We recently covered the sit-in at the University of California – Los Angeles, which targeted Professor Emeritus Val Rust, who was accused of creating a racially hostile environment through aggressive grammar corrections.

In the campus paper, student reporter Sam Hoff interviews others who defend the instructor.

Current and former students in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies expressed their support for professor emeritus Val Rust following a demonstration in one of his graduate classes last Thursday.

Student demonstrators alleged that there is a “toxic” racial climate in the graduate school, including in Rust’s classroom. Organizers told the Daily Bruin last week that they decided to host the demonstration after a recent report examining racial discrimination among the university’s faculty stated that UCLA’s policies and procedures do not sufficiently address racially motivated instances of discrimination.

…Emily Le, a graduate student in the school who has known Rust for about 10 years, said she thought it was unjust for sit-in participants to accuse Rust of being part of a hostile environment because he is a supporter of intercultural learning and collaboration.

“It is disturbing that students would make such unfounded accusations based on misperceptions of what they believe as racism,” Le said.

Le said she thought the demonstrators should not have claimed to represent all students of color.

“If they were trying to create a bigger dialogue for the community to discuss, they would have chosen the town hall (meeting) we have once a quarter, or talked to the dean to discuss their issues,” Le said.

Le said the sit-in organizers should have emailed the entire department, so other minority students could choose whether to participate instead of being grouped as in support of the protest because they are students of color.

After Thursday’s sit-in, several current and former students said they did not believe there was a problem with racial discrimination in Rust’s class.

…Some students said they thought Thursday’s protest was focused more on humiliating a single professor than starting dialogue.

“I think the most unsettling thing was that it was in the name of a larger, legitimate cause, but it was so targeted at very specific people,” said Stephanie Kim, a graduate student who has worked with Rust for several years.

Kim said she thought the organizers should have reached out to the rest of the department in forums such as town hall meetings instead of planning the sit-in.

“Maybe (the demonstrators) do have legitimate grievances … but the way they chose to address their issues was by very aggressively showing up in one targeted professor’s class and using him as a scapegoat for much larger issues,” she said.