Rally Urges Isla Vista to “Stop the Hate”
by Jaymi Berbert


“Hey faggot!” Why is someone yelling that? A few moments later, it hits you — literally. You are suddenly the victim of a hate crime, running from a very real threat to your life. 

Joel Rodriguez-Flores, a UCSB student, experienced this scenario in Isla Vista on Friday, September 5. Another gay student was reportedly assaulted at a party over the summer. Only three weeks ago, many other students of various racial backgrounds and sexual orientations experienced outrage at an article printed in The Daily Nexus. The students claimed that the article, titled “I.V. Has Lost Its Spunk,” employed racist, sexist, and homophobic comments to humorously argue against the actions of UCSB officials and the I.V. Foot Patrol in attempting to restrict Isla Vista’s infamous party atmosphere. 

The “Stop the Hate, Spread the Love” rally on October 7 at Storke Plaza was a joint effort to publicize these events and combat prejudice. It was organized and supported by Associated Students Queer Commission, Womyn’s Commission, Student Commission on Racial Equality (SCORE), Take Back the Night, Isla Vista Tenant’s Union, Isla Vista Community Relations Committee, Student Lobby, and Community Affairs Board (CAB). 

The rally began with guest speakers, including KCSB Staff Adviser, Elizabeth Robinson. According to Robinson, “[the article] was not an extraordinary event on campus.” Ten years ago, the Nexus printed a story about the declining number of dogs on campus, in which an IVFP officer was quoted in attributing the lack of dogs to the presence of Hmong and Vietnamese immigrants living in Isla Vista in the 1970s. Twenty years ago, a group of students dressed in “blackface” at an air-guitar competition. These events created extreme backlash from the community and subsequently led to the creation of the Asian Resource Center and the MultiCultural Center. “As with most rights, there are responsibilities,” said Robinson concerning freedom of speech. “We must gain strength from [these events] and use it for a better world.” 

Following the speakers was a march through Isla Vista from Pardall Road to Del Playa Drive. Many surprised bystanders joined in the chanting and cheering and some even joined the march. Others stared silently or laughed, and one group of Del Playa residents restrained their dog, saying, “It’s okay, they’re not worth it.” 

After the marchers returned to campus, an emotional open mic session began. The first speaker was Rodriguez-Flores, who recounted his recent ordeal and voiced hope for a safe, tolerant community. Rodriguez-Flores said he was walking down Del Playa when a group of drunk men started calling him names like “faggot.” One said “I don’t do dudes,” to which Rodriguez-Flores replied, “You’re missing out.” Shortly after, he was punched in the face. “When I felt the physical pain, [it] wasn’t all that different from the emotional pain that’s happened to me throughout my life trying to survive as someone who expresses himself a different way, who dares to love someone of the same sex,” he said. 

Relating his experience to the larger scope of local intolerance, he added, “Homophobia is only one type of violence…there’s sexual violence, there’s racially-driven violence that happens in I.V. I think this is where we have some of the brightest minds in California. Is this really the best that we can do?” 

Soon after the “Spunk” article was printed in the Nexus, Edgar Vargas, co-chair of A.S. Queer Commission, created a resolution urging UCSB administrators to be more involved in preventing hate crimes. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young and Dean of Students Yonie Harris showed commitment to this resolution by submitting a letter to the Nexus which stated, “Acts of intolerance, disrespect, or violence, especially regarding sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, or ethnicity, compromise our sense of community, our feeling of personal well-being, and our ability to live and learn together.…Being a world-class institution confers privilege, prestige, and unparalleled opportunities, but it also entails a set of obligations, standards, and expectations.” 

After the “Spunk” article appeared in the Nexus, many readers wrote in with criticisms. Soon after, the author of the article, senior Max Bottaro, wrote a response claiming that “apparently Isla Vista has not only lost its spunk: It has lost its sense of humor as well.” He later offered an apology, saying “most people understood that the article was a sardonic joke and had a laugh….These were derisive (and admittedly tasteless) stabs at the overbearing censorship efforts of the university.” 

Nicki Arnold, Opinion Editor at The Daily Nexus, refutes any criticisms of the journalistic integrity of the paper. “I think the opinion section worked exactly how it shouldv’e. This guy wrote a column that was offensive to certain groups and those people wrote in,” she said. “Everybody started talking about it and said ‘This is disrespectful’.” Arnold also mentioned that many articles sent to the paper are not printed due to explicit hate speech, and that the derisive nature of Bottaro’s article was not aimed at women or minority groups, but at the bureaucracy of UCSB and Isla Vista officials.

Student groups involved in the rally are at work planning other events to increase awareness and understanding between people of all races, ethnicities, sexualities, religious beliefs, and classes. “This experience hasn’t been negative for the most part, it’s actually been really positive,” concluded Rodriguez-Flores at the rally. “I really have hope when I see so many people gathered to take a stand and say that we need something different. Isla Vista can be whatever all of you decide to make it.”