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Monday, June 2, 2014

A Letter to the UC Irvine Cross Cultural Center

Below is a letter I sent this week to the UC Irvine Cross Cultural Center with a copy to the UCI Dean of Students.
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May 27, 2014


To:

Mr Kevin Huie
Director
Cross Cultural Center
UC Irvine

From:

Gary Fouse
Adjunct teacher
UCI-Ext


Re: Use of CCC facility to protest against I-Fest


Dear Mr Huie,


On  May 8, I was present on Ring Road attending the I-Fest celebrations held by Anteaters for Israel. Sometime after noon, I observed 25-30 students marching out of the CCC and proceeding to the area above the flagpoles where they held posters accusing Israel of various crimes and human rights violations. At one point, the students marched past the I-Fest tables holding a large banner which read, “End Apartheid”.
After turning and marching back past the I-Fest tables again, the protesters spread out across Ring Road forcing other students to walk around them as they held their banner and chanted various slogans. At the end, they marched back into the CCC. Of course, the protesters were from the Muslim Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine.

My point here is not to challenge these students’ right to hold their own protest or make their statement. What I wish to point out here is that it was very obvious that the Cross Cultural Center was used as a staging area, if you will, to protest the pro-Israel celebration being held by Anteaters for Israel and supported by Orange County Hillel.

This leads me to question whether the CCC truly represents all students on campus or just certain students. Why would the CCC allow its facility to be used as a staging area by one group to demonstrate against another group-in this case pro-Israel Jewish students? That seems to me to be a case of taking sides and, in effect, excluding a certain group- especially regarding such an emotional hot-button issue as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If  I were Jewish (which I am not) I would seriously question whether the CCC represented everybody on campus.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely,


Gary Fouse
UCI Ext.
English Certificate Programs for Internationals


cc  Rameen Talesh
Dean of Students
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Aside from the issue at hand, the apparent use of the Cross Cultural Center and Students for Justice in Palestine to demonstrate against the Anteaters for Israel and their pro-Israel week of events, I have serious concerns about this UCI institution in principle. I would not object if such an institution was designed to foster understanding and friendship among all ethnic and religious groups, but I get the sense that the CCC is really an institution for what they like to call, "People of Color". There are about five groups that actually have offices in the CCC, Mecha, Asian Pacific Islanders, Black Student Union, an American Indian group, a Filipino group, if I recall correctly, and maybe one other.

Don't get me wrong. I am not lobbying for some kind of White Student Union to form and move into the CCC. I do, however, believe that the CCC should also be a place for white Christian, straight students as well. If it is whites who have historically been the ruling class and people who have discriminated against minorities, which is a historical  fact, then whites should be involved in the CCC as well as part of the process of reconciliation and forming bonds. In fairness, I want to note that during IFest week, the Anteaters for Israel, a predominantly Jewish group held one of their meetings in the CCC. I am not claiming that the CCC doors are closed to white people. I dropped by there this past week with a friend. During that visit, I did take note of photographs on the wall of about 15 students who were CCC officials of some kind. They were all (God, how I hate to use this term) "people of color".

So I wonder; do most white students feel that the CCC is also for them? I really don't know the answer to that question. In my view, it should be a place where everyone feels welcome, can participate in learning about other cultures, including Italian, French, German etc, and learn to interact with each other.

The larger problem that exists on college campuses is this emphasis on identifying students (and professors) as "People of Color" vs ("Privileged") Whites, gay vs straight, and so on. It is divisive and self-defeating. My impression is that the CCC may be part of the problem. I hope I  am wrong.


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