UC Berkeley sees rise in hate crimes in 2010

Jill Wong/Staff

Amid racially charged protests Tuesday, UCPD sent out its annual campus safety report — which shows more than three times as many hate crimes occurring in the campus community in 2010 than in the previous year.

According to the report, UCPD received intelligence of 22 hate crimes in 2010 versus six incidents in 2009. In all, the 2010 statistics show two gender-based hate crimes, eight ethnic- or race-based hate crimes, two hate crimes related to sexual orientation and 10 crimes based on religion.

These statistics cover hate crimes occurring inside the campus, campus-owned buildings, public property in or adjacent to and accessible from the campus, fraternities, sororities, cooperatives, residence halls or university-owned housing — University Village Albany and the UC Office of the President and UC Berkeley extension campuses.

UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode attributed the increase more to a difference in reporting practices than occurrence. He said the shift might be the effect of increased university outreach that emphasizes the importance of reporting hate crimes, an effort made between 2009 to 2010 to make police officers more aware of the definition of hate crimes and a 2008 policy change that made it so hateful vandalism is included in the hate crime category of the statistics.

But statistics from other universities indicate that rates of hate crime on the UC Berkeley campus are substantially higher than at other campuses. Stanford University and UCLA reported two hate crimes each in 2010, and at UC San Diego the total hate crimes amounted to five. UC Berkeley hate crimes in 2010 totaled 22, more than 10 times the number at Stanford and UCLA. UC Berkeley was also the only one of the four schools to report hate crimes based on gender. Its 10 religious hate crimes compare to a complete lack of them at Stanford and UC San Diego, while UCLA saw one religious hate crime.

DeCoulode said 11 of the 2010 UC Berkeley hate crimes were vandalism and three were instances of battery: one that was anti-African American, one that was anti-Hispanic and one that was anti-homosexual.

According to Matthew White, a 2011 UC Berkeley alumnus and formerly an active member of the campus Jewish community, religion-based hatred is not uncommon on campus either.

“When I was in school here, it was just one long blur of instances of hateful things toward Jews and toward supporters of Israel,” he said.

White said that during his time at UC Berkeley, he was aware of Jewish students being called “kike” and receiving strange looks for wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps. He blamed the negative atmosphere in part on an ASUC bill from spring 2010 that urged the campus to divest from two companies that allegedly supplied the Israeli military with materials used in war crimes.

Zienab Abdelgany, president of the campus Muslim Student Association, said Muslim students also face hate-related difficulties on campus.

“Even though Berkeley is a liberal bastion, it is not exempt from larger movements of discrimination and misunderstandings,” she said.

She added that the association has received offensive comments such as “why don’t you just go blow something up” when expressing its political views on Sproul Plaza.

Abdelgany said Muslim women are constantly answering questions about the hijab, the traditional headpiece, and she added that “there are insinuations that I have been forced into submission to wear the hijab, which I wear proudly.”

According to Jack Glaser, an associate professor of public policy at UC Berkeley who specializes in the subject, hate crimes are not foreign to college campuses.

“This is a significant increase by any standard, but it is hard to read anything into a few events, and it’s better not to jump the gun and form general conclusions,” he said. “It is premature to draw the conclusion that the campus is moving towards a climate of hate.”