April 22, 2011

Professor Stephen Bainbridge and Implications for UCLA Diversity

Last month, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace was blasted by the University's administration for posting a YouTube video titled Asians in the Library, where she spouted ignorant and revolting comments about the Asian community on UCLA's campus. Astoundingly, UCLA is dealing with yet another expression of insensitive and hurtful language coming from one of the University's own: Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge.

As detailed in The Daily Bruin, Bainbridge's blog (which is endorsed by the American Bar Association) contained a "xenophobic" blog post that called a FedEx customer service representative a "moron with an impenetrable accent." Bainbridge pretentiously added, "What third world shithole do they have him penned up in?" Bainbridge has since removed the post, apologized, and called his words "offending passages." Ironically, Bainbridge is known as a pro-immigration conservative.

Bainbridge's language is both shocking and disrespectful, and raises concerns about how diversity is talked about and understood on college campuses. As many journalists and students have pointed out, UCLA might be statistically diverse, but it is clear that social exchanges between various groups is far from integrated. As Frank Shyong of the Daily Bruin so eloquently states, "We have effectively amalgamated different groups of people within a square mile, but diversity is more than the numerical presence of variety. A functional conception of diversity implies a meaningful cultural exchange that we sorely lack."

Wallace's video and Bainbridge's post are painful reminders that UCLA is far from where it needs to be in regards to ethnic and cultural integration. While I don't have any grand solutions to this systemic problem, I do believe students attending the Luskin School of Public Affairs can serve as an example to the rest of the UCLA community. Between lectures, student-run caucuses, and developing relationships with faculty and peers, there is tremendous opportunity to model what true integration can look like.

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