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Words in a white font, and black highlight that read "Mexican-American, Latinx, Indigenous, Boricua, D.R.E.A.M.E.R, Chicano/A, Hispanic" are placed in a spiral formation leading to four words that are illegible because they're covered by red blocks, as the spiral narrows towards the center the words "unsafe, defeated, mad, racist, and shocked" in red lettering lead to the end of the spiral which is becomes sharp like an arrow and pierces through the gray silhouette of student set against a red newspaper page that reads "Bulletin." The entire illustration is set against a dark gray background.
(Alborz Kamalizad
/
LAist)
How 4 Words Upended A University's Journalism Program, And Stirred A Reckoning Over Race
Anti-Latino slurs were published on the cover of a CSU student newspaper in October. The painful incident led to protests and soul searching at the mostly Latino campus.
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Last semester, in the weeks before October 12, anticipation was building among students and staff at California State University, Dominguez Hills. College journalists working on the student newspaper, The Bulletin, had been interviewing, writing, and designing a special Hispanic Heritage Month issue to celebrate the university’s Latino contributions and culture.

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How 4 Words Upended A University's Journalism Program, And Stirred A Reckoning Over Race

The issue would be a big deal for the South Los Angeles County campus because almost seven out of every 10 of the university’s students identify as Hispanic or Latino. That’s one of the highest proportions in the 23-campus Cal State system.

Six minutes after three in the afternoon on that day, Joel Beers, the advisor for The Bulletin and instructor for the class that published the newspaper, emailed a link for the online version of the publication to about 1,200 faculty, staff, and student workers.

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“There will be a 12-page print issue of the CSUDH Bulletin distributed on campus tomorrow morning (fingers crossed),” Beers wrote in the email.

The first thing people who clicked on the link saw was the cover.

Twenty-two words in white letters written over a big blue field. Along the top half were words like BORICUA, LATINX, MIXED.

Toward the bottom, four other words, common slurs against the Latino population with wrongful connotations on immigration status, race, or cultural stereotypes.

What happened in the minutes, days, and months after Beers hit send on that email has rocked the campus journalism program like nothing faculty can remember and continues to affect students and staff more than three months later.

ABOUT THIS STORY'S LANGUAGE
  • While LAist has obtained the original file of the October 2022 edition of The Bulletin, we have chosen not to make it visible within this article, and have chosen not to repeat the four slurs within this article's text. To borrow from the journalist resource Language, Please, “Given the historically offensive nature of [slurs], caution is warranted when deciding to repeat them in full, especially outside the context of someone’s self-identification.”

  • However, those words are also the basis for the events that followed. For full transparency and to allow readers the option of further context, we have made the original PDF of that newspaper edition available. Those who wish to read it can find it here.

  • Update (Jan. 27): Cal State Dominguez Hills spokesperson Lilly McKibbin contacted LAist to ask that we remove the Oct. 2022 full issue. She argued that including the issue perpetuates the harm done to the university community, including the newspaper’s student staffers, whose names are on the issue. LAist disagrees and is not taking the issue down. Readers must actively choose to go to the original issue after reading part or all of our report. Readers who may end up accessing the issue through other means will also see a summary of what happened, with a link back to this article. As many sources described to LAist, the harm to the Cal State Dominguez Hills community came from shock and lack of context. Our reporting gives the necessary presentation and context that was lacking from the original publication of The Bulletin's Oct. 2022 edition.

  • To see a full explanation of our language choices, check out Dialogue, LAist’s style guide, and give us feedback.

The Initial Reaction: Pain, Hurt, And A Lot Of WTFs

The reactions from those who saw the cover were fast and deep.

“[The cover] made me feel disgusted. It made me feel like, for the first time since being on this campus, it made me feel unsafe,” said Elizabeth Corral, who is majoring in business administration.

