Student Activists Challenge Chapman U's Diversity Problem With Art, Exposés
The Student Review with DIY Dolores Huerta, Maya Angelou and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy bust contributions.
Photo from THe Student Review Facebook page.
The Student Review, Chapman's newest grassroots activism group, has only officially existed for one month. Yet they've already thrown the campus into an uproar with their political art and flyering, and promise a new exposé every week at the famously prim-and-proper school (which counts two Weeklings as alumni).
The group debuted April 8 by covering campus statues of Margaret Thatcher, Albert Schweitzer, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman with caution tape and signs dubbing the individuals "under student review" for a host of offenses. They lambasted Reagan and Thatcher for "racism, classism and homophobia," and Friedman for his "neo-liberalist ideology."
"Because our campus culture is designed and designated by these busts, by the donors who donate these busts, we wanted to critique that system and those ideologies that are essentially forced on the student body," Addie Vincent, senior peace and conflict studies major and core member of the group, says. They (Vincent is Trans and prefers they, them and their pronouns) note that the bust incident was inspired by University of Cape Town's successful statue removal of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Angered students ripped down the signs and, the group alleges, harassed members of The Student Review with anti-Semitic and homophobic comments before a crowd. Despite resistance, The Student Review appreciates the dialogue started by the bust incident.
They soon after launched their "Break the Silence" campaign, named as a response to perceived silencing of marginalized students by the administration. The campaign motto, "Am I Chapman?" critiques the school's diversity marketing campaign, "I am Chapman."
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The group released four demands (phrased as "needs") of the administration: a new bust of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and an endowed chair for an ethnic studies department; public condemnation of hate incidents and harassment dating back to Spring 2013, including the burning of a swastika into the ceiling of a dorm hall and a suggestion box letter that read "less minorities;" diversity training for all higher administrators; and semi-annual emails addressing these incidents. According to Strickland and Vincent, the group is close to seeing the semi-annual emails come to fruition.
As for public condemnation of past hate incidents and harassment, "What we keep seeing from police and administration is the insistence that this is a onetime thing, done by one student, and so this is an isolated incident ... as though it's not a greater issue to address at Chapman," Vincent says.
On Preview Day, where prospective students tour the school, The Student Review dispersed fliers that read "Welcome to Chapman University. Here are some things the tour guides won't tell you!" The fliers cited accrediting institution Western Association of Schools and Colleges' (WASC) 2013 report on Chapman, which urged the administration to pay more attention to campus climate. In red and black ink, The Student Review listed four pages of incidents from the 2014-15 academic year alone.
Again, reactions were mixed. Chapman student Alice Tsui decried The Student Review's tactics in a post to their Facebook page. "Speaking as a bisexual Asian female who very much is pro-diversity, I think this is completely inappropriate. Choosing a college is overwhelming enough for high school students, seeing this will only send them the wrong message," she said.
The Student Review explained in an email, "We provided prospective students with the opportunity that they rightfully deserve to have access to information that was not apparent to us and many other marginalized students before coming to Chapman," and noted that "a family told [an RA] how meaningful the fliers were since the family was concerned with Chapman's diversity and campus climate."
In the email, the group asked, "Just like the bust situation, we have received the exact same response where current students are concerned about the image of Chapman that they ignore the experiences of current and future marginalized students. What does it mean when we are more focused on the image of the institution rather than the well-being of the community?"
Photo provided by Haley Strickland.
In their latest confrontation, The Student Review released secret images of offensive mock articles posted in campus newspaper The Panther's office. A fake headline read "Basic bitches flock to annual cult meeting," with a photo-heavy layout that mocked Chapman sorority members with captions like "Basic bitch is confused when she encounters an african on her campus that is supposed to be whites only" and "A group of men decide which of the women they will purchase for the evening and which will be executed." Printouts of quotes that include "If I saw Adam Levine I would fucking rape that dude" decorate bulletin boards in the newsroom.
Strickland filed a hate report on the images, but the administration transferred the investigation to the school's human resources board as a workplace issue. In a statement released by the paper's editorial board, they apologized to "readers, friends and community leaders who were hurt by any of these poor satirical pieces." The editorial board wrote, "After personally reviewing each mock-up, our editor-in-chief took it upon himself to discard every piece of satire that could be deemed offensive."
The Panther claims that photos of the mockups were captured surreptitiously, but Strickland maintains that she snapped them while waiting for a scheduled meeting with Editor in Chief Mark Pampanin. The Student Review blurred the names and images of individuals involved before dispersing.
What motivates The Student Review? "Chapman is such a good institution, and there are so many resources that we can allocate to creating a safer space for students," Strickland says. "When students don't physically feel safe on their campus you know you have a problem with diversity."
"We're bringing issues and situations to light that people just don't want to address," Vincent adds. "I've lost friends over this. Acquaintances won't talk to me. I've also gained friends, which is fabulous. It's been so interesting seeing what happens when you dare to raise your voice."