SDSU professor reassigned over racial slurs in course about language, racism
00:00:00.930 --> 00:00:05.280
The use of racial epithets in class stirs controversy at SDSU.
00:00:05.400 --> 00:00:12.330
Some people say he went overboard , but other people saying these kids need to have an understanding of what is racism and what isn't.
00:00:12.630 --> 00:00:13.920
I'm Jade Hindman.
00:00:13.930 --> 00:00:16.410
This is KPBS midday edition.
00:00:24.630 --> 00:00:28.140
We'll tell you how a tweet helped two people fleeing Ukraine.
00:00:28.560 --> 00:00:37.650
I put out a tweet and I just said my 94 year old grandma , who's a Holocaust survivor and my father who's disabled , are trapped in their apartment in Kiev.
00:00:37.740 --> 00:00:38.900
He can't drive.
00:00:38.970 --> 00:00:40.620
She has trouble walking.
00:00:40.650 --> 00:00:46.740
Does anybody have any suggestions to get them out ? Plus , there's a lot happening on the art scene this weekend.
00:00:46.770 --> 00:00:47.700
We'll have a rundown.
00:00:48.000 --> 00:00:49.500
That's ahead on Midday Edition.
00:01:01.120 --> 00:01:11.650
San Diego State University has been both praised and criticized for its decision to reassign a professor who used racial epithets in a course about language and racism.
00:01:11.980 --> 00:01:21.550
The move has also brought renewed scrutiny from a Philadelphia based civil rights group who claims that SDSU violated the First Amendment rights of the reassigned professor.
00:01:21.880 --> 00:01:26.320
Joining me now with more is San Diego Union Tribune reporter Gary Robbins.
00:01:26.590 --> 00:01:28.150
Gary , welcome back to the program.
00:01:28.360 --> 00:01:29.410
Hi , good to be with you.
00:01:29.680 --> 00:01:41.170
So can you start off by giving us some background on why this professor was reassigned in the first place ? Professor Angelo Carlat teaches a course in critical thinking , and as part of that , they talk about racial epithets.
00:01:41.230 --> 00:01:50.830
It's his belief that you have to say the specific words so people know specifically what you're talking about , and then you can explain whether the word is racist or not.
00:01:50.860 --> 00:01:58.030
He says it's important to be very , very careful with language and then make sure that , you know , everybody agrees that it's racist or not.
00:01:58.060 --> 00:02:01.330
So during a couple of his classes , he uses words.
00:02:01.340 --> 00:02:07.610
In fact , what he did was he posted 10 to 12 epithets on one of those overhead screens , so everybody could see it.
00:02:07.630 --> 00:02:09.680
And he spoke about them during the class.
00:02:09.700 --> 00:02:11.470
Some students became uncomfortable with it.
00:02:11.740 --> 00:02:20.140
There were some complaints made to the administration about it , and they moved in and they reassigned him from two of his classes , saying that it was just too many complaints.
00:02:20.230 --> 00:02:24.560
That drew this letter from Fire , a civil rights group saying , Hey , you can't do that.
00:02:24.580 --> 00:02:27.940
That's a violation of free speech and a violation of academic freedom.
00:02:28.390 --> 00:02:36.490
Were there calls for any groups within the university to remove him ? That's where it gets kind of hinky because there was I keep hearing this.
00:02:36.490 --> 00:02:44.770
Some professors are in favor of this , and then I hear other professors are not that it may all come up in front of the University Senate , so there's a lot of discussion in the background.
00:02:44.800 --> 00:02:55.720
I think what triggered this more than anything was that a student who was not registered in Collette's classes suddenly appeared during one of the classes and confronted him about what he was saying.
00:02:55.780 --> 00:03:01.210
The student who was black felt that it was wrong for him to use his racial epithets during that particular class.
00:03:01.330 --> 00:03:04.750
Things got a bit heated and Collette did not back down.
00:03:04.780 --> 00:03:09.010
In fact , he continued to use the words while talking to the student.
00:03:09.100 --> 00:03:13.300
There's a great bit of confusion about how many times Corlett use the words.
00:03:13.390 --> 00:03:15.940
He told me that he used them about 12 times.
00:03:16.000 --> 00:03:21.250
The university said it was about 30 , and then some of the online petitions that we're seeing say it was about 60.
00:03:21.250 --> 00:03:31.000
So some people say he went overboard in using these words , but other people saying , Wait , these kids need to have an understanding of language and they are not.