A two vertical image collage. The first photo on the left is of a Latina woman with brown hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a sleeve of tattoos on her right arm wears a black t-shirt that reads "CSUDH" in red letters with a yellow outline. She stands in the center of frame on a grassy field, arms at her sides and looking towards her right or left of frame. Behind the grassy field, there's a glass and concrete modern building lined with green bushes. On the glass windows there's a large white sign that reads in red letters: "Locker Student Union Est. 1992. 30 Years." The second vertical image in the panel is of a large red and yellow block letter sign that reads "CSUDH" below the block letters a white block with black letters reads "California State University, Dominguez Hills." Bushes surround the sign at the base and behind the sign, towards the right of frame there are two palm trees.
Elizabeth Corral at the Cal State Dominguez Hills campus.
(Ashley Balderrama
/
LAist)
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Corral was born and raised in the L.A. area. Her parents were born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico.

She was sitting in her class, Latina/o Perspectives on U.S. Immigration and Citizenship, when another student showed her the image.

“If somebody wanted to do damage to the Hispanic community… this is a school to target. We have the highest Hispanic population,” she said. Those words made her think of the shooter in 2019 who drove to El Paso to find and shoot Mexicans.

“There was a myriad of emotions that immediately washed over me,” said Jazmin Escobar, a senior majoring in Chicana and Chicano studies.

I remember [my mother] being described with those words, even while she was getting her pathway to citizenship, even when she was paying her taxes, even when she was putting her children through schools.
— Jazmin Escobar, senior majoring in Chicana and Chicano studies, CSU Dominguez Hills

Escobar found the link from an email notification telling her that The Bulletin published something new. She’s a fan of the newspaper, which she’s followed with pride. But the words on the cover shook that trust because they took her back to a dark time in her childhood.

“I remember [my mother] being described with those words, even while she was getting her pathway to citizenship, even when she was paying her taxes, even when she was putting her children through schools,” Escobar said. And seeing the words made her feel defeated, she said — the words felt like they were canceling out her own and her mother’s efforts to improve their lives.

The words also hurt because she has had to live far from her father after he was deported to Mexico.

It’s unclear how many of the 1,200 people on the email list opened the link and it’s unclear how many people took screenshots and forwarded them. But a lot of people on campus saw the image.

“My jaw just dropped. Who thought this was OK?” said Donna Nicol, Africana studies chair at Cal State Dominguez Hills. She was on the original email distribution list.

From emails reviewed by LAist, Nicol appeared to be the first to hit reply all:

"I am curious as to how The Bulletin staff agreed to include racist terms used AGAINST Hispanic and Latinx people in a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on the cover? …I am trying to understand the deliberation process and what type of advising the staff received before this went to press since there is nothing in the special edition explaining how the staff arrived at this selection."

“I was mad. And I was concerned. I was concerned [by] who would see this and who would be damaged by it,” Nicol told LAist.

It would be staff of color, like Nicol, who would end up shouldering the weight of helping the students who were hurt by the words cope with their hurt.

Damage Done

CSUDH’s Latinx Cultural Resource Center, also known as La Casita, opened in 2021 to provide support for the campus’ Latinx students.

“I was actually excited for that issue, in a way because I had been interviewed [by a Bulletin reporter] a week or two weeks prior, regarding the whole debate on Latinx, Latine, Latino, Hispanic,” said Rony Castellanos Raymundo, the center’s program director.

Castellanos Raymundo was shocked to see the cover.

“I was frozen, because I was like, ‘What is this?’”

A Latina woman with brown hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a sleeve of tattoos on her right arm wears a black t-shirt that reads "CSUDH" in red letters with a yellow outline. She stands holding her left arm at her hip and looks outward toward right of frame as the sun shines on her face. Behind her, to the right of frame there's a large sign in red and yellow letters that reads "CSUDH." Palm trees can be seen out of focus in the background.
Elizabeth Corral at CSU Dominquez Hills
(Ashley Balderrama
/
LAist)

Students told Castellanos Raymundo they were shocked too. The slurs felt directed at them, and their families. Castellanos Raymundo said students felt the words were loud and clear: you aren’t wanted in the United States, you don’t belong in this country, or at this university.

A cover of a newspaper. At the top it says Hispanic Heritage Month. Beneath that is a field of blue, with several words in white that are words associated with Hispanics and Latinos. Four of the images are blurred.
The front page of the October 2022 edition of The Bulletin. LAist has blurred some of the words on the cover.

