Jim Doti, Chapman U Prez, Still Under Fire for Saying Proposed Multicultural Center Would "Ghettoize" Campus

Pictured: not a multicultural center.
Pictured: not a multicultural center.

Chapman University students continue to criticize President Jim Doti for controversial remarks surrounding multicultural centers, made during a discrimination lawsuit against the school. The lawsuit, settled in June for $75,000, was filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in September 2010 and alleged that former business faculty member Stephanie Dellande was denied tenure because she is black.

In a 2011 deposition conducted for the lawsuit, Doti discussed his opposition to establishing a multicultural center on campus, a push that goes back to when our Mexican-in-Chief was student head of multicultural affairs way back in 2001. When asked by an EEOC attorney why he opposed the center, Doti said, "I don't feel it's a good idea personally to ghettoize or create areas in the university that are focused on race or ethnicity," according to Chapman's newspaper The Panther.

"It would suggest that there's a special place for people of color to meet and congregate that's exclusively theirs," he continued.

Doti affirms his stance, but claims that the remarks were taken out of context in a response published by The Panther. "The definition of 'ghetto' I used is 'to restrict to an isolated area or group,'" he says.

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"I realize my stance on this issue will lead many to believe I'm either naive or blatantly insensitive to discrimination. Racism and intolerance, of course, exist. The recent tragedy in Ferguson is a clear indication of that. But I strongly believe that we can move toward a more tolerant world if we place greater emphasis, not on group identity, but rather on the rich tapestry of cultural values and achievements of which we are all part as global citizens."

The remarks have angered many Chapman students, prompting three student-authored opinion pieces (found here, here, and here) and student activism efforts.

"When I first read Doti's remarks, I was shocked. I was shocked that the President of my university would say such blatantly ignorant things," explains creative writing student Luis Enrique Casavantes. "I had thought that someone who represents this school would understand how to engage conversations centered on a multicultural center without making problematic statements."

Business administration student Cristiana Wilcoxon balks at Doti's definition of ghettoize. "The rhetoric he tried to use in response to the article to defend himself was infuriating because he fell back on the textbook definition," she says. "Just because I can look up 'fag' in the dictionary and it can mean 'a bundle of sticks' doesn't mean I can run around saying 'fag' and expect that I'm not going to hurt people."

In the 23 years that Doti has been president of the university, Chapman has seen multiple waves of students advocating for a campus multicultural center. Chapman is the only major four-year university in the county to not have such a center.

Despite his opposition to multicultural centers, Doti's presidency oversaw the construction of the Fish Interfaith Center, a multicultural religious space where students are encouraged to "worship and to practice their beliefs in a safe, sacred space," something Doti's online biography proudly boasts.

Haley Strickland, a communications student, plans to continue the fight for a multicultural center by establishing the Multicultural Enterprise club. The organization will "seek to further educate the student body on multicultural issues, and raise awareness of the diversity that exists on campus. This will create a solid foundation for the dialogue to continue within a multicultural center when one finally gets built," she says.

Email: letters@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @ocweekly.

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