Collective Statement On The Literature Building Cancer Cluster

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Collective Statement On The Literature Building Cancer Cluster

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Literature Grads started this petition to UCSD

We, the undersigned graduate students from the UCSD Literature Department and their allies, are writing to publicly voice our concerns about the building where the Literature program is currently housed.  In the past twenty-six years, many members of our departmental community have been diagnosed with cancer, forming an as-yet unexplained cancer cluster centered on the Literature Building.

Recently, one graduate student, 34, informed us of her breast cancer diagnosis. This brings the number to eleven women and non-binary colleagues in the Literature Department since 2000 to be afflicted with this cancer.  A faculty member recently informed us of his cancer diagnosis as well. Several other members of our community who worked in the building have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer, including ovarian, adrenal and salivary gland cancers; at least three others have faced large benign tumors, calcifications and fibrosis which impacted their mobility or otherwise demanded treatment.  Three have passed away.  According to the data noted in the Garland Report, a study conducted in 2008 by an epidemiologist, the median age of those affected is younger than the median age of diagnosis for breast cancer in the U.S. population, and the Department had an observed incidence of breast cancer  “about 4-5 times the expected incidence in the California general population.”  In addition, many of the breast cancers have been quick-spreading or aggressive, with two of the breast cancers diagnosed as a particularly rare and deadly form, inflammatory breast cancer, and others metastatic and/or invasive. Though all who were afflicted go unnamed here, we wish to acknowledge that they were and are our co-workers, mentors, and above all, our allies and family.  We keep them all in our thoughts and memory and write collectively now against succumbing to a purposeful forgetting, acknowledging that the cancer cluster is not a "closed" matter, but a present reality.

We write this letter now to affect physical and structural change, to affirm our sense of community, and to finally eliminate the constant worry and fear that haunts us all. Our building’s cancerous history remains a continuous presence in our lives, but we stand united in the hope of building a better future. Our departmental community calls on the university administration to stand with us as we seek to overcome the structural and physical challenges that impede our efforts to teach, learn and collaborate. We acknowledge all the hard work that has been done by faculty, staff and graduate students to address the building health concerns in the past, particularly the Building Committee's efforts.  In response to the higher incidence of breast cancer in the building the administration sponsored studies in 2009 and 2010 to research and address the possible material causes of the cancer. Though the 2010 study, conducted by the contractor Field Management Services Corp, concluded that the AC magnetic field measurements of the ground floor of the Literature Building were only “modestly” higher than the surrounding area, new cases of cancer have continued to be diagnosed.

Though many necessary fixes have been made, there is still a real concern that we wish to acknowledge: Many of us continue to feel the very real psychological effects left behind by the cancer cluster, and these immeasurable mental and emotional fallout, as well as the still unknown physical effects, cannot be brushed aside. The psychological impact has not been addressed by the administration; perhaps part of the reason for this, is that we have not fully articulated those concerns. We wish to articulate them here:

The building is marred.  It holds a cancerous history that continues to undermine our work as students, educators and community members, despite pages upon pages of scientific proof that our bodies are no longer in danger. This history has changed the building and fractured our community.  We cannot walk the hallways without thinking of lost friends and mentors. We cannot be fully present in seminars or office hours without thinking about the dangers we might be exposed to on daily basis. Many of us just stay away from the building.

We live with this cancerous history, and we’ve been made to keep silent. We cannot remain silent, not anymore.

We no longer want to be in the building. We no longer want anyone to be housed there. As long as we remain there, our work and livelihood will continue to be affected. The physical space will continue to be oppressive. We will always feel a weight when stepping into our classrooms or office hours. We will always feel a weight when stepping into the elevator. The weight we feel is not imagined. It is real. We feel the weight of our lost loved ones and mentors. We feel the weight of those who are still sick and who might get sick in the days to come.  

We ask all those who read this: Would you return to a building where more than twelve members of your community were afflicted with cancer? Where three members of your community contracted a cancer that killed them? Would you be able to go back to business as usual?  Would your community ever be the same?  Would your mind, charged with the task of doing serious intellectual work, ever be free to think without the memory of cancer?

