ASUC Condemns Published Racism

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The ASUC Senate passed a symbolic bill Wednesday condemning racist jokes printed in the Heuristic Squelch, inciting a heated two-hour debate over racial sensitivity and First Amendment rights.

The bill deemed any racist comments "inappropriate in the extreme." It also strongly recommended that all ASUC-sponsored publications, including the Squelch, initiate a complaint process and respond to any complaints received.

The resolution, however, does not have any binding effect on the Squelch, a student-published humor magazine, or any other ASUC-sponsored publication.

Authored by Cal-SERVE Senator Catherine Ahn, the bill sparked a lengthy and inflamed debate between those who favored the Squelch's right to print questionable material and those who argued for racial sensitivity.

Controversy began over a racist joke stereotyping Filipinos as unathletic airport workers that appeared in the magazine's most recent edition.

"I don't understand how you could not support racial sensitivity," Ahn said. "We are not saying all Squelch editors are racist pigs, but the point is that the Filipino American community was hurt by the comments, and we're here to represent those students."

Ahn emphasized her bill was simply a strong recommendation, not a binding regulation, and not intended to infringe on First Amendment rights. She also said the bill does not ban the Squelch nor reduce the magazine's ASUC funding.

"I am in no way against the Squelch, but I think it's about, 'The Squelch can write about whatever they want, but we as 20 students representing the campus said it was not right,'" said Cal-SERVE Senator Louisa Ortega.

Karen Villa, a UC Berkeley Asian American studies major, said the joke denigrated her identity.

"I don't appreciate paying to be offended," said Villa, who is Filipino, referring to the fact that the Squelch receives funding from the ASUC.

But Squelch Editor in Chief Sean Keane called the bill a waste of time, noting the publication never received any direct complaints about the joke until it came up as a senate bill.

"The ASUC has no place in condemning Squelch comedy," said Squelch! Senator Romie Littrell. "The Squelch is not racist - it is here to make us laugh and point out the absurdities of our existence in all respects."

Many students enjoy the magazine and the ASUC should not recommend changing its content, said Squelch! Senator Richard Schulman, who blasted the bill.

"All the Cal-SERVE and (Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary) party senators wanted to regulate the content of the Heuristic Squelch," Schulman said. "I can't think of a more dangerous precedent for a legislative body to set."

Cal-SERVE Senator Danny Andrews proposed an amendment that would have strongly recommended the Squelch print an apology. The amendment did not pass.

"They went way overboard - even if the comment did offend someone, they offended me to force any publication to print an apology," Schulman said.

Student Action Senator Heather Drennan said that while part of the concern about racial sensitivity was valid and she voted for the bill, she did not want to tell the Squelch what to print.

"Hopefully the recommendation letter will make a difference and show that the Squelch needs to take racial sensitivity in account," Drennan said. "But considering the Squelch makes fun of the ASUC, it could be fodder for the next issue."


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