Dear President Veitch,
Although there are many points of your email I find to be unproductive, I am especially disappointed in how you handled the situation with students and faculty coming forward in efforts to make your college a safer place for students. It is appalling that you would shame someone who has been hurt by the system in place who is courageously trying to improve the campus. By belittling and mislabeling their efforts as attempts to “embarrass the college” that “dismayed” you, you are obviously utilizing a silencing and shaming tactic to discourage anyone from critiquing the college in a productive way in order to make it a safer environment for all students. This is a primitive way of maintaining a culture of complacency which you and the administration seem to be invested in. Politics and profits aside about this specific incident, it should go without saying that you as a leadership figure and face of the college need to create an environment in which students feel comfortable ta king action against oppressive and dangerous aspects of student life. Please take your power and responsibility seriously by stepping up and realizing that survivors or anyone else asserting their right to make this campus a safer and more inclusive space is doing just that. Not trying to embarrass the school or “vilify” faculty. Stop being defensive and take these criticism to heart.
(Sophomore, Art History)
I am an Oxy alum. For ten years, I have felt proud of my choice to attend Oxy, my time there and the community that continues to thrive. I have given to the college loyally every year since graduation and come from a long line of Oxy graduates. In fact, both my parents and grandparents met while they attended Oxy. It is from this place that I write to inform you that I am deeply saddened by your sexist comments and lack of policy implementation regarding the OxyAlert system. As a result, I have decided to withhold all future giving to the college until your position on sexual assault reporting changes.
One of the most important aspects of my college education and what brings me a great sense of pride when reflecting on my degree is the integrity of the college and the community I learned so much from. You have not risen to meet the Occidental standard. I learned clearly and with conviction why such discrimination should not be tolerated, especially in an institutional setting, as an eighteen year old in freshman seminar. It was a transformative experience. It is clear you have yet to make that transformation yourself. You may wish to enroll in one of the many courses on campus that simply and clearly explain for you why your decisions are so out of line with the spirit of the college, equity, anti-discrimination laws, and common decency. I do hope that you open yourself up to even a small amount of the incredible education the faculty at Oxy has to offer. They have a lot of valuable things to teach.
Now as a high school teacher counseling students to find the right college fit, this incident ways heavy on my mind. Last year I was so proud when one of my students chose Oxy from a long list of colleges. I do not like the thought that such an amazing, talented upstanding young woman could be sexually assaulted and her report would not be deemed credible in your mind. It feels intolerable that I could be tangentially implicated in your sexist mishandling of the policy when recommending the school to young women, who without a doubt will be affected by this policy.
I do hope your mind will be swayed when you consider the hundreds of young women who will be affected by this decision now and in the future. Selfishly I hope your position will change so that I can retain the great feelings I have about the college community I was once a part of.
Please let me know if your position on this matter changes.
(Class of ‘03)
I am a class of ’09 graduate. I loved Oxy, and Oxy still has a place in my heart.
I commend every activist on campus. You are the conscience in the soul of any institution. It is your job to remind people that they are human.
I also commend, in particular, the activist who spoke to a reporter about a rape on campus. That takes real bravery.
I do not know exactly how campus activists will completely eliminate sexual assault at Oxy, but you can find a way. There is a great documentary called Fambul Tok that PBS produced about community-based redress. Maybe Oxy can organize that.
I believe that every rapist should be made to look the other person in the face and have a series of mediated conversations so that he can regain a relationship to the compassion in himself. A rapist is a person who hates himself, and does not always succeed in creating that level of self-hatred in any other person.
I do not think that removing a rapist from college enrollment and putting him in prison will help the situation.
Nor do I believe that robbers should be put in prison, unless they kill someone.
Prison, even when it does not imply rape, is still degradation of the human condition.
Angela Davis took an admirable stance against the incarceration of rapists last year. She is a prison abolitionist.
So, as I said, I do not know how to prevent rape in society at large, but I feel that Oxy students, among yourselves, can do it.
The good news is that I firmly believe that Oxy can eliminate robberies. There is really no need for those around campus.
