The Times Does San Diego

Regulars at FIRE’s must-read blog, The Torch, already know the ugly details of events at California-San Diego. A fraternity held an off-campus party that was at best tasteless and at worst racist. Appearing on a student-run TV station (which is funded by the student government through student fees), a student satirical organization defended the party in language, The Torch drily noted, “that many persons on campus found highly offensive.”
The university response, however, was nothing short of extraordinary. UCSD president Marye Anne Fox—acting under pressure from various California state legislators—has threatened disciplinary actions against the students involved in planning the party. (That Fox’s administration has elected to use a judicial code that was modified because its overly broad nature appears not to have worried the UCSD powers that be.) Even more incredibly, the student government president—working in concert with the university’s counsel and other university administrators—has frozen funding to all student media organizations. This assault on the First Amendment drew public rebuke from both FIRE and the ACLU, but appears not to have troubled either Fox or her defenders.
The general outlines of the UCSD case should come as little surprise to close observers of contemporary higher education. Regardless of how offensive the student conduct was (and, in this case, it was pretty offensive), the abusive reaction of those with power at the university is far, far more troubling. In the name of promoting “diversity,” Fox and her administration seem intent on massively violating due process for her own institution’s students and ignoring the requirements that the First Amendment imposes on any public college or university.
Saturday, the New York Times brought its attention to events at the San Diego campus. The First Amendment issue received one sentence in reporter Randal Archibold’s article: “The student association has suspended financing to all campus media while it studies what to do about the program about the party.” The article ignored the protests against this draconian action. Likewise the Times saw fit to gloss over the civil liberties angle, blandly observing, “The administration is still investigating the Compton Cookout, and whether students can or should be sanctioned.”

Such uncomfortable facts, alas, wouldn’t complement the Times‘ decision to focus on—unsurprisingly—diversity. Archibold’s article provides such quotes as this one from Fox: “I think we would all like to believe that racism was a thing of the ’60s, that it’s now passed us. These incidents suggest it’s not.” The article provides no context through which to interpret this ahistorical assertion. Instead, Archibold implies that a lack of minority representation at the UCSD campus—caused by the pernicious effects of Ward Connerly and Prop 209—explains its students’ apparently pervasive racism.
Here’s how Archibold explains the problem: “But more than a decade after a state ballot proposition barred the use of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions, the University of California continues to struggle to diversify its campuses. Black and Latino undergraduate enrollment systemwide plummeted and, although gains have been made in the numbers of minority students since then, the proportion of white (30.5 percent) and Asian (39.8 percent) students enrolled last year far exceeded that of blacks (3.8 percent) and Latinos (20.4 percent).”
Neither Archibold nor any of the story’s editors appear to have found anything unusual in the Times’ assertion that Asian enrollees are not “minority students.” For those in the reality-based community, however, it’s not clear what rationale exists for the paper’s remarkable claim. Asians are, obviously, a minority of California’s population (12.5 percent of the state’s people, as of 2008, a smaller percentage of California than Hispanics, who comprise 36.6 percent of the state’s population). And Asians certainly have experienced the effects of state-sponsored discrimination—to a greater extent than Hispanics.
Nor can the Times’ “diversity” description apply to “underrepresented” racial or ethnic groups. It’s true that in the University of California system, both blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented, at least if utilizing the blunt comparison to their percentages of the statewide population. But so too are whites: though non-Hispanic whites were 42.3 percent of California’s population in 2008, they provided, as the Times noted, only 30.5 percent of the system’s student population. Do these figures testify to the persistence of the 1960s-style racism that President Fox has so confidently discerned?
The Times, so obsessed with “diversity” that it is unconcerned with either civil liberties or suppression of the media—even to the effect of writing the ACLU out of its story? It seems as if the paper has reverted to the discredited agenda it employed in the Duke lacrosse case.


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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One thought on “The Times Does San Diego”

  1. Is Marye Anne Fox a radical feminist anti-capitalist who opposes white supremacy and imperialism, with a central commitment to creating a sustainable human presence on the planet?

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