SDJACL Statement Regarding the Protection of Racist Speech by the University of San Diego
Several weeks ago the University of San Diego, in response to complaints from students, initiated an investigation into racist speech published by a member of its law school faculty, where a professor wrote: “If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing a whole lot of Chinese -[expletive]-.” Last week, the University decided to take no action.
We are exceedingly disappointed with the University of San Diego for this decision to openly tolerate racist, demeaning, and inflammatory language by faculty at the University of San Diego School of Law.
The University’s statement of its decision is also an insult to the AAPI community in itself. While meekly providing that its “conclusion in no way amounts to an endorsement,” the University did not apologize for its employee’s behavior or even acknowledge that the language at issue was racist, offensive, and irresponsible. Nor did the University acknowledge the insult or injury to the student body or the larger community. Though providing lip service to the principles of diversity and inclusion, the University’s actions demonstrate that at USD, “academic freedom”—in this case, the protection of racist speech thinly disguised as “political comment,” with zero accountability—trumps “providing an educational environment that honors the dignity of every individual.” Such “freedom” without accountability results in moral anarchy, which is antithetical to the environment to which the University claims to be committed.
The University’s failure to hold itself accountable for the educational environment that it promises to deliver is indicative of a larger systemic problem and perhaps unsurprising for an institution that ranks last in faculty diversity and campus diversity among the San Diego area’s major colleges and universities.
Words matter. The University, as an institution that is supposed to educate and mentor future generations of attorneys, who as a vocation will dedicate their lives to representing the interests of members of their community as officers of the Court, must do better. Not just for the sake of their student community, but also the legal community and the larger San Diego community. The University had a present opportunity to “promote a safe, just and inclusive environment within the university and in the larger society,” and, unfortunately, it failed.
For a PDF version of this statement, which includes references, you can download it below.