Office of Diversity and Equity and its Chief Officer: Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE)


According to the statement of its charge, the CDO Strategic Plan Working Group is “to provide an initial draft report to senior staff, Budget and Strategic Advisory Committee and Faculty Council on/or before November 15, with final recommendations due on/or before January 15, 2015.” The first meeting of this Working Group is October 30, 2014. Because the Working Group must accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time, this document presents a summary of research to provide a framework and starting point. The document draws from reports by experts (i.e., scholar practitioners whose research focuses on diversity and equity in institutions of higher education), interviews with Chief Diversity Officers who provide leadership in the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) organization, and years of research, reports, and recommendations by members of the Occidental College community. It is not an accident that this document goes beyond a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to include equity and imagine a more robust structure in the form of an Office.

In the introduction to On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed writes,

It is certainly the case that responsibility for diversity and equality is unevenly distributed. It is also the case that the distribution of this work is political: if diversity and equality work is less valued by organizations, then to become responsible for this work can mean to inhabit institutional spaces that are also less valued (4).

Noting the challenges of doing institutional work around diversity and equality that can have lasting effects, she writes, “I began to appreciate the importance of focusing not so much on what documents say but what they do: how they circulate and move around” (6), identifying the problem of having such documents praised and then put aside. She raises the important issue of “where diversity goes (and where it does not), as well as in whom and in what diversity is deposited (as well as in whom or in what it is not)” (12). Further, she comments on the problem that “an equality regime [structural attempts to institutionalize equality] can be an inequality regime given a new form, a set of processes that maintain what is supposedly being addressed” (8); she looks specifically at the “question of commitment as that which is. . . missing when diversity and equality become ‘paper trails.’ . . . [S]tatements of commitment are non-performatives: they do not bring about the effects they name” (17).

In particular, diversity as “a form of public relations” (17) makes impossible the difficult work of undoing the often un-named racism that is at the core of the “diversity” problem. Commitment from the top of institutional leadership is needed to build an Office of Diversity and Equity that is able to enact changes that have been continually recommended over many years by numerous committees and to move the work forward in new ways. Otherwise, the current efforts to establish a chief diversity officer are in danger of reproducing a regime of continued inequality–in experiences, in opportunities, and in workloads–under the name of “diversity.”

Introduction: Oxy’s Institutional Challenge

Occidental has a long history of actively engaging in the pursuit of democratization of higher education to make it more inclusive. In 1912, young men on campus joined protests against the idea of Occidental becoming a men’s college. After World War II, a student organization questioned why no Black students had yet joined the college, asking whether Occidental has a race problem. In the 1980s, the College adopted a new institutional mission centered on excellence and equity; Occidental was a leader in taking up these issues at an institutional level from the late 1980s into the 1990s. However, while Oxy’s institutional attention waned, as other issues were given priority, other institutions forged ahead. Oxy was named number one in the U.S. News and World Report’s first diversity ranking in 1998, but it has now sunk to number 12. Despite the fact that Oxy provided leadership in moving to equity and excellence beyond demographics by working to transform the curriculum and connecting this to diversifying faculty, developing programs that centered on multiculturalism and using the new institutional mission to re-think most aspects of the institution, the college failed to institutionalize these efforts to ensure that they remained part of the fabric of the college.

Yet, Occidental’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017 highlights “Inclusive Excellence” as a key objective for the institution. While all members of our community must engage the strategic plan, it is imperative that the College establish an office with a high-level position to provide leadership and innovative ideas to energize our re-commitment to our institutional mission.

Colleges and universities that have more recently adopted diversity as a core value, have built on foundations forged by institutions like Occidental. Moreover, many of them have begun to put in place structures that shape policies and practices for building equity and diversity into all aspects of the institution. This reflects the recognition that the excellence of the institution draws from diversity as diversity serves as an educational resource. To this end, an increasing number of colleges and universities have established offices of diversity and equity, with leadership that sits at the highest level of administrative structures (such as the President’s cabinet) in order for diversity and equity to be built into all levels and aspects of the institution. The formation of two new national organizations illustrate the increasing relevance of this approach: the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), which consists primarily of chief diversity officers in large universities, and Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO). Given Occidental’s long history and experience with diversity, members of LADO have expressed interest in Occidental becoming the first west Coast member. Because of the depth of experience that exists at Occidental, it is not impossible for the institution to once again become a leader in this area.

