Campus incidents of racial discrimination are making national headlines in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, renewing discussions about racism and civil rights.
At the same time, many have responded against what they believe to be overblown responses to harmless incidents.
At USC, 94 mostly Chinese alumni have expressed concern over the response to Professor Patton’s leave of absence in a letter that compared the university’s response to China’s Cultural Revolution. While they expressed support for social equality, they also noted that Patton’s example had been used countless times before with no complaints.
NOCCCD’s District Director for Diversity and Compliance Arturo Ocampo, however, tentatively disagrees.
“The immediate reaction is to say ‘no’ and push back, however, taking time off to reflect on the situation is worthwhile,” he said. He stressed, however, that a single detail can change the perception of the entire issue.
The process of investigating a complaint at NOCCCD remains confidential to ensure complete neutrality. Once the investigator has come to a conclusion, both sides will have a chance to appeal.
What happened to Patton is unique, Ocampo explained. Usually, there are clear-cut examples of professors using racial slurs, which NOCCCD has policies against. Even so, Ocampo encouraged those who have experienced discrimination to file a complaint even if there are no rules against it.
“Even if the conduct did not amount to a violation if it continues it will,” Ocampo said. “We take all complaints seriously.”
As noted by the reaction of some students to the incident at USC, there are many who believe that the majority of incidents of racism are overblown.
A 2019 Pew Research study found that 52% of white Americans claimed that people see discrimination where it does not exist, compared to 84% of African Americans claimed the opposite.
Ocampo said that, in fact, most students are hesitant to report discrimination, citing a lack of awareness on how the filing process works and fears that their complaints will amount to nothing.
In reality, about one-third of complaints filed to the district find discrimination.
“Some districts like to brag about how nothing happens,” Ocampo said, referring to disciplinary action following student complaints. “Usually they are either setting the bar too high or believing one person over the other. No one is perfect.”
With regards to accessibility, Ocampo said that Title IX flyers can be hung around campus once school reopens. Another idea was to create an app to make it even easier.
New Title IX regulations now require a formal hearing, making the process even more difficult for victims, Ocampo says.
Still, he recommends students who are looking to file a complaint concerning unlawful discrimination or harassment to contact their campus Title IX coordinator. A dean or manager may be more accessible to the student when filing a complaint, however, they are usually not the most knowledgeable.
A direct link can be found on the NOCCCD website.