions with the museum did not include police relations, Hier said.
“I thought the meeting was helpful because it gave us the opportunity to have a dialogue with police staff — it was helpful to listen to their feelings about that night. And that is always an important step in beginning constructive dialogue on how we work together as a campus community,” said Griselda Castro, associate vice chancellor for student affairs.
The Simon Wiesenthal Resource Center recently received a grant for $125,000 over a two-year period from the Jewish Community Foundation in Los Angeles. Funds will be used to create a 20-minute film used in a 90-minute training program. The film will address issues such as what is considered hateful on campus, what the campus is doing about it and if there are new ways that hate is forming.
UC Davis is one of the first campuses that the film will be shown at in 2012, Hier said.
The UC Davis Principles of Community — which states that as an institution of learning, UC Davis is committed to the needs of society as a whole — have come into doubt as hateful incidents have occurred on the campus.
“When aspiration principles are broken, it creates a sense of disappointment. We are trying to make sure we communicate to the campus that we remain strongly committed to this, and we think these activities with the museum will help reinforce our commitment to these principles,” Reed said.
ALICIA KINDRED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.