The leaders of LADO are experts in institutionalizing equity and diversity in ways that not only deepen efforts but at the same time increase the excellence of the institution. Their work is research-based; Occidental would benefit greatly by learning from these experts and drawing from this knowledge base. In addition, Occidental would benefit by connecting to new funding opportunities as the organization is also dedicated to developing proposals to foundations and others for collaborative efforts, such as the $4.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the Creating Connections Consortium (C3) to “develop, disseminate, and promote new strategies for building academic settings that enable the full participation of diverse students and faculty. Simply put, C3 is intended to serve as an incubator of innovation for institutional diversity, creating adaptable programs in which participants are key stakeholders in their success” (

Role and Authority of the Office of Diversity and Equity and its Chief Officer

The Office of Diversity and Equity should provide the space for reinvigorating the commitment and attention to the institutional mission. In the past, we counted on individuals to integrate the mission into their/our own work. This placed a high level of responsibility on the commitment and dedication of individuals, thereby undermining the capacity of the institution to sustain these efforts when these individuals left the college or others were burnt out. Continuing inequities indicate that at the institutional level a specified location is required to centralize attention to diversity and equity and to provide vision and leadership. The CDEO and her/his office would not be responsible for doing all work around the mission. Rather, the office and officer would:

  • provide expertise and innovation to assist departments, offices, and leadership in integrating diversity and equity into all aspects of the basic educational functions of the College
  • invigorate and make the work more intentional
  • serve as a thought leader and change agent who brings experience and vision to re-energize the mission
  • use the Office as a position of influence to help everyone at the institution to re-think how their work contributes and how their work benefits by integrating diversity and equity
  • bring together Occidental’s human and material resources for the work
  • draw from our history of successes to continually move the work forward
  • establish relationships and networks that will connect the College to other resources
  • communicate with the campus and external communities about work around the mission

Leadership for integrating this work would entail having the “responsibility to conceptualize, define, assess, nurture, and cultivate diversity as an institutional and educational resource” (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 2). For example, while the Office of Diversity and Equity needs its own budget, it should work with all units to consider how to build diversity and equity into their budgets. This will enable the College to build diversity and equity as educational resources throughout the institution rather than as discrete tasks.

In order to integrate diversity and equity throughout the institution, the following list provides a starting point for areas of work for the Office of Diversity and Equity:

  • development of a Strategic Plan for Diversity and Equity at Occidental
  • professional development, training, and support for faculty, staff, and administrators
  • affirmative action and equal employment opportunity
  • search committees: faculty, staff, and administrative search committees must work with this office/person
  • target of opportunity processes and practices
  • assessment and institutional research/planning
  • budget and priorities processes
  • connecting to Title IX, EEO, and affirmative action functions and issues
  • student support structures in academic and student affairs
  • communications and planning around diversity and equity programming
  • admissions
  • academic departments and divisional structures
  • specialized and focused work to increase access to all majors and programs
  • research best practices at other institutions

As Damon Williams and Katrina Wade-Golden write in “What is a Chief Diversity Officer?,” their summarized version of their book, The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management:

“[C]hange is a fundamental aspect of the chief diversity officer role leading campus-wide diversity planning and implementation efforts, seeding new diversity initiatives to create bubble-up energy and involve others in change projects, developing diversity training and educational strategies for executives, faculty, staff, and students to shift their mental models and skills regarding diversity, developing high profile and symbolic campus diversity events to suggest diversity’s relationship to institutional excellence, and creating new systems to insure that faculty and staff search committees cast a broad hiring net. Although diversity is the targeted domain area, each of these initiatives and projects is intended to affect some type of intentional change in the systems, structure, and culture of the institution” (4, emphasis added).

Structure and “Positional Capital”

The Office of Diversity and Equity is not a novel idea; it has been instituted in a number of universities and more recently, has been a strategic addition in many liberal arts institutions on the East Coast. Judging from the experiences of Occidental College, it is clear that despite a historical dedication to a mission of diversity and equity, it has been difficult to sustain and develop these efforts. Individually based and heavily reliant on personal commitments, the trajectory of successes regarding diversity and equity have fluctuated wildly. It is therefore imperative to create an office with a high level leader not only to ensure that the mission permeates the very fabric of the College, but that it is also part of the objective and structural core of the College. Given our long history and contemporary reliance on the mission for the recruitment of students and faculty, and the outcomes that have not been highly successful, it is obvious that the College needs to institute a more concerted and structural effort to institutionalize and develop its commitment to diversity and equity.

The responsibilities and the depth of the portfolio of the Office of Diversity and Equity, as outlined above, require a leader who sits at a high level in order to participate in conversations and processes as well as decision-making in matters that lie at the heart of the College. Interviews with leaders within the Liberal Arts Diversity Officers (LADO) organization stress the importance of having the chief diversity officer report to the President, sit on the President’s cabinet, and be at the table equally with other Vice Presidents. They point out that this level of position is necessary in order to:

  • integrate equity and diversity into mainline functions of the institution● have an institutional purview rather than one located in any one division
  • have access to information
  • bring equity and diversity into conversations at the decision-making table
  • build relationships with and provide resources for those who make important decisions for entire divisions
  • influence resource allocation

One LADO CDO noted that the planning committee that designed the position on her campus regretted having agreed to a structure that placed their CDO at a lower level because of the scope of the work and realization that her effectiveness was hampered from the beginning.