00:03:31.000 --> 00:03:33.650
All students agree on what is racism and what isn't.
00:03:33.670 --> 00:03:34.840
When it comes to language.
00:03:34.840 --> 00:03:37.990
So it's kind of this free speech issue that just keeps getting deeper.
00:03:38.440 --> 00:03:41.620
Have you been able to reach the professor for comment ? I have.
00:03:41.620 --> 00:03:43.660
I've talked to him six or seven times.
00:03:43.780 --> 00:03:48.250
He feels pretty frustrated because he's taught at San Diego State for about 25 years.
00:03:48.580 --> 00:03:52.390
He's been using this kind of language in class for about 20 of those years.
00:03:52.420 --> 00:03:54.120
It's not an every week kind of thing.
00:03:54.130 --> 00:03:56.020
It's something that's part of the curriculum.
00:03:56.020 --> 00:04:02.020
So they may spend like a couple of days on it to get through it each year in classes , on critical thinking and on on racism.
00:04:02.050 --> 00:04:09.790
He's frustrated because he thinks some students are overly sensitive and that they just want to shout down any words that they don't personally like.
00:04:09.850 --> 00:04:16.000
This is the kind of complaint that I've heard faculty make sometimes about students or members of Generation Z.
00:04:16.030 --> 00:04:19.370
Now this is a most diverse generation of students we have ever had.
00:04:19.390 --> 00:04:22.880
Many people think they're the most welcoming when it comes to race and ethnicity.
00:04:22.900 --> 00:04:36.340
But , you know , there have been times where people are saying that their appreciation of the First Amendment may not be as strong as previous generations , and perhaps they don't fully understand that a person does have the right to say these things , even if they're very offensive.
00:04:36.520 --> 00:04:38.740
He's saying , I'm doing this in a classroom setting.
00:04:38.740 --> 00:04:40.810
I I've announced ahead of time what I'm doing.
00:04:40.810 --> 00:04:49.810
I'm doing it for a specific reason , and he feels that he , if he doesn't use these words , that they can't have a real world conversation about what he's trying to get across.
00:04:50.110 --> 00:04:56.740
You know , you mentioned the civil rights group that took to condemning the decision on the grounds of free speech infringement.
00:04:57.130 --> 00:05:01.720
There's actually isn't the first time that this group has had SDSU in its crosshairs.
00:05:01.870 --> 00:05:06.700
In fact , you've done reporting about this group and their interactions with San Diego State.
00:05:06.730 --> 00:05:10.460
What can you tell us about that ? Yeah , they've had several interactions with San Diego State.
00:05:10.480 --> 00:05:11.680
And one of them was very recent.
00:05:11.710 --> 00:05:24.010
You may remember that the University Senate took up the issue of whether it should drop a rule that required faculty to include a so-called land acknowledgement about the Columbia Indians in course syllabi.
00:05:24.070 --> 00:05:26.230
The Senate had required that of the faculty.
00:05:26.410 --> 00:05:27.850
Some faculty didn't like it.
00:05:27.850 --> 00:05:32.470
They they felt like the university was forcing political ideology on them.
00:05:32.470 --> 00:05:40.810
That by agreeing to include the statements in their in their course syllabi , that they were agreeing to the point of view that that was expressed in the message.
00:05:41.560 --> 00:05:48.880
One or more of those faculty members contacted Fire , a civil rights group based in Philadelphia , which gets involved in free speech cases.
00:05:49.660 --> 00:05:56.200
Fire sent a letter to the university in January , and the university really kind of backed down right away.
00:05:56.260 --> 00:05:59.410
This issue came up very rapidly before the University Senate.
00:05:59.830 --> 00:06:00.160
It was a.
00:06:00.260 --> 00:06:04.340
Close vote , you know , I think it was forty to thirty five in the end.
00:06:05.360 --> 00:06:10.810
But the president of the University Senate said , Look , you know , we checked with the CSU system in Long Beach.
00:06:10.850 --> 00:06:19.700
They said that we're on shaky ground here , that it is a First Amendment issue and that , you know , some would interpret it to be forced ideology.
00:06:19.970 --> 00:06:24.020
So the Senate backed down due to the pressure that fire brought to bear.
00:06:24.410 --> 00:06:41.500
The same thing happened about a year and a half earlier , when there was complaints that the University Senate was considering a proposal that would allow them to strip the emeritus status of professors if they said anything that embarrasses university Fire said that is totally a breach of free speech.
