UCLA Student Rants Against Asians; Quits School

(Original story of student’s YouTube rant on the New York Times here; story on the New York Times of the student quitting here.)

This happened a few weeks ago now. Alexandra Wallace, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, made fun of Asian students talking loudly on their cell phones in the school library in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. (Apparently, those students were communicating with their families back home.) Even though she later removed the offending video, she faced pressure and even death threats, and finally quit school.

The university did not discipline her because she was exercising her right to the freedom of speech, thus saving itself from a public relations nightmare.

Why Ms. Wallace decided to upload that video escapes me. She claims that it was an “an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video.” If that was indeed the case and those were not mere face-saving words, then the lesson to be learned here is: Whatever you may have to share may not be funny to most people. If in doubt, don’t upload that piece of content.

U.C.L.A. Student’s Video Rant Against Asians Fuels Firestorm

Published: March 15, 2011

LOS ANGELES — When Alexandra Wallace recorded her rant about Asian students using cellphones in the library at the University of California, Los Angeles, she was alone, speaking to her computer.

But since she posted the three-minute video to YouTube, Ms. Wallace, a third-year political science student at U.C.L.A., has achieved a sudden, unwelcome celebrity: her video has been viewed by millions of people, and she has become the subject of nationwide condemnation and the catalyst of a debate about racial intolerance and free speech.

“Please expel this ignorant woman immediately,” Kiki Gyrle wrote onFacebook, where there are many posts about Ms. Wallace, some too profane to print. “Tolerating such discourse of hate and racism is now being construed as policy to condone such tirades.”

In the video, Ms. Wallace complains about Asian students in the school library using their cellphones to call family members after the tsunami in Japan. At one point, she mimics people speaking an Asian language.

“The problem is these hordes of Asian people that U.C.L.A. accepts into our school every single year, which is fine,” Ms. Wallace said in the video. “But if you’re going to come to U.C.L.A., then use American manners.”

Robert Hernandez, a professor of Internet journalism at the University of Southern California, said Ms. Wallace’s story served as a reminder of the need to be aware of your “digital footprint” in the Internet age. “People feel a false sense of privacy on the Internet that isn’t there,” he said.

Ms. Wallace has removed her video from YouTube, and issued an apology to the U.C.L.A. student newspaper. She could not be reached for comment.

Still, others have reposted the video online, along with parodies, remixes and responses, and diatribes against Ms. Wallace have continued. She has also received threats by phone and e-mail.

On Monday, U.C.L.A.’s chancellor, Gene Block, released a statement that deemed the video “thoughtless and hurtful” and called for a more civil discourse. Officials said the university was looking into possible disciplinary action against Ms. Wallace.

Mr. Block’s Facebook page has become a hotbed of comments about the video, some attacking Ms. Wallace and Mr. Block.

“While in front of the computer, it’s easier to make comments or threats anonymously,” Professor Hernandez said. “And people fall into the same kind of behavior they’re condemning.”

Student Quits At U.C.L.A. Over Rant

Published: March 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) —The student who posted an Internet video of her tirade against the Asian population at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that she is leaving the school, despite the university’s decision not to discipline her.

In a statement to the campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin, the student, Alexandra Wallace, said on Friday that she had chosen to stop attending classes at U.C.L.A. because of what she called “the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community” because of her three-minute video.

“In an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video, I have offended the U.C.L.A. community and the entire Asian culture,” she said. “Especially in the wake of the ongoing disaster in Japan, I would do anything to take back my insensitive words. I could write apology letters all day and night, but I know they wouldn’t erase the video from your memory, nor would they act to reverse my inappropriate action.”

University officials said they would not discipline Ms. Wallace because her video was an exercise of free speech.

U.C.L.A.’s vice chancellor for student affairs, Janina Montero, said in a statement that campus officials were “appalled and offended by the sentiments expressed in the video,” but that it did not seek to harm or threaten a specific person or group.

In the video, which was posted last Sunday, Ms. Wallace said that her complaints were not directed at any individual and that people should not take offense. But, she said, “the problem is these hordes of Asian people that U.C.L.A. accepts into our school every single year.”

She said the numbers would be fine if Asian students would “use American manners” and went on to complain about Asians frequently talking on their mobile phones while she tried to study. At one point she mocked them with gibberish.

Ms. Wallace took down the video shortly after posting it, but it had already gotten a strong reaction at U.C.L.A., where at least 37 percent of the 26,000 undergraduates are Asian.

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New Jersey Teacher Says She Feels Like Warden Overseeing Future Criminals; Suspended

(Original story at the New York Times here.)

This is no April Fool’s joke.

A New Jersey first-grade teacher was suspended after posting on Facebook that she felt like a warden watching over future criminals.

Some parents think that the teacher’s comment showed how she “lacked commitment.”

Is this a violation of the teacher’s right to the freedom of speech? Possibly. But what does it matter? She may lose her job.

Paterson Teacher Suspended Over a Post on Facebook

Published: April 1, 2011

A first-grade teacher in Paterson, N.J., was suspended on Thursday after she posted on her Facebook page that she felt like a warden overseeing future criminals, district officials said.

The teacher, who has not been publicly identified, was suspended with pay from her position at School 21 after parents complained to the school and asked that their children be removed from her class, district officials told The Record of North Jersey.

Terry Corallo, a spokeswoman for the Paterson district, e-mailed a statement on Friday confirming that the teacher was on paid administrative leave, adding that “this matter is a personnel issue that is under investigation.”

On Friday, the teacher declined through her lawyer, Nancy Oxfeld, to comment.

Ms. Oxfeld said any comments that the teacher had made on Facebook were done on her own time and to her friends.

“My feeling is that if you’re concerned about children, you’re concerned about what goes on in the classroom, not about policing your employee’s private comments to others,” Ms. Oxfeld said.

Ms. Oxfeld, who was contacted through the New Jersey Education Association, declined to give her client’s name.

Word of the Facebook comment spread across Paterson and beyond, and spurred e-mail exchanges, water-cooler gossip and more postings on Facebook.

Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, a nonprofit group that supports the local school community, said parents were angry about the teacher’s comments because anyone, including her own students, could have read the negative characterizations. She said it highlighted a lack of commitment by some teachers. “It’s horrible,” she said. “And unfortunately, I don’t think she’s the only teacher in Paterson who thinks that way.”

The Paterson district, with 28,000 students and 2,425 teachers, has long been one of New Jersey’s most troubled school systems; it was taken over by the state in 1991 because of fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance.

In a similar episode, a high school English teacher in Doylestown, Pa., was suspended recently after she called students “disengaged, lazy whiners” on her blog.

Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University history professor who has written about education, said teachers, like other professionals, had responsibilities. He compared the episodes to a doctor talking loudly about cases on a crowded train. “It seems to me with professional responsibility comes a duty to exercise discretion,” he said.

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