Think before you post. No doubt former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace has learned this valuable lesson. Her ill-timed, insensitive rant on You Tube, in which she slammed Asian-American students for talking on their cell phones in the UCLA library, in the wake of the devastating news of the Japan earthquake, fast went viral, and her life is forever upturned. All it took was one click and one post, and her identity went public, from what appeared to be a private conversation with herself in the bed of her dorm room.
Her video sparked a deluge of responses, from a You Tube rebuttal by the UCLA chancellor, to a ditty by Jimmy Wong, in which he flipped Wallace’s rant on its head. Remarkably, the Asian-American Wong has forgiven Wallace for her racial diatribe. On NPR, Wong commented: “I was pretty offended at first, but then I realized that this is just someone going on a rant — we’ve all done it before. My visceral reaction to the video would not have been as appropriate.” He goes on to say: “I would like to tell her that I totally forgive her. I would love to meet for coffee and give her a big hug.”
This is a great opportunity for schools to use Wallace’s You Tube gaffe as a teaching tool to help kids understand the power of the post. Here is a possible teaching plan:
Start by having students watch the Wallace video. As they watch, break students into 6 groups, and adopt the perspective of the group, and plan a response to the video from that perspective. The groups are
(1) The University – the Chancellor, (2) an Asian-American student at UCLA, (3) the American Civil Liberties Union, (4) The New York Times, (5) Common Sense Media, and (6) The Daily Bruin.
Have students share their responses in their groups and then switch and partner with a student from another group to share their perspective. Rotate two or three times so they have the chance to hear a few different perspectives, then open up the discussion to the whole class.
Then have students watch the UCLA chancellor’s You Tube response. Have them consider its effectiveness.
Then, have them watch Jimmy Wong’s You Tube song response.
Which is more effective, the song or the Chancellor? Why?
The New York Times in an editorial on the subject shares the following: “Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar at U.C.L.A., counseled why Ms. Wallace’s video is “clearly constitutionally protected,” no matter how obnoxious. A purpose of the American university, he said, is to debate major decisions about social and other policies — to build consensus and the foundations of community. To assure worthwhile debate, it’s necessary to protect some worthless, even hurtful, opinion.”
Have students debate whether the video should be “constitutionally protected.”
Finally, should Alexandra Wallace be punished by the University?
She ended up withdrawing from the university. She suffered a natural consequence. Here is her letter of withdrawal, from The Daily Bruin.
Here is a wonderful story from NPR, titled, “Jimmy Wong Saves The Internet.” It hits on a creative way to address cyberbullying.