00:06:41.510 --> 00:06:48.260
And you know , what are they talking about anyway ? How do you define offensive language here ? Fire does this all over the United States.
00:06:48.260 --> 00:06:59.150
It's not just one university on the West Coast , they get involved in cases of free speech and academic freedom and in many cases , the women I've been speaking with Gary Robbins , a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
00:06:59.160 --> 00:07:00.710
Gary , thanks so much for joining us.
00:07:01.130 --> 00:07:01.760
00:07:12.970 --> 00:07:21.910
According to the United Nations , more than two million people have fled Ukraine since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of that country late last year.
00:07:22.270 --> 00:07:28.960
Two of them are a 94 year old mother and her 70 year old son with family in San Francisco.
00:07:29.230 --> 00:07:42.010
The California reports Mary Franklin Harbin says they made it to safety in Germany just yesterday , thanks to a tweet that eventually reached two of Ukraine's most famous athletes who stepped in to help.
00:07:42.610 --> 00:07:49.000
Katya Safechuck was born in Kiev but emigrated to the Bay Area in 1989 as a Soviet refugee.
00:07:49.570 --> 00:07:54.970
She came with her mother and maternal grandmother to escape anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union.
00:07:55.660 --> 00:08:02.470
Her father , Yevgeny Berdahl , is a retired government worker , and he has a disability that prevents him from driving.
00:08:02.890 --> 00:08:15.820
His mother , Katya's grandmother , Zoya Berdahl , is 94 and has weathered significant challenges in her life , including losing both parents during the Holocaust and only recently surviving COVID 19.
00:08:16.030 --> 00:08:19.540
Up until they fled recently , they shared an apartment in Kiev.
00:08:20.050 --> 00:08:24.100
Safechuck said her father didn't initially believe that the invasion would happen.
00:08:24.340 --> 00:08:30.490
He kind of was constantly monitoring the news and would tell me , You know , we hear explosions.
00:08:31.930 --> 00:08:33.250
We have the lights off.
00:08:33.670 --> 00:08:37.510
You know , they turn the lights off at night to avoid being seen by aircraft.
00:08:37.720 --> 00:08:45.160
Subject's grandmother didn't feel safe getting down to the bomb shelter in the basement of their building and was hesitant to evacuate.
00:08:45.370 --> 00:08:47.770
You know , she's lived her entire life there.
00:08:47.790 --> 00:08:50.080
I think she was very frightened.
00:08:50.980 --> 00:08:53.200
She actually hadn't been outside.
00:08:53.200 --> 00:08:58.510
I think in a year , she she just , you know , was adamantly refusing to go.
00:08:58.840 --> 00:09:01.450
But Saab , Duke's father , finally convinced her.
00:09:01.660 --> 00:09:11.950
So I put out a tweet and I just said , my 94 year old grandma , who's a Holocaust survivor and my father , who's disabled , are trapped in their apartment in Kiev.
00:09:11.980 --> 00:09:13.190
He can't drive.
00:09:13.210 --> 00:09:14.900
She has trouble walking.
00:09:14.920 --> 00:09:26.290
Does anybody have any suggestions to get them out ? And I did not expect the response that I received more than 30000 retweets , more than 90000 likes.
00:09:26.290 --> 00:09:29.620
And according to Save Chuke , at least 100 direct messages.
00:09:30.130 --> 00:09:34.390
Among these viewers was a German journalist whom said Chuke didn't know directly.
00:09:34.780 --> 00:09:38.050
He saw the message and was moved to act on her family's behalf.
00:09:38.440 --> 00:09:48.220
He knew Vladimir Klitschko is a famous Ukrainian boxer and his brother , who's Vitali Klitschko , who's the mayor of Kiev.
00:09:48.760 --> 00:09:53.950
And he mentioned the situation to them , and they decided that they wanted to help.
00:09:54.310 --> 00:10:05.820
Klitschko asked for help from a volunteer branch of the Ukrainian Armed Forces , so they they found a Toyota minivan that the dealership just just lent to them , really.
00:10:05.830 --> 00:10:26.630
And my dad , my grandmother and a friend of my dad's who's who also helps care for her and also that woman's parents got in this minivan and then set off on this journey with armed escorts who just weeks ago were regular civilians.
00:10:26.650 --> 00:10:36.520
The guys that were with them in normal times , you know , one of them's a film producer and on the City Council , but now they're wearing a bulletproof vest.
