Now that UCLA student Alexandra Wallace has confirmed that she did in fact put up the racist “Asians in the Library” YouTube video that caused such a fuss over the weekend, more and more students are raising the issue of what punishment — if any — she should face.
For her part, Wallace has apologized, and is laying low. But what’s next?
Rumors of Wallace’s expulsion from UCLA have been flying, driving “alexandra wallace expelled” to the top of search term lists on this story. University officials told the Daily Bruin that they intended to, in the newspaper’s words “examine Wallace’s video to see if it violates any part of the student code of conduct,” and UCLA’s chancellor yesterday sent an email to the campus community declaring that “speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people on the basis of race or gender, or sexual, religious or cultural identity is indefensible and has no place at UCLA.”
The chances of Wallace’s expulsion, however, seem remote.
To begin with, it’s not at all clear that she violated campus rules. The University of California’s system-wide student conduct policy states flatly that “all persons [in the university] may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression [and] free speech,” while the only UCLA student conduct policy that even remotely relates to her behavior is the rule against racial harassment, defined as follows:
“conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, in that [it] so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities, that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities on the basis of her or his race, color, [or] national or ethnic origin.”
It’s highly unlikely that a single YouTube video, pulled down hours after it was posted, which identified no student specifically and made no threats of any kind, could legitimately be construed as racial harassment under this definition. (Some of the reported responses to the video, on the other hand, which are said to have included gendered and racialized death threats made directly to Wallace by phone and email, might well constitute such a violation.)
In the end, this debate may well turn out to be moot. Given the incredible scale of the uproar her video has caused, Wallace may well find it prudent to transfer to another school rather than returning to UCLA next semester. (She has already made arrangements to reschedule her final exams so that she can take them in isolation from her fellow students.)
But if Wallace does decide to stay, it’s hard to see what grounds UCLA would have for denying her the opportunity to do so.