Campus: CSU, Northridge -- September 20, 2000

CSUN to Take Part in National Effort to Fight Hate Speech, Violence in Schools

Cal State Northridge has been asked by the Southern Poverty Law Center to join in a national effort to combat hate speech and racially-based violence in schools.

As part of that effort, CSUN communication studies students will work closely with students at Grant High School in Van Nuys to develop an environment where the benefits of a culturally diverse community are fostered.

CSUN received word last week that they will be part of a pilot initiative, "Communicating Common Ground," sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and several other national organizations to tackle the issues of hate speech and racially-based violence in elementary and secondary schools across the country. There are a total of 30 inaugural project sites nationwide.

"The intention is to give university and high school students the opportunity to actively participate in creating solutions to some of the most pressing concerns facing our society," said CSUN communication studies professor Kathryn Sorrells, who will oversee the CSUN project.

Sorrells said her students will begin meeting with ninth graders at Grant High School next month and organize seven weeks of learning activities to address stereotyping, cultural awareness and identity, uses and effect of power and privilege and the development of intercultural dialogue.

At the end of this series of one-hour sessions, the Grant students will visit CSUN for a campus tour and a sample of college life.

Grant High School was the site of racial tension last year when about 200 Latino and Armenian students brawled in a fight started by two girls over a boyfriend. Grant is one of the most diverse campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District with more than 25 different ethnicities represented.

The project with Grant High School is part of a service-learning component of Sorrells' Intercultural Communications course. About 35 of the approximately 100 students in the course have volunteered to work with the Grant students.

"I am very encouraged by the enthusiastic response of the undergraduates and their eagerness to participate in this project," Sorrells said.

CSUN's Center for Community Service-Learning is helping to coordinate the project.

"This project furthers CSUN's commitment to integrating the classroom in the community," said the center's director, Maureen Rubin.

"Communicating Common Ground" is a cooperative project among the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Communication Association, Campus Compact and the American Association for Higher Education. The project integrates the various interests of the four sponsoring organizations in better educating youth to embrace the advantages of a diverse society, forwarding engagement of higher education with elementary and secondary schools and the community, and promoting service-learning as an efficacious method for enhancing student learning and civic responsibility.

California State University, Northridge has more than 27,000 full- and part-time students and offers 48 bachelor's and 39 master's degrees. Founded in 1958, it is the only four-year university in the San Fernando Valley.

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