The LADO leaders’ insights are reinforced in “What is A Chief Diversity Officer?” Williams and Wade-Golden write,

[A] primary source of power for these officers is their location at the presidential or provost level of formal administrative hierarchy. Participation in the executive cabinet of the institution insures that the position has visibility, access, and symbolic impact. For that reason, chief diversity officers can infuse diversity into highly politicized discussions about budget allocations, new initiatives, and future priorities of the institution. If these officers were not present, these issues may not be mentioned, nor [understood] in a manner consistent with diversity goals so often mentioned in institutional academic plans, websites, and marketing materials. (3)

A LADO CDO asserts that the high-level position is important not only around decision-making but also the “optics of being at the table.” The high level position serves as an important symbol that equity and diversity are of key importance to the workings of the institution. The high level position and title also give the officer the “positional capital” to make things happen. Williams and Wade-Golden write that with a high level position,

a powerful symbolic message is sent to the entire campus community regarding the important role of the CDO and diversity on campus…. [the title] in combination with a portfolio of units and responsibilities [that combine academic affairs and diversity functions often placed elsewhere] signals that the officer is “more than simply a resource on matters of diversity and suggests a fundamental connection between diversity and academic excellence” (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 4).

Dimensions of the Work

In their longer work, The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management, Williams and Wade-Golden outline five dimensions of the work of the CDO. These dimensions show both the breadth and depth of efforts that are needed for effective institutional work.

Chart: The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management, by Damon A. Williams and Katrina C. Wade-Golden, Stylus Publishing, 2013.

Attributes for the Office of Diversity and Equity Leader

In addition, Williams and Wade-Golden identify seven key attributes for chief diversity officers (What is a Chief Diversity Officer? 5-6):

  • Technical mastery of diversity issues
  • Political savvy
  • Ability to cultivate a common vision
  • In-depth perspective on organizational change
  • Sophisticated relational abilities
  • Understanding the culture of higher education
  • Results orientation

It is the combination of the position of the Office of Diversity and Equity and the qualities of the Officer that will enable the work to be effective; neither the attributes or position alone are enough to ensure success.

Institutional Resources

An organization’s priorities are reflected in its budget; a budget should be the financial expression of the organization’s mission. With this in mind, the level of resources allocated for the Office of Diversity and Equity must reflect the centrality of this work to the Mission of the college. Likewise, resources must be requisite with the broad list of duties and responsibilities required of the office and its staff. Effectiveness demands adequate resources. Since the Office of Diversity and Equity requires institution-wide work, it must have a budget and resources commensurate with that of the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Planning.

LADO CDO interviewees stressed the importance of an office that has staffing and resources available to ensure that the functions of the office can be performed to ensure institution-wide impact. As the Chief Diversity and Equity Officer at Occidental needs to work at the cabinet-level and be a resource for re-invigorating work in all areas of the College, a single person cannot do it all. It is crucial at this point in Occidental’s history of work on equity and diversity that the position and office be positioned to have the capacity for the range and depth of work that faces us.

Historically, external funding played a key role in fostering Oxy’s growth and development in the arena of diversity and equity. As an example, the three-year, $2 million grant from the Irvine Foundation in 2001 supported diversity and equity work in the Intercultural Community Center, the Core Program, the International Programs Office, and the Minority Scholars in Residence Program. Mellon Foundation funding similarly added depth and vibrancy to the work. The stagnation and in some cases decline in our efforts coincided with the disappearance of this “soft” money, offering two important lessons going forward: 1) resources are an important driver of structural change and 2) while external funding is an important component in jump starting structural change, maintenance and growth of said change requires on-going, “hard” resources.

Resources must be conceived of broadly to include funding and staffing in order to ensure the sustainability of the work. The innovative program for student success in the sciences, the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP) provides an example of this. In Fall 2005, SSAP began operating as a student-initiated, student-led, workshop-oriented tutoring program to increase the success of underrepresented students in the sciences. Four Occidental students researched issues in STEM fields nationally after polling other students in the sciences on campus. They modeled their program on the Biology Scholars Program at UC Berkeley, a nationally-recognized program centered on community-building rather than individual tutoring. Although the SSAP still exists on campus, it has never lived up to its potential in supporting student success because of uncertain structural and institutional support. The SSAP serves as an important illustration of why good ideas and good intentions are not enough to sustain this work. Without funding and staffing, this innovative and potentially impactful STEM program has withered on the vine.

