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Students Are Outraged Over A Racist Test Question At Cal State Long Beach

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Jeanette Ruiz holds a copy of the final exam that included a question she said made her feel "personally attacked." (Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)
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A test question on a take-home final at Cal State Long Beach outraged students this week.

They were asked to pick the racial group of gangs least likely to do graffiti.

The test question, written by health science lecturer Matt Fischer, asked students to choose among four racial groups -- Black, Asian, Hispanic and White.

Alex Rambo posted a picture of the final on Twitter. He said it was the "cherry on top" of a frustrating experience in that class, and he said his classmates were angry and offended.

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"We all just kind of reacted the same way... like, what's this guy even thinking, and what's even the answer?" he said.

Rambo said it was offensive because there was clearly no demographic information available to answer that question. "Gangs don't do exit polls after they finish doing their graffiti," he joked.

Rambo, who is black, said this wasn't the first time the teacher had made students uncomfortable with his words. He said his teacher called him "Big Dog," and other female students of color, "sisterlicious."

Fellow student Jeanette Ruiz also took that final. She said her classmates were texting each other trying to figure out if the question was a joke. She says as a Latina from the area it was a shock to see the question.

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"I felt personally attacked," she said. "I mean if you come and see where I live, there's graffiti everywhere. So obviously what are people going to think? 'Oh, it must be all the minorities doing the graffiti.'"

Students all over campus are calling the test question racist and insensitive.

On Thursday, marketing student Thomas Requejo was sitting outside on campus talking about it with his friends. He said if he saw that question on a test he'd be pretty surprised.

"Honestly, I'd laugh at first, but then I'd be like, 'Yo, what is this? What are we doing with this?'" he said.

"I don't understand how a question like that could pop up on a test."

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Requejo said he's concerned because he thinks the university prides itself on its diversity and being a welcoming place for everyone.

Cal State Long Beach declined an interview request, instead providing this statement:

"We appreciate this situation being called to our attention and have begun an investigation. The campus takes these allegations seriously. We will provide additional information when we have reached a resolution."

Fischer sent an email apology to his class after news spread of the controversial test question.

"The question was never intended to cause any issue of racism...," he wrote.

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Rambo said he thinks the attention to the issue couldn't have come at a worse time. He's pretty busy studying for several finals.

But he's turning in this final tonight -- and doesn't think he can avoid having a conversation with his teacher.

"If he's still there next semester or in the future, I just hope he's doing a better job of being more perceptive of the kinds of reactions he's getting from his students -- and a better job writing tests," he said.


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