Tuesday, May 13, 2003

An excellent topic of discussion was brought up yesterday in David Duman's blog: Diversity training for members of Cal publications. He speculated that these potential training sessions would be aimed at magazines like the Berkeley Jewish Journal, Smart Ass, and the Heuristic Squelch, whose staff is mostly "white heterosexual males." (Indeed, David's summary is fairly accurate. Our staff is also largely Asian American, and increasingly female. We've had a female Editor in Chief, but this was Before the Common Era began in 1997. Our most recent Editor in Chief was even Italian American, though I guess that hasn't been considered a minority group since the 19th Century.)

As a member of the Squelch editing staff, I think this is an important issue. Is the Squelch indeed lacking diversity, and how does that affect our role as an ASUC student group?

Foremost, my personal goal as a Squelcher is to produce a high quality magazine that is as enjoyable and accessable as possible to ALL members of the campus, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or disability (unless, of course, that disability is a total lack of sense of humor, in which case I have no interest in reaching out to you). After all, ALL students at this university donate $55 dollars a year to the ASUC whether or not they want to, so that money should go to interests that represent as many students as possible. This goal is acheived by having some of the money given to the Greek community, some to the Queer Resource Center, some to the Black Recruitment and Retention Center, and some to publications like Onyx Express and Hardboiled. By funding each of these groups, who in turn represent a certain faction of the campus, the ASUC is attempting to please as many students as they can. (Whether or not they acheive this goal is another matter entirely.)

The Heuristic Squelch, on the other hand, is not aimed at a faction or a sub-group; we aim to please all! (The exception, again, being those folks out there with no senses of humor, or [worse] the kind of people who think Jay Leno is King of Late Night. It's Conan, you fools!) Does the fact that most our staff is white or Asian and male prevent us from entertaining an African American, Latino, or female audience? I'd like to say no. When I hand out issues on Sproul, my rough estimations conclude that we distribute proportionally to the ethnic make-up of our campus. That is, about 40% of the students who accept issues out of our hands are white, about 40% are Asian American, about 10% are Latino/Chicano, and about 3% (a sad number indeed) are African American. We seem to be reaching all members of the campus equally. (Aren't we?)

It's important to bring up that the lack of diversity on the Squelch staff has nothing to do with our unwilingness to accept diversity. Since I joined the staff a year ago, the editors have not rejected a single article or piece of artwork submitted by and African American or Latino. Conversely, they/we haven't published a single submission by an African American or Latino. The fact is, non-White/Asians simply don't submit. Our meetings are open to everyone, and our submission email address certainly doesn't discriminate. I would love to see different types of people (as long as they're funny) contribute to our magazine, but they have to be willing to participate!

The argument can be made that our sense of humor is "white" and therefore potential black/hispanic contributers feel too intimidated to submit. It could also be said that our humor is too "male" for women to feel comfortable coming to meetings or submitting online. The fact is, the only people who should feel uncomfortable or intimidated are unfunny people, who are very justified in feeling like outsiders (and stay out!). (My gender did not slow me down on my road towards Graphics Editorship. My abrasive personality may have.) This argument implies that there's a difference between "white" and "black" humor, which I don't think is an inherent difference so much as a difference that filmmakers and comedians like to perpetuate in order to capitalize on a market. This argument also implies that we could increase our minority readership by feigning "ethnic" humor, which would be embarassing and offensive to all. The jokes we have going are meant to be enjoyed by everyone and none of our material is targeted at a certain ethnic or gender group.

I would love to know how others feel on this matter, as it applies to more student groups than just the Squelch. Each group has an obligation to spend your money prudently. Please leave comments if you have them.

(By the way, if you pick up all six issues next year, you will have directly utilized $1.18 of your ASUC funds.)


Post a Comment