The Office of Diversity and Equity must have resources to incentivize change, spark innovation, create and sustain programming, provide training, and maintain connections to local and national networks doing this work. This Office and the staff leading it must be able to offer incentives for positive change and support professional development. The Dean’s funds for course innovation, the CORE office’s stipends for participation in CSP workshops at the beginning of the school year, and CCBL’s stipends for participation in the CBL summer workshop all serve as important precedents that indicate the effectiveness of such incentives. Such incentives are especially important for the development of the new Office of Diversity and Equity in order to bring more people to the table to do the work and to start pilot programs that can re-energize efforts around the College mission.


Oxy’s commitment to diversity and equity can be realized through the establishment of a well-resourced Office of Diversity and Equity led by the visionary leadership of a Vice President of Diversity and Equity empowered by the President to do this work. We need someone who will challenge us, inspire us, lead us, and push us beyond our comfort levels in order to make us a better institution.


Ahmed, Sara. “Introduction: On Arrival.” On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press, 2012.

Occidental College Mission Initiatives Advisory Group. Briefing Report and Recommendations Submitted to Susan Prager. Summer 2006.

Teraguchi, Daniel Hiroyuki. “Frameworks for Inclusive Excellence: Diversity, Inclusion, and Institutional Renewal.” Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2004.

Williams, Damon A., Joseph. B. Berger, and Shederick A. McClendon. Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions. Making Excellence Inclusive Initiative: Preparing Students and Campuses for an Era of Greater Expectations, Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2005.

Williams, Damon A. and Katrina C. Wade-Golden. The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management. Stylus Publishing, 2013.

Williams, Damon A. and Katrina C. Wade-Golden. “What is a Chief Diversity Officer?”

To the Occidental Community

Dear Occidental Community,

The recent attempt by members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity to host an off-campus party themed “End of the World Party: ISIS, Ebola & Malaysian Airlines” is an atrocious display of racism, anti-Blackness, and the dehumanization of people of color. These tragedies have impacted people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. While the party made a mockery of the loss of human life generally, there is a persistent racialized undertone in this event that deeply harms people of color specifically. Costumes of victims of Ebola, the Malaysian Airlines crashes, or the terrorist organization ISIS perpetuate repulsive stereotypes of the predominantly black and brown victims and perpetrators of these tragedies. It is a disgusting lack of awareness to think that this is something that can be made light of. By parodying and sexualizing these deaths, the organizers and would-be attendees of this party are devaluing the lives of people of color on campus and on a global level. It is clear that Oxy still has a major problem with racism when students plan to host, to attend, or to accept this type of event.

Let’s move past ideas about Oxy being “PC” or “too sensitive about race” and realize racism and ignorance thrive on our campus and we must organize to combat it.

While Phi Kappa Psi issued an apology to the campus, the organization can and must do more to address the deeply problematic actions of two of its members. These individuals are representatives of their organization regardless of whether this party was organized officially as a Phi Psi event. CODE suggests that Phi Psi consider the following possible courses of action:
1. Work to change the culture and practices of your organization in order to challenge systemic racism;
2. Take disciplinary action against the members of your organization who have caused harm to the Occidental community; namely remove these individuals from the organization or accept that their actions and ideology continue to represent and reflect the organization as a whole;
3. Positively contribute to rectifying the horrific events this party sought to trivialize (We suggest fundraising for organizations working to eradicate Ebola as one possible action).

Our goal here is not to demonize Phi Psi, but rather to recognize that the issues that their members brought up are ones that face the Occidental community more broadly. We implore the College to take a stand on this issue. While the party has been canceled and an apology was forwarded to the student body this time,we have yet to see the institution address the underlying ideology and practices of the College that allow such dehumanization to go unchecked. Beyond devaluing the loss of life from Ebola, ISIS, and the Malaysian Airlines crashes, the racist actions in question have caused real harm to members of our student body who feel attacked and unsafe. We believe that the events of the last days exemplify with this College needs a Chief Diversity Office.

A Chief Diversity Office would provide a space to address institutional racism in both proactive and reactive ways. It would offer support to students in instances where they feel unsafe, attacked, or victimized and streamline the disciplinary process for bias incident reports. In addition, the office would play a critical role in changing the culture of Occidental in regard to race and diversity. It would further institutionalize our commitment to equity and excellence so that events like this “End of the World” party will no longer have a place in our community. Let us not strive to be mediocre, but excellent in our leadership on issues of diversity.