“[The center] is where we hosted one of our healing spaces, right here in collaboration with our Student Psychological Services,” he said, referencing the university’s mental health service.

Some of the students who worked on The Bulletin approached him, he said, with feelings of shame, telling him that they were not responsible for those words appearing on the cover of the student newspaper.

Students echoed what university staff already began asking themselves, “what can we do?” Castellanos Raymundo asked the university’s academic senate to remove the online issue.

Despite the traditional independence nationwide of student-run publications, campus administrators stepped in.

“I asked that [the issue] be taken down out of an abundance of concern for the members of the campus community who were and would be harmed,” said Timothy Caron, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

I was just like, this is just heaping more crap onto an already volatile situation.
— Donna Nicol, chair of Africana Studies, Cal State Dominguez Hills

Caron said that happened about 40 minutes after Beers sent out the link.

Even though the entire 12-page issue was no longer accessible, the cover image continued to be passed on through screenshots and continued to rattle people.

In another part of the campus, on that Wednesday, some of the student journalists and university staff would meet in person to ask each other, “what happened?”

One bombshell followed on the heels of another: Just days earlier, the Los Angeles Times had published an account of three Latino Los Angeles City Council members and the head of the L.A. County Federation of Labor targeting people with racial slurs in a secret recording.

“We're coming off of the L.A. City Council dust up about the racist comments,” Donna Nicol said, “And I was just like, this is just heaping more crap onto an already volatile situation.”

A concrete walk way leads downward to the right of frame. On the left there's a grassy field with a green, chainlink fence. At the end of the field in the center-left of frame there's a large boxy, white building that reads "California State University Dominguez Hills."
Side of the gymnasium building at California State University, Dominquez Hills.
(Ashley Balderrama
/
LAist)

'They Actually Had Not Seen The Image'

The student newspaper is published as part of a Wednesday evening class — a class that would be meeting the same day that the cover published.

“It was a very somber atmosphere,” said Ana de la Serna, a Cal State Dominguez Hills journalism professor. She returned to campus from her home in Torrance after she saw the cover and looked through the issue. A copy of the issue reviewed by LAist shows no accompanying article explaining why the slurs were printed on the cover. There is a roughly 800-word article titled “What’s In A Name?” that debates ‘Hispanic,’ ‘Latino/a,’ and ‘Latinx’” but makes no mention of the slurs.

The staff box lists 18 people as editors, reporters, or contributors.

About 10 of the students were in the room that Wednesday, de la Serna said, along with advisor Joel Beers, Timothy Caron, and her. Seeing the slurs on the cover of the newspaper was painful to her, she told everyone in the room.

“And that's when students confided that they actually had not seen the image, many of them were just coming out of their other classes,” de la Serna said.

Who proposed and wrote the slurs and who knew about them before they were published on the cover lies at the heart of the question many people on campus were asking. And the failure to communicate a clear answer to the Cal State Dominguez Hills community soon after the cover was published online appears, months later, to have prolonged the incident’s pain and slowed the healing process.

'So That's The Idea. Thoughts?'

Three weeks earlier, in anticipation of the Hispanic Heritage Month issue, Beers, who is white, emailed two people about the upcoming cover. His idea for the design was to use a human figure to represent the Latino student body on campus, lying in a pool of water, with word clouds over them.

“And inside every one of the clouds, in different font, size, color etc. are words or terms that have been used at some point over the years, to describe, define or confine Latinxers,” he wrote.

The description sounds like Beers is giving details about an image in his head. He also writes about the difficulty of defining people with Latin American heritage even with the 26 words he suggested.

“And maybe way smaller so that they can barely be seen, some (sic) the slurs over the years,” he wrote, before including a list of words that included the slurs that made it on the cover published October 12.

Beers asked for feedback.

“So that’s the idea. Thoughts?” he wrote.

Beers provided that email of his to LAist, and in an interview, he didn't challenge that he came up with the words that made it on the cover.

