Dear Campus Community,
As we discussed in our message to the UCI community adopted March 31, 2020, we are concerned about the ways in which minorities, particularly our Asian and Asian-American community members, are being treated on our campus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as new public health recommendations have been forwarded by various global, national, and local agencies, our Black constituents are increasingly reporting mistreatment by/in the form of (specific units or agencies, etc), effectively being punished for following the guidelines that we have all been encouraged to follow. At the University of California, Irvine we are proud of our distinction as a minority-serving institution several times over. We celebrate and actively seek to increase the diversity that creates an environment where Arts, Humanities, and STEM can all thrive, nurturing one another through sharing the varied perspectives of the students and faculty we bring to campus.
But celebrating diversity is not sufficient in times of crisis. The COVID-19 outbreak has once again shown us just how close to the surface the centuries-old racism this country has struggled with. When our students and community members must decide between protecting themselves from exposure to COVID-19 and protecting themselves from harassment and violence, society has failed these individuals. Black individuals across the country must make this most difficult decision daily. To follow the CDC’s recommendation to wear a mask in public, they are directly putting their lives in danger if they follow this recommendation.
We at UCI must contend with our failure to protect our black community even on our own campus. Unfortunately, this mistreatment of our Black community members has been all too common on our campus, even before the recent changes brought about by the pandemic – the police action against a UCI alumna on February 20 is a poignant example. Minority students will continue to face discrimination against unless we all do better – working as a community – to fix the systems in which we work and live. It is clear that discrimination does not take a break during times of crisis; thus, neither can we. We must actively fight the systemic racism that creates an environment where mundane tasks such as collecting a transcript or following health protocols result in violence.
This is a situation that is not easily resolved. What we can do is to reach out to our affected community and ask for ways in which we can best support them as they navigate this difficult time. We cannot claim to celebrate diversity while sitting idly by while violence and hatred are perpetuated. Action often starts with rhetoric and it is imperative that those of us with the privilege to speak out do so when ignorant and hateful statements are made. We hope that our community members stay safe and healthy during this trying time.