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Satirical video on UC Merced doesn't have everyone smiling

MERCED — A label attached to a YouTube video about University of California at Merced students' recent push for a Chicano studies minor warned students that watching it might cause uncontrollable laughter.

But some UC Merced students aren't laughing.

The video was posted Monday to the "Animated Videos About UC Merced" Facebook page, and also to UC Merced's Facebook page.

It later was deleted from UC Merced's Facebook page.

The animated videos Facebook page, operated by UC Merced sophomore Oliver Darcy, features a few animated videos, mostly with a conservative slant, that poke fun at events on campus, such as former President Jimmy Carter's upcoming visit. Darcy is a member of the UC Merced College Republicans.

A UC Merced representative said the school encourages open discussion and strives to maintain an environment where the free exchange of ideas and opinions can flourish.

"Intelligent, respectful and spirited debate is among the pillars of our nation's great democracy," the representative said. "The university also strives to encourage responsible dialogue in which the learning made possible by these exchanges can occur."

The video is a satirical depiction of an animated Latino female student talking to a white male student about why a Chicano studies minor should exist at UC Merced.

At one point in the video, the man asks the woman why she doesn't want to identify herself as a U.S. citizen.

"Maybe you could go back to Mexico if you don't like it here?" he says.

"No, you have to conform to all of my demands," says the female character. "If I don't get everything I ask for, I stage useless protests to show how Chicano I am."

The female character's remarks refer to recent teach-ins held by students and faculty calling for a Chicano studies minor at the school.

Sean Lambert-Diaz, a UC Merced junior and organizer of the push to make Chicano studies a minor, said he understood that the video was trying to be funny, but felt it was offensive.

"It's a tough issue because we're trying to do our teach-ins," he said. "I feel like our efforts are being insulted."

Simon Weffer, a UC Merced School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts assistant professor, thought the video was a cheap shot at students trying to raise awareness of an issue, noting the teach-ins aren't confrontational.

"Satire is one of the hardest things to do as comedy," Weffer said. "If you fail at it, then you come off as offensive."

The video speaks to a cultural insensitivity that's becoming more prevalent, he said, referring to recent race-driven incidents at UC campuses in San Diego, Davis and Irvine.

"In comparison to what's going on at other UCs, it's minimal," he said. "All these things speak to an inability to talk about race and ethnicity, so when students get to college, this is what happens."

Darcy said he had nothing to do with the video and he simply posted it to the page because he thought it was funny.

The video's creator wished to remain anonymous, but said in an e-mail that he didn't intend for the video to be offensive or racist.

"I made the video as a tongue-in-cheek look at the current Chicano studies discussion happening on Facebook," he said. "It was designed to challenge, in a conservative satirical manner, the exclusivist desires of members of our student body. The animated videos of UC Merced that I have produced go after liberal ideology in general and are, first and foremost, meant to be satirical."

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