Students push UCSC for response on burning of Mexican flag; school investigating incident

Students protest on the UC Santa Cruz campus Thursday.

Amid a Thursday protest march and plans for a healing circle Friday in the wake of what student groups are calling a “hate crime,” UC Santa Cruz administrators assured the campus the incident was being taken seriously.

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After a new UC Santa Cruz student reported that their Mexican flag was burned during move-in weekend last month, student groups organized several events this week calling on the university to bring more awareness to the incident.

On Wednesday, at least 100 students marched from Quarry Plaza to Kerr Hall, where Chancellor Cynthia Larive’s office is located. Speakers including UCSC Student Union Assembly President Alfredo Gama Salmeron and Santa Cruz City Council candidate Hector Marin addressed students — some of whom carried Mexican flags or signs reading “Stop the hate,” according to social media posts.

In publicizing the march, first on Sunday, Salmeron and student group UCSC BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Culture) posted on Instagram that the campus “refuses to acknowledge the hate crime occurred.”

Separately, student group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA) announced Tuesday it would host a healing circle Friday at Rachel Carson Plaza.

“We demand the university acknowledge the incident as a hate crime and take measures to make this campus safer for Chicanx, Latine and all students and our families,” the group wrote on Instagram.

At that point, UCSC had not sent out a campuswide message about the incident — something students said was necessary in light of the university having done so previously after other hate incidents.

The incident itself is not well understood; UCSC has not disclosed any details. Lookout sought comment from MEChA to learn more about the incident but had not heard back as of publication; Salmeron had not been available for comment, either.

On Thursday, the university sent out a campus message signed by Larive, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Success Akirah Bradley-Armstrong and Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Anju Reejhsinghani.

“Many in our community have shared that they do not feel that the university has acted on this issue. We want to assure you that we always take situations like this seriously,” they wrote. “A lack of public notice does not reflect whether an investigation has begun or whether support has been provided to those directly impacted.”

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Assistant Vice Chancellor Scott Hernandez-Jason told Lookout the university is investigating the incident.

“We condemn this crime and as a community and a country we must continue to work to reject racism and all expressions of hate,” he said.

Hernandez-Jason said anyone affected is encouraged to seek support from UCSC resource centers, professional staff in the colleges and Counseling and Psychological Services.

Before the university released its message, second-year student Ray Diaz told Lookout he was disappointed that the university hadn’t communicated with campus members about the incident.

“It’s disgusting, appalling and embarrassing to be attending a university that prides itself so much on its HSI title and its awards for being such an Hispanic-Serving Institution,” he told Lookout on Tuesday. “And yet fails at the most basic reports for an incident like this, for the Latinx-Chicanx community.”

He said it’s crucial the university come out with a campuswide statement because incidents like these are not uncommon.

For 2021 and 2020, the university reported that each year had one hate crime, according to the 2022 Clery Act report. Separately, the Hate/Bias Response Program received 107 reports of hate incidents during the 2021-22 school year. A hate crime is a criminal offense, whereas a hate incident is an action or behavior protected by the First Amendment, according to the report.

Anyone with information about the incident can contact the student conduct office or the campus police department, Hernandez-Jason said.


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