The Coalition at Occidental for Diversity and Equity

API Graduation 2014

Professor Paul Nam gave the keynote speech for the API (Asian Pacific Islander) Graduation Ceremony. Below is his speech.



API Graduation

May 16, 2014


   Good evening. First, I would like to thank the API organization for the honor of addressing this year’s class. I feel a special bond with this class because I started Oxy with them, and in a sense I am leaving with them, too. Second, I would like to acknowledge all the family and friends in attendance coming to support their loved ones. They couldn’t have come as far without you. Finally, I would like to congratulate all the seniors here today to whom I am addressing this speech, not only for having finished four grueling years of the hell we know as Oxy, but choosing to take part in this ceremony. As such, you have chosen to identify yourself as Asian or Pacific Islander. While this may seem natural to you, we both know that some of our, let us say, banana brethren choose not to identify as we do.

This evening, I would like to talk about three themes: identity, the model minority, and entitlement.


   A little about myself. I came to America when I was three. While I’m technically first generation, I’m not like my parents who were adults when they came. Nor am I second-generation like my brother who was born in the Staten Island Memorial Hospital. Being neither first nor second, I’m considered 1.5 generation. These sociological categories will become relevant later.

Growing up on Staten Island, I remember feeling the same as the children around me. Analyzing these memories now reveals a darker side I didn’t recognize as a child. For example, in the third grade I remember walking around the schoolyard with Christine DiPietro. We were talking about the TV show S.W.A.T. We argued if SWAT stood for Special Weapons and Techniques or Special Weapons and Trucks, because you know they always jumped out of police trucks. Anyway, I found out that Christine told her father she wanted to marry me, the little Oriental boy. Her father told her he’d break her legs if she did.

Or I remember the first time I realized I wasn’t like all the other children. It was in 7th grade Social Studies when Mr. McMillen was teaching us about the Silk Road, or trade between Europe and China. He pointed to a student and said you’re the European merchant who buys goods from the Middle Eastern trader who got his merchandise from the Chinese seller, and saying this he stared at me. I looked around me, because I didn’t recognize that hail was meant for me, because I thought I was the same as everyone else, and also I was Korean, not Chinese.

Identity is a tricky thing, because our identity is constructed not only by how we desire to see ourselves, but how we are seen by those around us. For example, in the boondocks of America, I stand out like jaundice. In Los Angeles, no-one does a double-take. And in Asia, I’m just part of the scenery.

The old definitions of Asianness are starting to crumble. In other words, these definitions cannot contain the new realities that have emerged. When I was growing up on the East Coast, Asian meant you were from East Asia. Now Asian encompasses all of Asia, be it East Asia, Southeast Asia, subcontinent India, or the Pacific Islands, all are placed into the same category.

Moreover, we have more children of mixed marriages now, sometimes known as hapa deriving from the word “half.” Half-Asian, plus half-white, half-black, half-whatever. Or if you use the new term, Biracial.

Or how about children from Asia adopted by Caucasian parents? Their upbringing, their lifestyle, and their parents are white, so are they? Or how about the converse of Asian parents adopting children who are not of Asian ancestry? How are they to be labeled, or defined?

So you see, the old definition of Asianness does not and cannot contain these new realities. Regardless of what kind of Asian we are, whole or half or bi, adopted or not, we’ve all been pigeonholed as the model minority.

Model Minority

   The term “model minority” was first coined in the mid-60s by William Petersen, a UC Berkeley sociologist describing Japanese Americans. In a New York Times article, he spoke of the Japanese American experience of overcoming legal obstacles or the grossest injustice of internment. Though the long multicolumn article focuses exclusively on Japanese Americans, he concludes with a comparison with blacks in America. For Petersen, of all minorities, African Americans were the most embedded in American society; in contrast, Japanese Americans were able to overcome racism “because of their meaningful links with an alien culture. Pride in their heritage and shame for any reduction in its … legendary glory” So we see that Japanese Americans were successful, according to Petersen, because of their ties with Japan.

From this seminal article, we can draw two conclusions. One, Japanese Americans are the model minority. The minority that overcame the racist barriers in America. Note … that lauding, by extension, our success, other peoples of color are being criticized for not doing the same. So, it’s a divide and conquer technique. We’re being partitioned off from the rest of the peoples of color in America.

Second, from the article, we see that Japanese Americans are not really American, for it was their links to an alien culture that enabled them to prosper in America. We, as Asian Americans, no matter what generation we are, are perpetual foreigners. This is why we are classified by first generation, second generation, 1.5 generation. Really, how many [air quotes] “regular” Americans know what generation they are? This is why when I’m asked where I’m from, and I say Staten Island, NY, the questioner rephrases, “Where are you really from?” And no matter how many times I say Staten Island, and come on how many people would confess to being from Staten Island if they weren’t really. So no matter how many times I say Staten Island, Staten Island, Staten Island, the truth is denied because I don’t look like I’m from Staten Island.

