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
By IAN LOVETT
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
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.