Beers said one of the recipients of the email, Nova Blanco-Rico, had been the managing editor of The Bulletin the year before and was a talented graphic designer, so Beers asked him to design the cover.

“It was his vision,” Beers said. “I noticed the slurs and they were much bigger than in what the original concept was, but I’ve never seen myself as a censor of student opinion,” he said.

Except Blanco-Rico is now an alum. He graduated in Spring 2022 and has been a photographer and graphic designer.

“I created the artwork at the direction of Joel Beers even though I was no longer a part of the paper,” Blanco-Rico told LAist by email.

As soon as I felt something was wrong I should have just not done it, and I deeply regret that.
— Nova Blanco-Rico, alumnus, CSU Dominguez Hills

Blanco-Rico said he told Beers that he didn’t entirely like the idea for the cover.

“He was adamant about it being used even after I raised concerns about it,” Blanco-Rico said. Blanco-Rico said he shared those concerns with Beers on telephone calls. Beers said he does not recall Blanco-Rico telling him he had concerns.

Blanco-Rico regrets being involved.

“Beers convinced me that it would be an empowering message for Latinx individuals, like myself who have had to overcome these labels and hurtful language," Blanco-Rico said in an email. "As soon as I felt something was wrong I should have just not done it, and I deeply regret that.”

The other recipient of the Sept. 24 email outlining Beers’ idea for the cover was Destiny Torres, a former journalism student and now a working journalist.

“At the beginning of the semester I volunteered with The Bulletin here and there to help the incoming team of editors prepare for the new semester,” Torres said by email. She said she did not read the email with Beers’ ideas for the cover and the proposed list of words.

The printed issue never made it to distribution.

The Run-Up To Publication

In terms of what the paper's student staff knew, Joel Beers showed LAist an email thread leading up to the publication of The Bulletin on Oct. 12. Typos are left in as they appear in the original emails.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 1:24 p.m.: The Bulletin’s Editor in Chief, Brenda Sanchez Barrera, emails Joel Beers: “Is the paper out?”

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 1:39 p.m.: Beers replies to Sanchez Barrera that the issue is not out yet because of some problems sending the electronic file to the printer. Beers asks if the issue should be posted online before the printed issue is distributed on campus.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 1:49 p.m.: Sanchez Barrera replies to Beers saying the issue should be released online so that it can be promoted on social media.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 1:52 p.m.: Beers replies to Sanchez Barrera agreeing and recommending that the issue should be checked for mistakes, such as misspelling University President Thomas Parham’s name. Beers says he can have the online edition up within 20 minutes.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 1:55 p.m.: Sanchez Barrera replies to Beers: “Yes send me the pdfs and cc all the editors please so that we can all take a look at it.”

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2022, 2:18 p.m.: Joel Beers emails Sanchez Barrera and copies five Bulletin staffers and Torres

Beers gave them a 20-minute turnaround: “I’m going to post this on [the PDF hosting site] issuu and our website with 20 min . So if any of you see anything MAJOR I n terms of mistakes, like wrong story under a headline or Parham’s name spelled wrong (Which would have happened had this thing printed last night) let me know) NOW.”

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, 3:06 p.m.: Joel Beers emails the online link of the October issue with the slurs on the cover to a CSUDH email group with 1,200 addresses of mostly faculty, staff and some students.

The thread does not include any emails from the student journalists reacting to Beers’ posting of the issue in the roughly 50 minutes before he emailed it to the university email group. LAist could not confirm with any of The Bulletin’s student journalists whether this email thread provided by Beers has any relevant omissions or alterations. But that doesn’t change Beers’ admission that no active students on the paper's staff proposed or designed the final cover.

LAist emailed and messaged eight of The Bulletin’s student journalists asking for an interview. Additionally, de la Serna emailed The Bulletin staffers LAist’s request for comment. One student agreed to an interview but didn't show up at the appointed time. Another, a web editor, said by email that he hadn't seen the cover prior to its being uploaded. Only one other student agreed to give comments on the record.