With those questions in your mind, we ask that the administration consider and respond to the following:

  • As graduate students, we no longer want to be housed in this building.  We want our whole department – faculty, staff, and graduate students – to be moved to another location where we can start to rebuild our community anew, free of the weight of cancerous memories. We have heard that there are plans to move the Department in several years. How many people could get sick in that time? Who will inherit the space? What will happen to the water, the earth below it? We ask that information about the plans for the Departmental move be made publicly available and transparent, including the history of the cancer cluster, the work that has been done,  new cases and what the plans are for the building and site after the move.
  • An additional study and reinvestigation of the building which would include testing for levels of PCBs and endocrine disruptors.
  • An additional public meeting at a time accessible to all workers in the building (not 9 am on a Monday) to address these issues with UCSD administration before the end of Spring quarter 2016, and before work begins on the Literature Building’s elevator and the ventilation area (both named as potentially toxic in the initial report) in August 2016.
  • Information and records on the cancer cluster incorporated into Safety training and made accessible to all incoming and presently-enrolled students, faculty, staff, and maintenance personnel. We also ask that these records be made available to Campus Health Services and UCSD Medical Center’s/Moore Cancer Center’s systems.
  • Permanent graduate and faculty lounges housed outside the department. 
  • Two to three offices where Literature faculty can hold office hours outside the department.

When we came to UCSD, we moved away from our friends, families, and loved ones.  We hoped to find a new home in the department.  We found a community haunted by a painful past. Now, we write in the hope that we can build a new departmental home. We voice our concerns not to downplay the very real physical effects our friends, colleagues, and mentors feel, but to do them honor.  As graduate students and their allies who sign in solidarity with those who feel the measurable and immeasurable effects of the high rates of cancer in the Literature Building, we affix our names to this document.   


Department of Literature

Jeanine Webb, Doctoral Candidate, Departmental Dissertation Fellow, Cancer Patient

Stephanie Gomez Menzies, Doctoral Candidate

Niall Twohig, Doctoral Candidate

Megan Turner, Doctoral Candidate

Luis Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Peninsular and Latin American Literature and Culture

Page DuBois, Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, breast cancer survivor

Zachary Hayes, Doctoral Candidate

Nima Rassooli, PhD Student

Mark B. Kelley, Doctoral Candidate

Melissa Martinez, Doctoral Candidate

Cindy Pinhal, Doctoral Candidate

Ashvin R. Kini, Doctoral Candidate

Jody Blanco, Associate Professor of Filipino and Latin American Literature and Culture

Shelley Streeby, Professor of Literature and Ethnic Studies

Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of Literature and Ethnic Studies

Gina M di Grazia (Altavilla), PhD Student, surgical patient, leiomyomas

Reema Rajbanshi, Doctoral Candidate, surgical patient, benign tumor

Ben Van Overmeire, Ph.D.

Ari Larissa Heinrich, Associate Professor of Chinese and Cultural Studies, Literature Department

Ben Doller, Associate Professor, Creative Writing, Cancer Patient

Sara Johnson, Associate Professor of Literature

Rosiangela Escamilla, Doctoral Candidate

Pasquale Verdicchio, Professor of Literature

Jeanelle D. Horcasitas, PhD Student

Mayra Cortes, PhD Student

Kayleigh Setoda, PhD Student

Kimberly Schreiber, MFA Candidate

Katherine Agard, MFA Candidate

Taylor McGill, MFA Candidate

Gina Srmabekian, MFA Candidate

Sarah Ciston, MFA Candidate

Amanda Martin Sandino, Doctoral Candidate

Nadeen Kharputly, Doctoral Candidate

Gibrán Güido, Doctoral Candidate

Yelena Bailey, Doctoral Candidate

Jennifer Marchisotto, Doctoral Candidate

Diana Marcella Vargas, Doctoral Candidate

Tina Hyland, MFA Candidate, Ph.D. Student

Jacqueline Munguía, Doctoral Candidate

Eileen Myles, Professor Emeritus Writing & Literature

Marco Antonio Huerta-Alardin, MFA Candidate

Jasmine Straw, Undergraduate

Jorge Omar Ramírez Pimienta, Doctoral Candidate

Norell Martínez, Doctoral Candidate

Anthony Yooshin Kim, Ph.D.