00:10:36.520 --> 00:10:43.150
They Kalashnikovs and they , you know , escort them to the Hungarian border.
00:10:43.360 --> 00:10:48.850
Finally , yesterday morning , they reached their destination , a hotel in Heidelberg , Germany.
00:10:49.270 --> 00:10:53.110
Her grandmother , Zoya , weathered the trip like a champ , Sobchak said.
00:10:53.270 --> 00:10:59.050
I think one of the first things she did when they arrived in the hotel was to ask her some cognac.
00:10:59.320 --> 00:11:06.040
They have these accommodations in Germany for now , but aren't really sure where their next permanent home will be susceptible.
00:11:06.880 --> 00:11:14.500
And while she's so grateful for the waves of support that have been life-changing for families like hers , she still feels conflicted.
00:11:14.690 --> 00:11:31.450
You know , the refugees in this war are , you know , being portrayed a little bit differently than than refugees have been in the past from other parts of the world where people aren't necessarily white and European.
00:11:31.990 --> 00:11:39.250
You know , I'm really glad that there's such an outpouring of empathy for refugees from Ukraine.
00:11:39.280 --> 00:11:49.060
I just do wish that the same , you know , sensitivity of coverage and perspective was also applied to refugees coming from anywhere.
00:11:49.240 --> 00:11:58.060
And in the meantime , Sobchak feels even more responsible to support others with similar plights with the resources she's gathered through this process.
00:11:58.840 --> 00:12:02.800
That was Mary Franklin Harvin reporting for the California report.
00:12:12.690 --> 00:12:15.060
You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition.
00:12:15.090 --> 00:12:17.870
I'm Jade Hindman in the arts this weekend.
00:12:17.880 --> 00:12:26.190
We have pinatas and craft as art , a dance performance from Monica Bill Barnes and an open house filled with music and dance.
00:12:26.490 --> 00:12:31.680
Joining me with all the details is KPBS Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.
00:12:31.920 --> 00:12:32.850
Julia , welcome.
00:12:33.090 --> 00:12:33.620
Hi , Jane.
00:12:33.660 --> 00:12:34.470
Thanks for having me.
00:12:34.740 --> 00:12:38.040
So first up , we have an art show featuring pinatas.
00:12:38.070 --> 00:12:39.270
Tell us about this show.
00:12:39.450 --> 00:12:52.620
Yeah , this is border artist Diana Benavides , and I love how she takes that traditional pinata , making craft into artistic territory and sometimes being really political kind of disruptive.
00:12:52.650 --> 00:12:54.960
This exhibition is a solo show.
00:12:54.960 --> 00:13:07.900
It's at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights , and it's made up of 10 pinatas , and it's about all these little rituals that women or Nancy's men perform in order to feel safe.
00:13:08.310 --> 00:13:17.670
Stuff like telling each other to let someone know you got home safe , or the way that you use everyday objects like keys to turn them into a makeshift weapon.
00:13:18.180 --> 00:13:22.980
I talked to Diane Obiettivi this earlier this week , and I asked her about the exhibition.
00:13:23.280 --> 00:13:58.860
Each of the sculptures either represent , like I mention , of these everyday objects , or they are specifically describing some of the fears that some women might find common to theirs , like jogging at night and also using some of those spaces that are common in American culture , as well as in North American culture like statements like , you know , she was asking for ID or just simple , comforting messages.
00:13:59.190 --> 00:14:04.350
So some of their pinatas do have phrases on them , and this is where the title comes in as well.
00:14:04.620 --> 00:14:07.230
Text me when you get home is on one of them.
00:14:07.650 --> 00:14:18.000
But one of my favorites in the show is a pinata that takes two bombs in the shape of a bra , and it has the words painted to chair across the front.
00:14:18.390 --> 00:14:19.960
That phrase has come to mean.
00:14:19.980 --> 00:14:25.620
Be aware , but Benavidez said it literally translates to something more like where a trout.
00:14:26.040 --> 00:14:31.800
And she also has some pinatas that are brass knuckles , their sets of keys and some sneakers.
00:14:32.220 --> 00:14:41.430
This one is going to be up through May at the Athenaeum Art Center , which is that the bread and salt complex and that opens with a reception on Saturday from five to eight.
00:14:41.760 --> 00:14:44.850
And there is plenty more to check out at bread and salt while you're there.
00:14:45.180 --> 00:14:48.330
That's Text Me When You Get Home by Diana Benavidez.