Three students on a grassy field can be seen walking along a concrete walkway, behind the grassy field, there's a glass and concrete modern building lined with green bushes. On the glass windows there's a large white sign that reads in red letters: "Locker Student Union Est. 1992. 30 Years."
Students walk along the paths at CSU Dominquez Hills
(Ashley Balderrama
/
LAist)

'Their Side Of The Story'

Bulletin Editor-in-Chief Brenda Sanchez Barrera described the production process leading up to the October issue as chaotic — little structure, changing deadlines, changes made without editor input, and late-night emails from Beers.

She did not see Beers' email proposing the cover, she said via text. She acknowledged he did post a copy of the Oct. 12 issue for review, as the emails he provided to LAist showed. In the brief amount of time for review, however, many editors were in class. Barrera said she was working her part-time job at a retail store that day and had a hard time seeing the contents of the newspaper on her phone.

So the issue went online, and the backlash followed.

De la Serna thinks back to that meeting the night the cover came out, back in The Bulletin office. “Everybody in that newsroom said that they had not seen this before. And Joel was right there,” she said.

The publishing of the words and the reactions from students and staff “had a deep effect on [the student journalists] emotionally,” de la Serna said.

“I think it was important for them to have the opportunity to present their side of the story and everything that they lived through,” she said. But that hasn’t happened.

The Apology

What did happen next suggests the students felt an obligation to say something.

The student journalists on The Bulletin staff wrote a statement, saying they were sorry:

“On behalf of The Bulletin, a newsroom committed to diversity and inclusivity, we would like to apologize for running such an insensitive cover on our recent issue. We take full responsibility and understand how our use of these negative connotations hurt our community. The pain we have brought is felt by each and every one of us.

“Due to a disconnect in our newsroom, a step in our reviewing process was skipped, which led to the publication of this image… We would like to reflect on the repercussions of our words in the next issue and future publications."

That statement was emailed to faculty, staff, and student group email lists at CSUDH the day after The Bulletin cover was published. The email came from the university’s academic affairs office and was signed by Sharon Sharp, head of the communications department.

“As the chair of the Communications Department, I apologize on behalf of The Bulletin staff, advisor, and the Journalism faculty for the racist and derogatory words on The Bulletin’s October 12 cover. There is no excuse or justification for the publication of those hurtful words,” Sharp wrote in the email.

She announced that there would be an internal review of “the newspaper’s processes and oversight to ensure that The Bulletin continues to serve as a productive learning experience for our Journalism students and better serves our campus community.”

'It Was Not A Good Decision'

Two days after the cover was published, on the morning of Friday, Oct. 14, the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies held an open forum about the issue. Many students had come to the department chair after seeing The Bulletin cover.

By several accounts, at one point there were about 200 people logged on to the town hall.

De la Serna said some of the people who attended channeled their anger toward The Bulletin’s student staff, largely saying that “they don’t know how to report, that how could they possibly use this kind of language, The Bulletin is not a quality news organization,” she said.

Not present: Joel Beers. De la Serna and others said he logged on just as the town hall was ending.

“I got the time wrong,” Beers told LAist. "And that was just something that you can’t walk away from. I left the students out to dry."

It was not a good decision. It was a bad judgment on my part. I totally miscalculated the paper’s audience.
— Joel Beers, CSU Dominguez Hills instructor and former advisor, The Bulletin

“I can’t stress enough that it was never my intention to make anybody upset or to have those words seem as big and important,” Beers said. “It was not a good decision. It was a bad judgment on my part. I totally miscalculated the paper’s audience.”

The audience, Cal State Dominguez Hills’ 15,000-undergraduate community, is overwhelmingly Latino, Black, and Asian American.

Beers said the list of words reflected his thought that all these terms had been imposed on people of Latin American descent in the United States.

“Those slurs did not have to be there. The concept would have carried the same way without them,” Beers said.

Talking to LAist about the cover, Beers alternated between remorse for his role in allowing the cover to reach publication and saying the student staffers bore some responsibility because they didn’t speak up before it was published. And he said administrators’ removal of the entire online issue was a violation of the student publication’s First Amendment rights.