Sarika Talve-Goodman, Doctoral Candidate

Camille F. Forbes, Associate Professor of Literature

Sören Fröhlich, Ph.D.

Sophia M. Echavarria, MFA Student

María José Delgadillo, MFA Student

John Granger, Lecturer

Pepe Rojo, MFA Student

Lisa Lowe, Professor, Tufts University (Professor Emerita, UCSD)

Christian Gerard Gella, Undergraduate Literature/Writing

April Peletta, MFA Student

Arielle Burgdorf, MFA Student

Jane Coulter, PhD Candidate

Babak Rahimi, Associate Professor of Communication, Culture and Religion

Anna Joy Springer, Associate Professor of Writing, Head of Writing Section

Rae Armantrout, Professor Emerita of Writing

Pai Wang, PhD student

Gidi Loza, MFA student

Matthew Zamudio, Undergraduate Writing Student

Kevin Hart, Doctoral Candidate

Melissa Vipperman-Cohen, Doctoral Student

Paulina M. Gonzales, Doctoral Candidate

Soraya Abuelhiga, Doctoral Candidate

Jeff Baker, MFA Student

Eunsong Angela Kim, Doctoral Candidate

Kate Thompson, Doctoral Candidate


UCSD Literature Alumni

Josen Masangkay Diaz, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of San Diego

Lauren Heintz, Ph.D., Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Tulane University

Benjamin Balthaser, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Indiana University

Christopher Perreira, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Kansas

Joo Ok Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Kansas

Ana Grinberg, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, East Tennessee State University

Clare Rolens, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Palomar College

Katharine Slater, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rowan University

John Rieder, Associate Professor, Southwestern College

Kyla Schuller, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Adrián Arancibia, Ph.D. Professor and Assistant Chair, Miramar College

Silvina Yi, Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan

Chien-ting Lin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, National Central University

Min-Jung Kim, Ph.D., Professor, Ewha Womans University, Korea

Keith McCleary, MFA, Lecturer, UC San Diego

Paola Capó-García, MFA, Instructor, UC San Diego

Yeesheen Yang, Ph.D., Customer Education Manager, Optimizely

Yumi Pak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, California State University, San Bernardino

Satoko Kakihara, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, California State University, Fullerton

Melissa Hidalgo, Ph.D., Fulbright Scholar, University of Limerick, Ireland

Amie Elizabeth Parry, Ph.D., Professor, National Central University

Neel Ahuja, PhD, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Gabriel Kalmuss-Katz, MFA

Jake Mattox, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Indiana University, South Bend

Jeff Gagnon, Ph.D., Writing Director, Dimensions of Culture, UCSD

Ethan Sparks, MFA in Writing

Ben Segal, MFA in Writing

Rachel Lee Taylor, MFA in Writing

Hanna Tawater, MFA in Writing, Program Coordinator, Warren College

Nikolai Beope, MFA in Writing

Maria Flaccavento, MFA in Writing

Kendall Grady, MFA in Writing

Brett Zehner, MFA in Writing

Tanner Smith, Dept. Lit. Alum '13

K. Lorraine Graham, MFA in Writing

Violeta Sánchez, Ph.D. Professor Miramar College

Marisa Brandt, Assistant Professor of Practice in History, Philosophy & Sociology of Science, Michigan State University


Allies From Other UCSD Departments

Patty Ahn, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication

Amie Campos, PhD Student, Department of History

Jael Vizcarra, PhD Student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Troy Kokinis, PhD Student, History Department

Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor, Visual Arts Department, CALIT2/QI

Paloma Checa-Gismero, PhD Candidate, Visual Arts Department

Catherine Czacki, PhD Candidate, Visual Arts Department

Amanda Cachia, PhD Candidate, Visual Arts Department

Zachary Richter, PhD Student, Communication Studies Department

Brian Cross Assistant Professor Visual Arts Department

Sascha Crasnow PhD Candidate, Visual Arts Department

Erika Ostrander MFA Student, Visual Arts Department

Julia Fernandez, PhD Student, Visual Arts Department

Sindhu Thirumalaisamy, MFA Student, Visual Arts Department

Joshua Tremill, former UCSD Literature graduate student, now UCSD Public Health Academic Advisor

