In eloquent, often impassioned testimony, more than a dozen Loyola Marymount University students and faculty members addressed a special committee on minority relations last week describing frustrations among minorities, feelings of not being welcome and outrage over racial slurs, including a classroom incident involving a visiting professor.
The problems, they said, extend from the classroom to extracurricular activities to social life on campus.
"I'm here to tell you I'm tired of insensitivity to minority issues," said sophomore John Crocker. "Not just to blacks--to Asians, Latinos or anybody else. We just want a fair shake for everyone."
About 150 students and faculty members crowded into the auditorium of St. Robert's Hall Wednesday for the open forum, sponsored by the Select Committee on Minorities. A second forum was held Thursday afternoon.
The 11-member committee of faculty, alumni and community leaders was appointed by President James N. Loughran after five students walked into his office in April and refused to leave until he discussed the issue of race at the private university.
The administration pledged last year to investigate students' concerns, but, some students said, the racial climate has yet to improve in the new school year.
"The average student on campus doesn't realize how frustrating this is," said Patricia Hudson, a freshman who said she has been stopped at least three times since September by security guards and asked what she was doing on campus.
Hudson said she felt she was singled out because she is black.
Sophomore Martha Arevalo, cited an incident on Sept. 29 involving a visiting assistant professor of statistics who allegedly made ethnic and racial slurs in the classroom, causing many students to walk out.
Arevalo, newly elected president of the Concerned Student Union--the group that took over the president's office in April--said about half a dozen students immediately complained to Seth Thompson, associate dean of liberal arts.
The assistant professor--who was employed as a temporary replacement--was later fired, said university spokeswoman Leah Chester-Davis.
"He was removed from the classroom and in fact dismissed from the university," Chester-Davis said. "As far as the university is concerned, they're considering it a personal problem." Chester-Davis did not elaborate.
Joseph Callinan, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said the visiting assistant professor was on a one-year appointment to replace a faculty member on sabbatical and had taught several part-time courses over the past two years.
Other Incidents Cited
"No complaints were brought to my attention over those courses," Callinan said. He said he met with the class on Oct. 2, the day the professor was fired. The course is now being taught by other faculty members, he said.
At Wednesday's forum, students pointed to other incidents, including racist graffiti sprayed across the entrance sign to the university over the Labor Day weekend, and said they believe that there are insufficient numbers of minorities in the faculty and student body. The university said the undergraduate student body is about 31% minority, the same as last year.
Students also said they believe that there is a general attitude of coolness--even fear--toward minority students from some non-minority classmates.
"People are afraid of black people," said freshman honors student Sandafu Kawah. "People are scared to go and say hello to a black, to an Hispanic person, because they don't know about Hispanics and blacks and Asians."
Some students and faculty, including senior Joana Ball, suggested that the university initiate a required course that would include fundamental readings in Latino, Asian-American and African-American literature and history.
"I know more about Japan; I know more about European history and literature sometimes than I know about my own African heritage," Ball said. "That to me says we're not welcome."
Anthony Smulders, an associate dean of science, suggested that the university de-emphasize Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and place more emphasis on grades in its admission policies. Such emphasis, he said, might allow more minority and other students to attend Loyola Marymount.
"I think there's a lot of subtle racism," Smulders told the committee. "Not the overt racism like things (written) on the bathroom wall, but subtle, unintentional racism, which I think is worse. It's a lack of sensitivity, and it's shown in a number of things."
Two students involved in April's takeover, sophomore John Crocker and Hugh Lowe, who graduated last year, said they feared that Loughran was reneging on a promise not to hire an assistant vice president of student affairs until the issue of whether to reorganize the Office of Student Affairs was resolved.
Loughran, however, said Thursday that he has kept all his promises to the students.