Reflections On Decolonizing The University

March 16th, 2010

Email This Blog Post Email This Blog Post Filed under: New Village Commons— Janice Sapigao @ 11:19 am

Photo by Nelson Maldonado-Torres

On February 26th-27th, 2010, I attended a free conference called “DECOLONIZING THE UNIVERSITY: Fulfilling the Dream of the Third World College,” which took place on the UC Berkeley campus. The purpose of the conference was to honor UC Berkeley’s 40th year of Ethnic Studies, communities of struggle and international peoples’ movements for decolonization. The act of decolonizing, simply put, encourages people to think outside the boxes that they’ve been given. It allows colonial people the right to self-determination in order to incite peace and solidarity. The conference hosted a gathering of visionaries in the form of students, academics, and community members.

My experience that weekend was unique in the sense that many of my former classmates and friends from UC San Diego were facing the reality of what happens when a prestigious public university fails to recognize efforts that illustrate the valiance of their students amidst overt racism, classism, and homophobia. Many major newspapers and bloggers across the country have already reported the grimy details — some fraternity-affiliated UCSD students organized an off-campus party mocking Black History Month, calling the event “The Compton Cookout.” The party organizers invited folks via Facebook, thus allowing the faithful Facebook Newsfeed and its readership to access and witness the stereotypes, epithets, and ignorance published firsthand. The incident sparked several copycat acts at many universities, most of which occurred on campuses in California. However, a series of racist acts on the UCSD campus did not stir up a quick or adequate response that could guarantee students’ safety. In response to a meager reprimand on behalf of the administration, the students at UCSD were compelled to mobilize and hold the largest rally/protest that the university had ever seen.

I was involved in these activist communities wholeheartedly in college. I’ve been out of the university setting for not even a year now and it’s difficult (although empowering) to see my friends still fighting and putting up with a university culture and environment that refuses to support its students, especially students of color. At the same time, this reaffirms my work with New Village Press because social justice is one field that we serve. It’s important to see how racial justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked – where we live and who we are definitely shapes the way we carry on in this world.

The conference allowed space for open dialogue and reflection. At that time, I empathized with my peers who demanded immediate action. It was difficult to appease the timing of these two intentions.  The conference’s goal, it seemed, may have presented itself at a tense time. But not only does this show how UC San Diego has the potential to be a model for a Third World College, it underscores the importance of activism and civic engagement at every level. Students are often on the frontlines of these movements for social change and it is important that we take our cues from them.

Feel free to follow the events further:

Photo by Christopher Datiles

Janice Lobo Sapigao is an intern with New Village Press in Oakland, CA. She is a blogger, writer, poet, playwright, and all-around arts enthusiast. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and a minor in Urban Studies & Planning.

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3 Responses to “Reflections On Decolonizing The University”

  1. hi, is there any place where the talks/discussion are posted? would love to learn more about decolonizing the university!!! thanks!

    Comment by Nalini — March 17, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  2. Nalini – Many talks and discussions about the incidents at UCSD have taken place online in various bloggers’ and reporters’ comments sections (just like this one). is one of the most updated and active sites that focuses on UCSD. You can e-mail or for more information. The DTU conference also has a Facebook group and a blogspot. Also, was present throughout the whole conference taping and filming. Perhaps you could contact them? Please e-mail me personally and I can give you some more resources. =) I hope this helps.

    Comment by Janice — March 17, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  3. You can watch a video about the conference here:

    Comment by Jose — October 27, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

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