Racial Tension at UCLA School of Law Continues to Escalate

A Black law student receives hate mail following her participation in a diversity-awareness campaign.

By Julissa Catalan 


A Black UCLA student is receiving racist hate mail after trying to bring attention to the lack of diversity within the university's law programs.

Alexis Gardener and some of her classmates produced a nine-minute video titled 33, in which students speak candidly about their experiences as the underrepresented group at UCLA.

Shortly after the video's release, Gardner received an anonymous note in her mailbox that read, "Stop being a sensitive n-----." 

Gardner is one of only 33 Black students at the UCLA School of Law; currently, the student body totals 1,100, making Black law students a mere 3 percent of the population.

The school administration was immediately notified and an investigation is underway. In an interview with the The Huffington Post, Nancy Greenstein, a spokesperson for the UCLA Police Department, said: "When it comes to hate crimes on our campus, we always go the extra mile in the investigation." She also stated that prior to giving the note to authorities, multiple people handled the paper, making it difficult to identify fingerprints.

Dean Rachel Moran also released a statement to Above the Law, saying: "We recognize that racial issues exist across the campus, not just in the law school. In fact, just today Chancellor Block issued a special announcement about the need to redouble our diversity efforts in the wake of Proposition 209, which prohibited affirmative action in admissions at any public college or university in California."

This is not the first racially driven incident at UCLA. Last month, according to Above the Law, students ripped down posters and flyers put up by the Black Law Student Association. Moran's response then: "UCLA is dedicated to providing an engaging intellectual environment that is respectful and welcoming to all."

Back in November, a number of students wore T-shirts saying "Team Sander" in anticipation of an upcoming softball game. Some underrepresented students saw these T-shirts as a way of showing support for Professor Richard Sander, whose work argues against affirmative action.

In addition to reporting all incidents to the university authorities, students have also created a Change.org petition addressed to Moran.

The dean documented her response to the petition in this statement to The Huffington Post: "I met for an hour and a half with 15 of our students to discuss the issues that were raised in the Change.org petition. I was happy to share that the law school is making progress on a number of fronts to promote diversity and racial tolerance." She went on to say, "Our initiatives will include student and faculty workshops, curricular reform, restructuring some administrative positions and getting more financial aid money from the University and donors. Yesterday's meeting is the start, not the conclusion, of a conversation that is taking place not only at the law school but also throughout the university community. As Chancellor Block said yesterday, we all need to redouble our efforts to promote diversity at UCLA."

"Overall I'm feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with how it turned out. She played her political part in meeting with us, but she didn't agree to do anything," Gardner told The Daily Bruin, the student newspaper.

As of Tuesday morning, the petition has 828 supporters.

These reoccurring incidents at UCLA Law only validate why underrepresented students felt compelled to start an awareness campaign in the first place, and further justifies the emotions expressed in the student video.

 

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During a launch event, the Peace and Justice Summit, Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, urged the audience to continue their activism beyond the day's events on issues like ending child poverty and gun violence, according to the Chicago Tribune: "Don't come here and celebrate the museum ... when we're letting things happen on an even greater scale."

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