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Students Protest Depiction of Immigrants by Campus Paper


Santa Monica College students, outraged over a commentary in the campus newspaper that decried illegal immigration and was accompanied by an illustration of pointy-eared creatures, protested Thursday and demanded a speedy apology and changes in the paper.

About 250 students rallied in protest of the Oct. 13 commentary in the weekly Corsair, which argued that pregnant women who come into the United States to give birth put an unfair burden on taxpayers.

Most people at the rally said that while they were offended by the commentary, they thought the accompanying artwork was even worse.

"You should make sure anything that comes from your loins is not depicted as an animal," student Henrinne McDonald told the crowd gathered at the Freedom of Speech Area in the center of campus.

Art professor Jim Urmston, who was among a handful of faculty members present, called the cartoon "a gross negative stereotype."

Sophomore Joel Tena circulated a flyer listing two demands he and other students had listed: a front-page apology from the Corsair and the creation of a column for independent views. "This is not an immigration or a censorship issue. It's an issue of respect," he insisted.

Then he asked students to grab bundles of newspapers, which about 30 students had already collected from the pick-up bins around campus, and return them to the newspaper office.

"We wanted to let (the Corsair staff) know: 'We're not happy with the newspaper. Here's your paper back,' " said student Jose Cardenas.

The author of the commentary, Claudia Laufer, who is a legal alien from Germany here on a student visa, defended her work in an interview and was surprised by the flap. "I didn't mention any ethnicity. I don't think I did anything wrong."

But, she said, "I hope not too many people know who I am by face. I myself don't feel too comfortable walking around."

Opinion Editor Amelia Boomfield also defended the illustration by Ernest Ip, who was not available for comment. She said she doesn't think there is an obligation to depict people in any given way. "Look at Picasso's work," she said.

Faculty adviser Barbara Baird said she did not expect the outcry. "I did not see the cartoon the way many students are seeing it." To her, it showed immigrant babies "without a home or a people, out in space, without a place." She encouraged those who were offended to write opinion pieces for the next issue.

And although one faculty member thinks the students' demands would be met, Editor-in-Chief Michelle Webster does not: "I don't feel the need to apologize for someone else's expression," she said.

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