June 19, 1998
Led by Professor of Ethnic studies, George Lipsitz, over 100 students and faculty stood up and turned their backs on Newt Gingrich during the commencement events. They were joined by over 1000 students and 60 professors who signed a statement of protest.
Gingrich, who staunchly opposes laws aimed at fighting racism against Latinos, Blacks and others, was reportedly invited after Ward Connerly called Chancellor Dynes and encouraged him to invite the speaker. Ward Connerly was one of the architects of proposition 209, which has wreaked havoc for people of color. At UCSD, there was a severe drop in African American (45%), Chicano (40.1%) and Native American (37.1%)undergraduates admitted in 1998.
For George Lipsitz, a professor of ethnic studies, the invite was a slap in the face for people of color. "We feel our administration has created an admissions policy which exacerbates this problem, that gives extra awards to people from suburban, segregated high schools (Anglo schools) by giving double credit for advanced placement classes that are not available to inner city high schools."
An inner city kid can get A's in every class but because advanced placement classes are not available the highest they can get is a 4.0. On the other hand a student at a segregated suburban school who gets A's in 3 advanced placement classes will get a 4.6 GPA. At UC Berkeley this year, there were over 800 Chicanos and Blacks with a 4.0 who were denied application.
A supporter of Gingrich, Chester Wills, of El Cajon, carried a sign declaring "I Love Newt." "Gingrich is not a racist," he proclaimed. "From what I know of him, he is fighting for traditional values. I think these protesters need to read the 1st amendment," he said.
Lipsitz responded to the criticism of free speech. "We have not interrupted the speakers free speech. He is welcome to say what he wants, we feel that he always has a platform, but those 50 to 60% of Black, Latino and Native American students who have succeeded and done well in their schools, don't take drugs, don't join gangs, they are not being allowed to participate in the dialogue at UCSD even though in the past they have had an extraordinary record of success. We want to turn our back on them because we feel they turned their back on us," said Lipsitz.