“I had a staff that was predominantly Latinx,” he said, “I figured, well if anybody has any problems with them, they're going to bring them up. And then there’s no problem, we can change it. But it's got to be the students coming up with it, I'm not going to arbitrarily change something.”

But Beers’ interviews and his email show the words were not generated by the students.

“I did not set a certain portion of the class to go over the cover with the entire staff as a whole. And that's an oversight on my part, too. But that was never part of the process,” Beers said.

He was advisor for the newspaper, he said, for three consecutive years until spring 2021, then for the fall semester last year.

In the days and weeks following Oct. 12, university staff and administrators took actions to apologize for the cover’s fallout, condemn the use of the slurs, and tapped university departments to help students.

University President Thomas Parham addressed The Bulletin cover with a campus-wide email sent on Oct. 18. The subject line was, “Blending Accountability and Grace.”

“The words and labels used were derogatory, dehumanizing, racist, hurtful, insensitive, and triggering. Even while we are hurt, at times, empathy, compassion, kindness, and sensitivity are called for and I am asking all members of the Toro family to extend grace, especially now.”

There are questions the university might be able to answer: Who knew what, and when? How much opportunity did the editorial staff realistically have to push back? What kind of agency would they have had to do so? Why did the school allow so much editorial authority over a student-run paper to a faculty member in the first place?

The university has maintained that this is a confidential personnel matter, and thus will not disclose the results of its investigation: “CSUDH followed the faculty collective bargaining agreement scrupulously in order to put students’ well-being at the forefront of our actions,” said CSUDH spokesperson Lilly McKibbin.

The Fallout

Administrators have informed students and staff about changes prompted by the incident.

What Role Should A Faculty Advisor Have On A College Newspaper?
  • According to the American Association of University Professors: "When they are not financially or legally independent, student media outlets have traditionally been categorized either as curricular or as co- or extracurricular — that is, as classroom labs where work is directed, assigned, and graded by a professor or as independent organizations affiliated with a college or university but run entirely by students, often being designated as a student club, with a skilled adviser who offers education and counsel but takes no part in editorial decisions."

“We have learned that the cover was not created nor approved by the student journalists who work on The Bulletin,” said an unsigned Nov. 1 email, which aligned with the accounts given to LAist. The email also said a review continued and that Destiny Torres would be the new advisor, replacing Joel Beers. Students, the email said, will become the center of decision-making at The Bulletin.

De la Serna said the paper's student staff members are worried about how their comments or actions after the cover’s publication will affect their journalism careers.

“This has taken a toll on them, on their mental health, on their hopes and their dreams of being journalists," she said. "It makes them just very scared that there is more backlash on them and they were not even responsible for any of it."

De la Serna said she recommended to Bulletin student journalists that they write about the incident for the following issue. But they were shell shocked, she said, and weren’t in the state of mind to tackle the topic head on.

The Bulletin’s December issue made no mention of the October cover. None of the Hispanic Heritage Month stories have made it onto the paper's website.

Sanchez Barrera, the editor-in-chief, said the entire incident is unfortunate, but also a learning experience.

"The publication of the October cover is definitely something that was traumatic for myself and the other students in the Bulletin, but we’re all trying to heal from it," she said.

Sanchez Barrera is still the editor-in-chief this semester, even though she's not taking the class. She said reporters now have more creative freedom and are not being assigned stories anymore.

"Editors are also more involved with the creative process now. We’re a part of the layout process now, and we’re never in the dark about things such as extensions or additional stories," she said. "It’s very refreshing."

University Forums

The university held its own town hall to discuss The Bulletin and the journalism program one month later, on November 10, and held a second town hall on December 8.

“We really want in this hour that we have together to focus on the comments, the questions from the community,” Caron, the interim dean, told those gathered in December's Zoom meeting.

Caron reviewed what happened on Oct. 12 and afterward and described the cover in stark terms.

