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UC-San Diego Ensnared in Another Race Controversy

SAN DIEGO — Racial tensions are up at the University of California, San Diego again after someone sent a campuswide e-mail that contained the N-word.

Someone hit “reply all” to an e-mail about a student survey on Feb. 9 and only wrote the epithet in the message. Campus administrators condemned the e-mail as “hurtful and offensive” this week, but they declined to identify the student or say whether any disciplinary action was taken.

University spokeswoman Judy Piercey says student personnel matters can’t be discussed. She downplayed the incident as “minor” and called the incident “one student being a jerk.”

Black students say the response shows the university hasn’t done enough to address racial problems on campus. “The university is just doing the small stuff,” says Victor Brown, vice chair of the university’s Black Student Union.

Last year, a series of racially charged pranks ignited controversy on the normally tranquil campus. It started with an off-campus party mocking Black History Month. Organizers of the party billed it as “Compton Cookout,” encouraged guests to dress as ghetto stereotypes and promised there would be chicken, watermelon and malt liquor.

Several days later, a noose was found in the university library, sparking a protest with students taking over the chancellor’s office for several hours. Then, a KKK-style hood was found draped over a campus statue.

The incidents led Black students, who make up only 2 percent of the student population, to make several demands to diversify the student body, faculty and staff. Administrators agreed to do so through targeted recruitment, and to provide more classes and instructors dedicated to diversity.

The university contends it has done much over the past year to address problems, including stepping up the recruitment of Black students and trying to create a mandatory class that will teach students about intolerance.

LaWana Richmond, head of the university’s Black Staff Association, acknowledged the university has made strides toward making meaningful change. “Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight,” she says.  

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