The way to eliminate robberies is to stop being afraid of them. Familiarize yourself with the culture of Los Angeles, with the locals from all over the world who live within walking distance of Oxy. Walk around on York Blvd., not just Eagle Rock. Don’t worry, it’s safe. I lived there. It’s safe wherever you smile at people and say hello. Be at home in your own skin, wherever you are.
Instead of getting the next Bengal Bus to Old Town, take the bus down Eagle Rock to Glassell Park. Check out the beautiful, enormous murals down at Cypress and Eagle Rock.
When I was a first-year, the campus-wide alert system was barely existent. The only kind of campus-wide alerts had to do with our RA’s knocking on our doors in the morning, and a few emails that we never read.
Nobody used to read the listserv. Our email interface made no sense.
At various times, Oxy tried to make the campus more “safe.” I’ve always believed that safety was about relationships between people–basically, knowing your neighbors–but the security industry (just like the weapons industry) is very persuasive.
In particular, insurance companies like it when architects and institutions build with a lot of security systems (ID Cards, etc.). At a certain point, the library installed an airport-like “security checkpoint” when you walk in the front door, which, I imagine, is still locked at night.
Your ID Card is a distraction from the fact that nobody else can be who you are, but anybody can make a counterfeit ID Card.
At one point a redheaded woman stole many, many laptops. Nobody was expecting her.
Safety is relative, and never guaranteed.
A campus-wide alert system does not make anyone safer. New technologies do not, in themselves, make people safer. Community makes people safer.
Community can’t be bought or sold. It’s not an object to acquire. It’s not even an idea. It’s more like a rapport or a rhythm. A way of acknowledging everyone around you. It is “swag.”
When Oxy knows its neighbors in Highland Park and Eagle Rock, when Oxy truly integrates itself with the community by fostering mutual respect, the situation will improve.
And thank you, Oxy, for a fun four years!
(Class of ‘09)
As the news regarding the sexual assault at Oxy has unfolded, it has been impossible not to notice the infighting between the administration and student body. Ultimately, whatever “tarnish” eventually remains on the diplomas of current or future alumni and the academic reputation of Occidental will be the fault of both the administration and community, represented in large by the students. However, guilt will lie on both and neither one of these bodies individually.
Student involvement starts not with policy nor even suggested changes being made by Project SAFE or OSAC. It starts with the masses, it starts with every single student at Occidental, and it only ends when we decide.
Men, or boys, depending on your ability to rise up to the following challenge, take an interest. Know that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by men. Know that you are therefore at risk of committing such an act and don’t be afraid to consider that possibility. Denial is not a solution. Take an interest in the issues that women face, become introspective and curious as to how you alleviate the fears of others and make the situation better.
In my opinion, sexual assault education at Occidental needs improvement and not in the trivial, seemingly pathetic way in which it is currently executed. Last year Jackson Katz, an authority on gender violence and related-issues spoke at Occidental and the many male athletes required by their coaches to attend, treated Mr. Katz with the same disrespect that they might give to those they sexually-pursue.
This is not to say that all men are bad, or even that all male athletes are bad. Not many are at risk of committing sexual assault. But those who are need to be deterred via social means. So to those men who deem themselves incapable of forcing themselves on another, do more. It is not enough to be content with what you believe you wouldn’t do. Discourse on intercourse and sexuality and engage those who seem disinterested. Pry and prod until we, as a collective group of men, do better.
However, this cannot fall on males alone. Women, continue to make your voices heard and encourage others to speak up. It may end with sexual assault but it certainly doesn’t start there. It starts with jokes about rape, lack of discussion between the sexes about the issue, and a general sentiment that such things do not happen within YOUR circle of friends. But, as many of you might be realizing, it does. So, demand that the rape joke your male friend just made not be tolerated. Demand that he not only apologize but think about it critically, demand that he treat you as you deserve.
