Cal State Long Beach investigates question about race and graffiti on final exam • Long Beach Post

Tucked between a question on bacterial diseases and a true-or-false question on gonorrhea, one question on a health science education final exam at Cal State Long Beach asks: “Which of the following gangs generally do the least graffiti?”

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Four choices follow: “A. Black, B. Asian, C. Hispanic, D. White.”

The question has sparked an investigation by the university after student Alex Rambo, 31, tweeted a photo of the question, stating that the subject had never been discussed in class. Rambo, who is black, said the question was originally brought to his attention by a classmate.

“I looked at the test and saw the question, [and thought] W.T.F?” Rambo said. “None of my classmates felt it had anything to do with health science nor education, so none of us knew the answer.”

The question was on a take-home final exam given to students on Dec. 6. It’s due on Thursday.

The class is taught by Matt Fischer, a lecturer at CSULB and a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. According to Fischer’s LinkedIn page, he has been a teacher for more than 30 years and a part-time lecturer at CSULB for 16 years. The class, Health Science for Secondary Teachers, is designed for future middle and high school teachers.

“We appreciate this situation being called to our attention and have begun an investigation,” said university spokesman Jeff Bliss. “The campus takes these allegations seriously.”

Once the university comes to a resolution on the investigation, they will provide more information, he said.

Fischer did not respond to an email or a phone call from the Long Beach Post, but he told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that the test was meant to make students “investigate the best possible answer” for the questions.

He also told the Press-Telegram that he didn’t mean for the question to be racist and that he was sorry he offended his students.

Rambo said Fischer sent an email to students today about the question, saying he did cover the subject in a class discussion, stating the date of the class. But Rambo said he and his classmates don’t remember it ever being discussed on that date; he says he is certain he attended class on the day in question.

“We felt the answer was targeting multiple groups of people,” Rambo said. “It was offensive and unnecessary—it made me angry.”

The final exam follows a semester of “uncomfortable” humor by Fischer, according to Rambo who said Fischer would call him “Big Dog” before Rambo requested that he be called by his first name. Rambo also said that Fischer would call some female students “sister-licious.”

When they saw the question on the final, Rambo said he and a few other students planned to talk to someone higher up in the department about it. But, now, he says he wishes he had a chance to talk to Fischer about the question before it was written about in the press.

“I don’t think he meant anything malicious about the question or thought he was making a racial statement with the question,” Rambo said. “Hopefully he can learn to be a little more sensitive when he draws up an exam. I want to be able to have a conversation with him. I don’t hate him or anything. I just think he made a mistake in writing a question.”

Valerie Osier is a breaking news reporter for the Long Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ValerieOsier

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