“The cover of The Bulletin was racist, xenophobic, deeply offensive, deeply hurtful to some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

A young woman, far away, stands in an open field watching a dog.
Jazmin Escobar and her dog, Chicken, take a walk at the Sculpure Garden lawn, which Escobar says has become a special place on campus that she comes to often to work or reflect.
(Ashley Balderrama
/
LAist)

He explained that the university’s removal of the issue produced by the independent, student-run newspaper was an extraordinary step. But Caron said they only took it down "out of care and concern for, again, those vulnerable members of our university community."

Joel Beers said via text that he did not attend the December town hall because he would not be welcome.

For the town hall’s first 30 minutes, Caron and two other university staff members reviewed steps taken to overhaul The Bulletin and for the first time began answering who was responsible.

“This unconscionable act was the decision of one person. It doesn't represent our department, or our program, or the principles and practices that we teach our students,” said Nancy Cheever, the coordinator of CSUDH’s journalism program.

At one point a student said she and her fellow students wanted “justice” and wanted to know whether the person responsible would be held to account.

“Yes, there is accountability,” Caron answered, “however, because this is a confidential personnel matter, I can't talk about that.”

University spokesperson Lilly McKibbin said that she couldn't give an estimate of attendees at November's forum. In December, there were about three dozen users at most logged on to the town hall; approximately half were university employees. That day was the penultimate day of instruction for students, with finals the following week.

“There were many, many students that I am aware of that couldn’t make it to this,” said student Viveca Chico, a Chicana/o Studies and sociology major. Hers was the last comment during the town hall.

She said she didn’t want the low student turnout “to lead others to believe that students have not been affected, are not still being affected by this, because we are, they are.”

The Next Conversation

Students and the staff who have been helping them say the incident has undermined their feelings of belonging — in essence, that a university can be a “Hispanic-serving institution” and still not serve those students.

It’s left to be seen to what extent those feelings are still in the air as students return to campus this week for the spring semester.

“Letting it linger is letting it fester,” said Africana studies chair Donna Nicol. “Now people's attitudes are very much hardened in one way or the other.”

And people are less open, Nicol said, to the idea of intentional fallacy. That is, whether to ultimately judge The Bulletin cover with the racial slurs based on Beers’ intent or to judge it based on the reaction people had to it.

By not showing up soon after the cover was published and laying out what happened, Nicol said, Beers gave up the opportunity for the incident to be a teachable moment, at a university that strives for that.

Some students on this campus are still eager for that to happen and have ideas about where to take the conversations.

Samantha Alvarez Chavarria, a CSUDH sophomore majoring in political science and women’s studies, said they weren't as hurt and shocked by the slurs on The Bulletin cover as others on campus were.

Alvarez Chavarria, whose parents are undocumented, said they had heard those words used against them and their family many times, and had to balance feeling desensitized with knowing how the words cause pain to others.

“In my own community from my high school … we as students reclaimed the word 'beaner,'” Alvarez Chavarria said, referring to another incendiary slur that they said they and their friends have come to use with each other as a term of endearment. They said doing so helps them all strip away the negative context.

Alvarez Chavarria wondered whether the slurs published in the student newspaper were a similar attempt to remove the words of their corrosive meaning. They looked for context inside the newspaper and didn’t find it, they said, but it’s not too late.

“I would rather students have conversations — or not even students," they said, "but the higher education community — about these words, and understanding, is reclaiming an option, who can reclaim these words?”

What questions do you have about higher education?
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez focuses on the stories of students trying to overcome academic and other challenges to stay in college — with the goal of creating a path to a better life.

Corrected January 30, 2023 at 4:46 PM PST
This article corrects pronouns for Samantha Alvarez Chavarria.
Updated January 27, 2023 at 8:30 AM PST
This article has been updated to mention a request from Cal State Dominguez Hills that LAist remove its copy of the Oct. 22 edition of The Bulletin. LAist has declined that request.
Corrected January 25, 2023 at 12:52 PM PST
A previous version of this article incorrectly implied that an Oct. 14 open forum was organized by the university. The university held its first town hall a month later, on November 10.

This story has corrected a quote from Timothy Caron. His full quote on the university's censoring of the student paper: "We took that image down, not as an act of censorship but out of care and concern for, again, those vulnerable members of the university community."