Oxy students are notorious for letting social issues fall by the wayside, preferring to click a button on Facebook rather than send a letter or schedule a meeting. Returning from Spring Break is a perfect opportunity to prove this stereotype correct. Why remember the issues you discussed before Cabo, Hawaii, or elsewhere when you have finals and midterms coming up? Don’t get me wrong, studying is important, but so is the opportunity at hand, so stay at it. One day you’ll think back and say something non-descript about college, or perhaps you’ll tell someone that you helped make Occidental a safer, better, and more responsible place.
As a single unit, administration and student body both, it is time to decide what it is this institution, school, and community should stand for.
Side note: Regarding the request from OSAC to reinstate the verbal consent portion of to the sexual assault policy; yes perhaps asking permission does break the mood a bit, but keep in mind, if an individual is going to sleep with you, their mind won’t be changed by the phrase: “is this okay with you?”
Wesley Goodman Levy
(Class of ‘12)
This letter is a response to Henry Dickmeyer’s opinion piece titled “‘Nod your head and wake up’ to Occidental’s tolerance paradox”
The tolerance paradox is an interesting concept to explore. As a principle, tolerance dictates that we should be willing to accept and condone opinions and behaviors that differ from our own. An argument can then be made that the tolerant individual should accept and condone the intolerant. If we were to reject intolerance, then by definition we are no longer practicing tolerance.
But this is all a game in semantics. Yes, it is true that rejecting intolerance, technically speaking, makes me intolerant. So be it. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali rightfully puts it, “tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” If Occidental is to actually prepare us for “leadership in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and pluralistic world” as our mission dictates, how can we in good conscience not address intolerance in our community?
This whole idea that we are somehow in the wrong for challenging intolerant attitudes on our campus is not only a noisy distraction from the issues we face, but it is also counterproductive to progress. Labeling those who think critically and challenge systemic intolerance and oppression as extremists, bullies, and hypocrites throws a wrench in the already slow-moving gears that push us forward.
Having a conversation about the racial dimensions of our SpringFest selection does not mean “Programming Board hates minorities.” Pointing out the culturally insensitive aspects of our Harlem Shake video does not “signify the college’s condonation [sic] of intolerance.” I understand that being in a position of privilege often makes it difficult to process these sorts of challenges to power, but please try not to use your privilege to judge the experiences of people of color, minorities, etc. Instead of dismissing or invalidating these challenges, join in on the conversation; no one is saying you need to agree. You call for more empathy in our political discourse and I implore you to follow your own advice.
And while I truly commend your commitment to the ideal of moderation, I want to point out that it is just that: an ideal that is not always realized. When our college has a sexual assault policy that puts the safety of our students at risk, when we have an administration that potentially violates federal policy to protect their image at the expense of sexual assault survivors, when we have a president who has publicly shamed a student who was raped on our campus for sharing her story and concerns with the media, we have moved past moderation. The rage, the anxiety, and the sorrow that you see in our student body are not things to condemn, for they are products of the injustices that have been inflicted and endured.
For those of you who recognize the value in questioning what you are taught and challenging injustice when you see it, thank you.
Hello Henry and the rest of the Occidental Weekly Staff,
After reading your article on your thoughts about racism, I was very disheartened about what you decided were developed, informed enough ideas to share with the entire campus. The biggest of the many flaws in your writing is your failure to recognize your place of privilege in discussing an issue of oppression that has no direct affect on you but very real ramifications for the students of color here at Oxy, including myself. Your writing revealed a great disrespect for the dialogues students of color here try to have about their experiences and oppression, and incorporated a generally dismissive tone to everything happening on the campus that seems to make you uncomfortable.