Even in America’s most hallowed halls of learning and truth, we will always be perpetual foreigners. A good friend of mine from grad school was teaching at Dartmouth. In her first year, she was invited to a professor’s house for Christmas dinner. During the dinner, which was basically Dartmouth faculty, she was told that Christmas was a celebration of Christ’s birth. My friend replied, “Yes, I know.” Then, she was asked, “When is Buddha’s birthday?” So my friend, who English is better than mine, and dresses like what you would expect an Ivy League professor to dress like is asked when Buddha’s birthday is by some of the most educated and arguably most intelligent people in America.

Finally, indulge me in one final microaggression, take note of the word. Numerous times, [airquotes] “regular” Americans have commented on how good my English is. I usually just smile and say thank you, thank you so very much. I don’t do this, I just say, “thank you.” But in my head, I’m dying to say that I’m better educated. I smarter than you. You’re complimenting ME on my English, REALLY?? But I don’t, because I’m passive-aggressive and that’s another discreet quality all Asians share.

My point to all these incidents is that even though we may be the “model minority,” within the present structure, we are not accepted as Americans, at best we’re Japanese American, Vietnamese American, Pilipino American, what have you, just never solely American.

Now some of you are probably thinking, hey why not take advantage of being considered hard-working, diligent, studious, number-crunching, non-political and non-aggressive. I’ll just work hard and get my slice of the American dream. American society is a meritocracy and since I’m meritorious, I’ll take it. It doesn’t work that way, because the rules of the game will change on you. Case in point, Stuyvesant high school in New York City is the best and most prestigious public high school, apologies to all you Bronx Science people, but it’s the truth. Admittance to Stuy is based completely on an entrance exam, the New York City Specialized High Schools admission test. In last year’s entering class of 2013, Stuy offered admission to 9 black students; 24 Latino/Latina students; 177 white students; and … get this … 620 students who identify as Asian. And since you’re all Asian you can do the calculations and say that Asian composed [pause] 74.69% of the class, white students [pause] 21.32%, Latino/a 2.89% and black students 1.08%. So 75% of the best public high school in New York City is Asian. And they deserve to be there because they did the best on the standardized exam, right? Not really. But if we’re gonna play the game that way, does this mean Harvard will be 75% Asian? No, no way in hell is Harvard going to open their gates to the yellow peril. By the way, Harvard class of 2016 is 20.7 percent Asian-American. Oxy’s percent of Asian Pacific Island students has held steady at around 15-20% for the past decade. And this is similar to elite colleges and universities throughout America. You can see that the rules of the game have changed from high school to college.

Perhaps the most insidious propagation of the myth of the model minority is to deny racism against Asians and Pacific Islanders in America. The argument goes that since Asians have made it in American society, they could not have faced racism, otherwise they would not have achieved success. I hope that my relaying of the three expressions of microaggressions is the proof that racism in America is alive and strong, it has just sunk below the surface of respectability. So we’re no longer called chink to our faces, rather people comment on how things made in China are suspicious and hazardous. Or how a certain cable news channel showed images of mourning Tibetans as Koreans reacting to their recent ferry tragedy. We all look alike, so what does it matter.


   Finally, the topic of entitlement and privilege. By virtue of graduating from a college like Occidental, all of you have entered into the American middle class, or at least what’s left of it. And if you’re good Asians, you’ll become successful doctors, lawyers, or engineers. You’ll work hard and eventually buy a house in the Palisades or Brentwood. I implore you, however, to remember that your gateway to the middle class, was opened to you by the sacrifices and struggles of those who came before you. Specifically, I’m talking about the Civil Rights Movement. How many of us would really be here in this still very occidental institution of higher learning if not for those who fought to force America to recognize something other than whiteness. In A Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks of the greatest obstacle in the stride toward freedom as not being rabid racists like the White Citizen’s Councils or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate who

“is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another…’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises … to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

It’s too easy for us the “model minority” to become the white moderate. Here, when I use the word “white,” I am not referring to the unfortunate lack of skin pigmentation, but rather the construction of whiteness as privilege, entitlement, and superiority. After all, how many times have we been told to not make waves, to go with the flow, to study and work hard to get ahead. How many of us have internalized feelings of inadequacy or the ominous clouds of inferiority, as we struggle to partake of American society?

