A New York City newspaper blogger assailed UCLA on Friday for investigating a Kanye West-themed fraternity and sorority party where students showed up in blackface, saying the university should be defending free speech instead of policing the campus for political correctness.
“We are increasingly alarmed — and distressed — by the failure of public university officials to support free speech and diversity of opinion on campus,” Michael Meyers, president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, said in an open letter to the chancellor. “Diversity of opinion surely includes the right of students to contest orthodoxy and to poke fun at popular culture and celebrities.”
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UCLA students on Thursday had rushed Chancellor Gene Block’s office, demanding a response to the Tuesday soiree, which they denounced as racist and a mockery of black culture. Campus officials said they were investigating the party thrown by the Sigma Phil Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority, whose social activities have been suspended while their national offices look into the affair.
Students who attended the “Kanye Western” party wore baggy clothes or dressed like the Kardashians, and some wore blackface, the Daily Bruin reported.
Holding signs reading, “Our culture is not a costume,” hundreds of students marched on the campus Thursday.
Meyers, an occasional Fox News guest who writes for the New York Daily News, said in his letter he was “butting into” the California controversy because the university had overreacted.
In a brief phone interview Friday, Meyers was particularly incensed by an assistant chancellor’s statement that the students appeared to have engaged in an act of “grotesque mistrelsy.”
“As an African American civil rights leader I have to call them out,” Meyers said. “What gives him any right to make a judgment about a party he wasn’t at? Somebody has to speak up for free speech.”
UCLA did not immediately respond to his letter, Meyers added.