00:14:48.840 --> 00:14:53.250
One more art exhibition sort of along similar crafty lines.
00:14:53.250 --> 00:14:57.260
This one is called small acts the craft of subversion.
00:14:57.270 --> 00:15:06.500
Tell us about that , right ? This is an exhibition at Center City Gallery at City College , and it's curated by Carrie Ann Quick and Adam John Manley.
00:15:06.510 --> 00:15:22.920
They also run an art magazine called Craft Dessert , and this one revolves around the idea of craft being more significant than society makes space for , and kind of how small , subversive acts can make a big difference by small.
00:15:22.920 --> 00:15:24.370
They mean literally as well.
00:15:24.390 --> 00:15:27.990
The works had to fit in a priority mail flat rate envelope.
00:15:28.440 --> 00:15:32.880
The artists list is not small , though there are something like 60 artists in the show.
00:15:33.150 --> 00:15:35.410
All of them are making really incredible work.
00:15:35.430 --> 00:15:43.050
There's Georgina Trevino , Sasha César Epstein , Martin Joy , Matthew Huber , and too many to list.
00:15:43.440 --> 00:15:55.320
There is a reception on Saturday that's from five to seven p.m. and then the work will be up through April 13th and again , that small acts the craft of subversion at City College's art gallery.
00:15:55.740 --> 00:16:03.870
Now for some dance , renowned choreographer and performer Monica Bill Barnes comes to San Diego Dance Theater with her show Many Happy Returns.
00:16:03.870 --> 00:16:11.190
What can we expect ? Well , this is a totally evolving show , so we really don't know exactly what we can expect.
00:16:11.430 --> 00:16:16.830
But if history is any indicator , this is going to be really heartfelt , but also funny.
00:16:17.850 --> 00:16:22.240
I know people in the dance world have known her for a long time , especially locally.
00:16:22.260 --> 00:16:24.210
She did study at UC San Diego.
00:16:24.480 --> 00:16:29.040
She's worked on Charlie Dances and other projects for San Diego Dance Theater in the past.
00:16:29.460 --> 00:16:36.110
But some of us didn't discover her until about 10 years ago , and she did a show with IRA Glass from this American life.
00:16:36.120 --> 00:16:40.410
It was called three acts , two dancers and one radio host.
00:16:41.220 --> 00:16:49.410
Monica Wilburn shows her always surprising their athletic motive , and she brings a lot of physical comedy to dance.
00:16:49.890 --> 00:16:58.980
And this one is a project with collaborator Robby Simons to victory , and it explores how we're all taking these tentative steps back to the theater.
00:16:59.010 --> 00:17:11.660
Our return ? That's Monica Bill Barnes and Co. , who will perform three shows at Lightbox Theatre at Liberty Station tonight at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday at six and eight p.m. by.
00:17:11.790 --> 00:17:16.420
Play some music and family activities at the Conrad Community Arts Open House.
00:17:16.440 --> 00:17:17.340
Tell us about this one.
00:17:17.640 --> 00:17:21.160
This is Sunday afternoon from the La Hoya Music Society.
00:17:21.180 --> 00:17:27.840
They have a full performance schedule , as well as a bunch of hands on art and music making activities.
00:17:28.110 --> 00:17:29.640
This is throughout their whole campus.
00:17:30.060 --> 00:17:41.580
The experimental percussion group Red Fish Blue Fish , they will play a set as well Ed Kornhauser and Rebecca Jade , and those two were both nominated for San Diego Music Awards again this year.
00:17:41.880 --> 00:17:44.580
And this is Rebecca Jade's latest single.
00:17:44.610 --> 00:17:50.710
What's it going to be ? No , you've only just begun.
00:17:55.250 --> 00:17:56.840
And there's also dance performances.
00:17:57.080 --> 00:18:01.350
The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet , culture shock and plenty more.
00:18:01.370 --> 00:18:07.820
And it's free , and that's Sun from one to four at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Hoya.
00:18:08.180 --> 00:18:18.110
You can find details on all of these events and more , and sign up for Julien's weekly KPBS Arts newsletter by going to KPBS Mortgage Arts.
00:18:18.440 --> 00:18:22.640
I've been speaking with KPBS Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.
00:18:22.970 --> 00:18:23.960
Julia , thanks.
00:18:24.140 --> 00:18:25.010
Thank you , Jade.
00:18:25.040 --> 00:18:25.850
Have a good weekend.