It’s too easy for us to not acknowledge the sacrifices made that allow us to be here, now. All of us who reap the benefits of those who came before us, have an obligation to repay these debts by shattering this all-encompassing, pigeon-holing stereotype of the model minority. Borrowing from Dr. King: I am here to remind you of the fierce urgency of Now. There is no time to engage in the luxury of silence or taking the tranquilizing drug of moderation. Now is the time to make real the promises of America. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of inadequacy and inferiority to the sunlit paths of agency and freedom. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all.

Thank you.


Welcome to Oxy!

Dear Admitted Students,

We, the Coalition @Oxy for Diversity & Equity (CODE), would like to congratulate you on your acceptance to Occidental! For those of you who were able to visit this week, you may have become aware of the issues surrounding our campus relating to diversity. Occidental College claims to value being a multicultural campus that reflects the diverse urban setting of Los Angeles. However, this image you have been receiving from the school is not the reality for many of us.

On this blog, you will find a number of statistics about Oxy’s diversity, information about the long history of student activism at Oxy, and our proposed solutions to many of the contributing factors to our problems. For more current personal accounts of racism and other forms of discrimination, please visit

While Oxy’s commitment to diversity and equity on campus has often come into question, we acknowledge that this is not specific to our school. Wherever you ultimately decide to attend, you will most likely be subject to negative experiences, similar to those you may already have encountered in your lifetime. (See: Diversity at Oxy in comparison to other colleges)

Unique to Oxy, however, is the long history of student activism and community-building to improve our campus and hold our college accountable to its core beliefs: excellence and equity. Since the 1960s, students have advocated for a more diverse multicultural environment. CODE seeks to continue and build upon the legacy of the efforts of past activists, demanding the most of our time here. As you decide which college is right for you, know that CODE is a support network for students of color and we strongly encourage you to come to Oxy and join our efforts.



CODE students and professors

P.S. Also check us out at,


Concerning Blackness and Springfest

Concerning Blackness and Springfest

I would first like to credit the alumni of Occidental for sharing this narrative with others and myself. This letter would not be possible without their institutional memory and the knowledge concerning Springfest would still be largely forgotten.

As everyone on campus knows, this year’s Springfest is featuring hip-hop artist Talib Kweli. Known for his socially conscientious lyrics, as well as his frequent collaborations with Mos Def, Talib Kweli is a well-respected artist within the genre.

Also of note, Talib Kweli performed at Occidental in 2006 during one of the series of events known as “The Exploration of Blackness,” which preceded and evolved into Springfest. The “Exploration of Blackness,” as indicated through the title, was a two-week long series of events dedicated to understanding the culture, nuances, and struggles of the Black Diaspora. These events include, but are not limited to, lectures by Angela Davis, performances and talks by Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco, as well as public viewings of both The Boondocks and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled in the quad. “Exploration of Blackness” received widespread support from the student body, cultural clubs, faculty, and administration before it transitioned to the Springfest we are currently familiar with.

While the conventional criticism of Springfest programming board’s seemingly monotonous selection of hip-hop artists year after year is somewhat ironic, especially considering the origins of Springfest are rooted within Blackness, it is not unexpected. Springfest has been divorced from its radical Blackness social justice beginnings. As a result, it is no longer conceived as an event dedicated to helping foster campus-wide understanding of Black identity, but rather a concert to turn up at.

Of course, this is not to say we should not have concerts with a diverse range of musical genres and acts. I would argue for more diverse music beyond hip-hop for Oxy concerts.

However, we should not forget the history and original purpose of what once was explicitly Black radical programming at Oxy. As this campus continues to wrestle over issues over race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality, it is imperative that we look to the past to try and resurrect the once-progressive soul of the college. Going to a Macklemore or Talib Kweli concert is not enough to engage in critical discussion and action regarding prominent (and inescapable) social issues.


David Pino

Class of 2014

Sociology Major

Find the Leadership II: Students Demand Equity

Dear Colleagues:

One thing is clear: the packed  ASOC-sponsored forum in Choi Auditorium on Thursday, Feb 27, reiterated the need for an Office of Diversity and Equity led by a Vice President or Chief Diversity Officer. The discussion can be organized in terms of several themes: a lack of coordination; a lack of response to serious allegations; and a lack of expertise. Organizing the evidence from the meeting in this way reiterates that the problem at hand is not a question of individual goodwill across scattered offices. It is a question of effective structuring to ensure that a team of employees will devote all of their energy solely to ensuring that excellence and equity are sustained campus-wide.

