First Amendment protects ‘Asians in the library’ video, group reminds UCLA

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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UCLA student Alexandra Wallace, who posted on Friday a video to YouTube that mocked Asian students, has been met with ridicule herself. In addition to flood of video responses posted online, the university’s administration indicated to The Daily Bruin, the student newspaper, that there was a disciplinary investigation underway.

Robert Naples, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor and dean of students, told The Bruin, “We’ll be taking a look at the language that she uses in the video to see if it violates any codes under the student code, perhaps regarding harassment.”

Wallace apologized in a statement to The Bruin. “Clearly the original video posted by me was inappropriate,” wrote Wallace. “I’d like to offer my apology to the entire UCLA campus. For those who cannot find it within them to accept my apology, I understand.”

Following the original posting of the video, Wallace reported to police that she had received several death threats. Naples told The Bruin on Monday, “If she’s received a death threat, I find that as deplorable as her original YouTube video.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a free speech advocacy organization, issued an open letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block on Tuesday calling for an immediate end to the the university’s disciplinary investigation.

“The investigation must cease immediately as soon as the speech is determined to be protected, as is the case here,” wrote FIRE, noting that “hateful” speech is constitutionally protected and that the video does not meet the legal standard defining harassment.

FIRE released a series of statements on its blog, The Torch, this week addressing reaction to the video. In addition for calling on the university to end its disciplinary investigation, the group expressed outrage at the administration’s reaction to death threats against Wallace.

On Wednesday, a post on The Torch cited Naples’ statement as an example of “what FIRE is up against when fighting censorship on campus,” expressing dismay that Naples suggested that “offensive but protected speech is the moral equivalent of a threat on someone’s life.”

In a different post that appeared Wednesday on The Torch, FIRE noted that several videos mocking and insulting Wallace had been posted to YouTube. The response videos, wrote FIRE, reveal that the video did not cause offended students to be “relegated… to the status of victims, devoid of the ability to respond for themselves and in need of official censorship to protect them.”

Furthermore, the post argued, “If judged by the standards that UCLA is using to ‘investigate’ whether Wallace’s video constitutes discriminatory harassment, many of these videos, which critique Wallace’s appearance and make generalizations based on race, should fall prey to the same type of unwise investigation.”

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Steven Nelson