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UCLA Administration Turned to YouTube to Respond to Controversial Student Video


Last Friday, a student at the University of California at Los Angeles posted an angry, finals-week rant on YouTube that quickly incited outrage from viewers who took her comments about Asian students in the library to be racist. By Monday, the university issued a response—which it made sure was posted to YouTube as well.

“If it’s a response to something that was seen by people in a new-media format, it’s important that the response be made in a new-media format,” says Phil Hampton, a campus spokesman.

In the video, Gene D. Block, the university’s chancellor, called it a “sad day at UCLA.” In a written message e-mailed to the campus community and released on the school’s Web site and Facebook pages, he said that he was “appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments” in the original video, created by Alexandra Wallace, a third-year student. In the video, she criticized the behavior of Asian students in the library and at one point mimicked a student talking in a foreign language.

That video incited thousands of angry responses on YouTube and Facebook. Ms. Wallace removed the video soon after posting it, but by that point it had been reposted, and in some cases remixed with music, by dozens of other users on YouTube. The reposted version of the original video has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times.

The response to the video was so strong that Ms. Wallace reported receiving numerous threatening e-mails, Mr. Hampton says, which are being investigated by the campus police department. He says the administration is more concerned with ensuring her safety now than in considering whether Ms. Wallace will face disciplinary action for the video.

“There are currently no ongoing discussions about that,” he says. “Those discussions are best held at a later date.”

Ms. Wallace issued a statement Monday to the Daily Bruin, in which she apologized for posting the video. “I cannot explain what possessed me to approach the subject as I did, and if I could undo it, I would,” she said in the statement.

In producing Mr. Block’s video response, UCLA’s media-relations office used a broadcast studio the office added last year to produce a weekly campus news program and to make professors and administrators available for television appearances.

Mr. Hampton says coordinated responses across multiple platforms, such as the response this week, are a fact of life for the media office now. “It’s really part of the culture here,” he says.

The campus has a director of “integrated communications” who oversees the university’s presence on various social-networking and social-media Web sites.

Mr. Hampton says he hopes the incident will serve as a teaching moment for everyone involved about the realities of posting material to public Web sites. “Once you put information out there, it’s difficult to take it back,” he says.

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