So I’ve probably spent more time on this than it deserves, but I finally reached Marya Bangee, whose name and number were attached to the press release announcing yesterday’s protest at UCI. The release accuses Mark Yudof, the UC president, of "conflating" what happened at the Michael Oren speech with other acts of racism that shook UC campuses over the past week.
I read the Yudof statement, and he says nothing about any incident in particular, but rather — as has been the tendency among UC chancellors — expressed broad rejection of racism and incivility. Where, I asked her, was the conflation?
Bangee told me it was "very, very clear." She then vaguely referred to "other comments made" and urged me to look at other media reports and Yudof’s own Facebook page (which, incidentally, you can only see if you are Yudof’s friend. I’m awaiting confirmation).
I said that’s all well and good, but her press release referred specifically to a statement that it describes as saying something it doesn’t appear to say. Bangee again insisted it was very clear "to those of us that have been involved and looking at this statement from a greater context."
Then the phone went dead.
I called back. "We seem to have gotten disconnected," I said.
"Um, yeah," she replied.
Again, she urged me to look at the statements and "do my research." I asked if she knew of a single statement in which Yudof had mentioned the Irvine 11 specifically in connection with any other racist incident at UC. She said it wasn’t her job to do my research for me, which might be the first time anyone dealing with media has told me that. Usually, they love to do my research for me. And anyway, Bangee said, all the other media outlets had understood.
Then she accused me of having an agenda and hung up. This time, I’m sure, it was no accident.
In fact, Bangee is right. The L.A. Times, the La Jolla Light, and The Associated Press all reported on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s condemnation of "the horrific incidents that recently took place on various campuses of the University of California system." In listing said "incidents," they all include both the swastika and the noose, as well as the Irvine 11. The OC Register report went even further, saying that Yudof "condemned the Michael Oren protest alongside the recent racist incidents at UCSD and UC Davis," which is simply wrong.
Regardless, while neither Schwarzenegger nor Yudof mention any specific incidents, Bangee is right that the media have understood them to be referring to all of them. Maybe that’s because folks like Bangee have been telling them that’s what’s happening. Or maybe that is indeed the intent. Or maybe this is just a useful way to keep this issue in the news. If it is, then clearly I’m a tool of the opposition.
In fairness, Yudof — though not Schwarzenegger — talks a lot in his statement about free speech, which was the issue in question in the Michael Oren incident, though clearly that’s not the salient factor about a noose in a library. So at a minimum, the conflation charge isn’t completely groundless, even if it is a major stretch.
In any case, I went to Yudof’s people directly to ask. Is this what Yudof meant? Are these incidents all of a piece? And if folks are running around saying he’s lumping them all together, would he set the record straight?
They’re getting back to me.
UPDATE: Lynn Tierney, the communications chief for the University of California, clarifying the views of President Mark Yudof: "His view is that Irvine and UC San Diego incidents reflect somewhat different forms of insult and insensitivity and in different contexts, but at the root they both violate our communty norms on tolerance and respect for others and their opinions." Is that conflation? And more importantly, is it wrong?