For example, you begin your article stating that the people who speak up about racism on campus “always tend to be the extremists.” The only examples you provide to support this accusation of extremism was the time period in which students used an online forum to express their grievances about the Programming Board’s choice for Springfest and another instance in which students of color were angry about a symbol from a marginalized culture being paraded as a prop in the Oxy Harlem Shake video. Not only that, but you presented these two examples of dialogues on racism in a grossly condescending manner. You belittled the Macklemore case as students being needlessly outraged about a lack of visible racial diversity (again, an issue that does not affect you as a white man) by rewording the dialogue into a case of students accusing the Board of hating “minorities” (an accusation made by no one). In your writing about the Harlem Shake video, you stated “a couple of stud ents decided to ignorantly, so to speak, wear headdresses from “other” cultures.” In this sentence you both literally otherized Native American culture and failed to name it and also put into question the seriousness of it being appropriated as a joke. This demonstrates a complete ignorance and insensitivity on your part to consider and be respectful of the history of colonialism and genocide in this country. And the extremism you referred to earlier with regards to this case was students “commenting to demand the school take responsibility.” How incredibly out of line of them!
Another aspect of your article that I failed to understand are the many comparisons you make towards people of color and other groups you seem to feel are equally victimized by institutionalized oppression. These included homophobes, republicans, and white male rappers. You stated that political conservatives “don’t come out of woodwork because they understand the potential for strife, second-looks or sardonic remark.” Unfortunately, Henry, the way being a person of color works is that “coming of the woodwork to face scrutiny” means just being alive. Our targets are our skin color, our hair texture, our eye shape, and our facial features. The danger we face is not at all equivalent to being called an “immoral bible hugger.” Trust me, I’ve been called much worse, and have faced physical and emotional ramifications just for looking the way I do and having the last name I have. (Yeah, that doesn’t just happen in history books.) And I am not alone in this. Not even on campus. So for you to say that I, and all people of color on campus, should stay “moderate” about discussing our experiences and wanting better treatment is offensive and hurtful. I’m so sorry if you feel that we make you balance on “the political correctness tightrope” you view being a decent person as, or if we’re being “divisive” in wanting more for ourselves. However I will not adjust my struggle for equality to accommodate your comfort. I also refuse to believe that a person of color has an “extremist voice” for stating that they live in a white supremacy society and would rather not. I hope you seriously consider my words and any other criticisms you rightfully are given in response to your article and rethink your views on how serious of a problem racism is and how it should be addressed.
(Sophomore, Art History)
Henry Dickmeyer’s March 6h piece on “Oxy’s tolerance paradox” should be commended for addressing an important issue, even though he has missed the point about our campus politics. The real blind spot of progressive culture is the illusion that public conflict can and should be avoided. In attacking our resident “radicals” for their conspicuous criticism, Dickmeyer has played right into the problem. He doesn’t see that our politics aren’t electric, diverse, and contesting enough. At least the “radicals” have bets on the table. The last few weeks have been exceptional, but most of the time I can’t help but think the professed campus “liberalism” reflects just some casual “opinion.” Our “value” on tolerance might be built on sand, the cost of west coast passivity as cultural sieve. With no friction, atrophied conviction slides limp into lukewarm relativism. This is a place where politics won’t go and something worse always fills the vacuum. Dickmeyer seems to want everyone to quietly convene on an easy radial; his solution to the political problem is to hush up politics. A real democratic space needs constant tilling from committed citizens, people with fidelity to tolerance as a confessed conviction. Let’s attach ourselves to citizenship in the Oxy community, remembering that friction is often desirable and inevitable. Public space in a democracy isn’t some cocktail party to flatter the new boss. The first step is authentic mutual respect, not the nervous nods and superficial smiles politely employed to evade conflicts and solutions. Dickmeyer has simply dismissed a few anonymous “radicals” and told the rest of us to abandon “ideology,” only so that we might embrace (his) clammy “moderation.” We shouldn’t be so seduced. Democracy is worth too much to be that easy.
I just wanted to say how pleased I am that the eco clamshell program is now open to all students. It is really an awesome way to eliminate waste and preserve resources, and I encourage all students to sign up. Its really cool to see this program go from nothing (before we even had eco clamshells) to its baby steps when it was only open to a few students, onto its expansion at the beginning of the year, and now its availability to everyone on campus. I feel like as a student it is rare to see something change within our 4 years here, and I am glad to say that I have seen a change at Oxy that is for the better.
Way to go campus dining and Oxy!
(Senior, Cognitive Science/Spanish)
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