The town hall consisted of students, faculty, and several panelists, including the Dean of Students/VP for Student Life, Dean of the College/VP for Academic Affairs , the VP for Admissions and Financial Aid, the Associate-VP for Scholarship Technology, and the Associate-VP for Strategic Initiatives. Although several administrators stated how frequently they consider diversity and they offered isolated instances of how they each try to address diversity, they showed no evidence of working in coordination to enact a shared vision.They showed no evidence of how they hold each other accountable to bring this shared vision to fruition. In this town hall meeting the VPs could have illustrated their progress on actualizing their Action Plan sent to the Oxy community on December 5, 2013. However, none of the VPs even mentioned their own plan. Whether this is based on the fact that these VPs lack the expertise to carry out such an agenda, or their counter to CODE’s plan was merely a stalling tactic, or any other reason, it would be problematic to assume that we must simply give the VPs plan more time when they are clearly not attempting to implement their own plan and perhaps forgot they even created one. The VPs must now explain why they set aside Code’s 29 Action Items for a counter-plan that they have abandoned less than 3 months after making it public. More importantly, the VPs must address CODE’s Action Items.

Most significantly, the panelists literally ignored several troubling claims from students about the administration’s lack of transparency, “culture of intimidation” and problematic concept of “risk,” which treats students of color, LGBTQ students, religious minorities, first-generation students, students from working class backgrounds, and survivors of sexual assault as liabilities. The examples that follow can be added to a long list of examples where lack of transparency amongst administrators directly and negatively impacts students’ living and learning experiences. For example, students of color found out at the forum that their applications to become residents in Pauley Hall were thwarted by hidden criteria. As a result of these hidden criteria, students who wanted to live in Pauley were not accepted into the dorm. Meanwhile, students uninterested in the dorm’s multi-cultural theme and did not even apply were allowed to move in. The administrators directly responsible for Residential Life who were in the room did not explain why they imposed additional criteria without notifying students. Many students who value the dorm’s long legacy concluded that, regardless of intentions, this undermines Pauley’s mission and worsens their living experience on campus.

In regards to a culture of intimidation and risk management, students noted how often campus security watches Pauley Hall despite the illegal activities occurring in other dorms not associated with students of color. Administrators did not deny this observation or offer an answer.  Another student asked why student workers are threatened or fired from campus jobs for joining campus causes when Oxy claims to value social justice. The administration did not deny or address this claim either.

Students also asked the VPs how they will hold accountable students targeting and harassing first-generation students, LGBTQ students, and students of color. Although one administrator in the audience offered a mentorship program to LGBTQ students, other voices reiterated the original question: why are students who target their peers not being held accountable and when will accountability be put in place? The total lack of a response indicates, regardless of goodwill, there will be no accountability for students mistreating their peers based on racial, gender, sexual, class, or other differences.

Two points remain. The penultimate one concerns a lack of expertise among the administrators. It was quite telling that students’ comments and questions demonstrated deeper understanding of the structural and institutional bases for their experiences than the institutional leaders who attempted to respond. Attending conferences alone will not give the current VPs the proper training to handle these efforts around diversity. Yet none of the panelists said they’ve pursued extensive training to learn about and implement a model of inclusive excellence. They showed no evidence of consulting with peer institutions. Some of the panelists appeared to think goodwill alone overcomes this hurdle. Instead, this fostered confusion, with administrators answering questions outside their purview yet dodging questions within their purview. Some students wondered why an administrator who has already received a vote of no confidence is at the helm of this diversity initiative. It is time to state the obvious: goodwill, though welcomed, is not a substitute for expertise.

In conclusion, the selective way in which the word “civil” is used to manage campus debate is disturbing. Mistreated and even traumatized students are being asked to be civil, which basically means they should keep silent, as if they are threats to the campus. Historically, such calls for civility are most commonly deployed against groups speaking from structurally disempowered positions, to keep those groups from having more of a say in the institutions they inhabit. It is disturbing that members of the Oxy community would use such language to discipline students who are demanding genuine dedication to diversity and equity. But the call for civility rarely goes both ways. Considering that Oxy administrators rejected CODE’s Action Items that would yield immediate results; that administrators created their own counter-plan only to shelve and forget about it within three months; that administrators at the assembly ignored the students’ most pressing questions; that administrators have thwarted students’ searches for safe campus spaces; that the administrators did not deny nor address allegations of administrative surveillance, intimidation, and retaliation against students; and, lastly, that Oxy administrators offered no accountability plan for students who mistreat their peers—Considering all this, demanding civility from protesting students without holding other students accountable for victimizing their peers reveals a confusion of priorities and just how far the rhetoric of civility gets us: nowhere.


This is not about being “civil” or “uncivil.” This is about transforming Oxy’s rhetoric into reality. It is clear now that there is no alternative plan. All that is left to do is to implement CODE’s 29 Action Items because they are a first step to ensure the welfare of Oxy’s student body, faculty, and administrators.