Lilly Irani, Assistant Professor, Communication and Science Studies

Sara Mameni, PhD, Visual Arts Department alumni

Raquel Pacheco, PhD, Anthropology Department

Saiba Varma, Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Global Health

Cristina Visperas, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Science Studies Program

Elizabeth Miller, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Visual Arts

Hector Ramirez, BA, Philosophy Department

Vanessa Bateman, PhD Student, Visual Arts Department

Christo Sims, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication

Roshanak Kheshti, Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies Department

Cassandra Hartblay, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Communication

Anthony Davis, Professor of Music

Jennifer Huerta, PhD Student, History Department

Wendy Matsumura, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Tae Hwang, Department of Visual Arts

David Pedersen, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Philomena Lopez, PhD student, Visual Arts Department

Lea M. Johnson, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies Department

Ash Eliza Smith, Director for Art & Technology, Sixth College

Katherine Steelman, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies

Matthew Vitz, Assistant Professor, Department of History

Olivia Quintanilla, PhD student, Ethnic Studies

Brett Morris, Student at City College
Kyung Hee Ha, PhD, Ethnic Studies Department alumni

Leslie Quintanilla, PhD student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Arnie Schoenberg, BA alumni, Third World Studies Department
Siu Hei Lee, PhD Candidate, Department of Music

Jack Jin Gary Lee, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Young-Hyun Kim (Inti) PhD Candidate, Department of History

Amrah Salomon J., PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies

Teresa Zimmerman-Liu, PhD Student, Department of Sociology

Krys Méndez Ramírez, PhD Student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Christine Payne, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Jorge Ramirez, PhD Student, Department of History

Nur Duru, PhD Student, Department of History

Kevin Beck, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Kevan Antonio Aguilar, PhD Student, Department of History

Dilara Yarbrough, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Evelyn Walker, MFA Student, Visual Arts Department

Juan David Rubio Restrepo, PhD Student, Department of Music

Camila Gavin- PhD Student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Manuel Morales PhD Candidate - Latin American History

Josh Newton, PhD Student, Department of History

Davide Carpano, PhD Student, Department of Sociology

Naysan Mojgani, PhD, Department of Theatre & Dance alumnus

Miguel Angel Castaneda, MA Student, Latin American Studies

Maria Celleri, PhD Student, Ethnic Studies Department

Yahya Hafez, Undergraduate, Ethnic Studies Department

Jessica Hatrick-Watson, Undergraduate, Ethnic Studies Department

Whitney Russell, PhD Student, Anthropology

Danny Weltman, PhD Student, Philosophy

Christopher Paul Steiner, PhD, Department of Economics Alumnus

John E. Armenta, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication

Laura Gutiérrez, PhD Candidate, Department of History

Maria Hill, PhD Student, Department of Communication

Vineeta Singh, PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies

Riley Taitingfong, PhD Student, Department of Communication

David Sanchez-Aguilera, PhD Student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Kim M. Clark, PhD Student, Communication

Jonathan Walton, PhD student, Communication

Yao-Tai Li, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Christina E. Green, PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies

Brie Iatarola, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication

Jonathan Martin, MA student, Department of History

Angelique De Castro, Undergraduate, Computer Science and Engineering Department

Grant Leuning, PhD Student, Department of Communication

Adam Morgan, PhD Student, Department of Psychology

Louise Hickman, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication

América Martínez, Ph.D. Student, Department of Ethnic Studies

Rawan Arar, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology

Anna Starshinina, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Communication

Julie Burelle, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance, UC San Diego

Sara Solaimani, PhD Student, Department of Visual Arts

Amy Alexander, Associate Professor of Visual Arts

Yelena Gluzman, PhD Candidate, Communication

Patricia Zambrano, MFA in Visual Arts

Morgan Mandalay, MFA in Visual Arts

Drew Snyder, PhD, Department of Visual Arts

Malathi Iyengar, PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies

Trevor Amery, MFA in Visual Arts

Anya Gallaccio, Professor, Visual Arts Department, UCSD

Esmeralda Mo Hu, UCSD Alumni, Linguistics

Saúl Hernández, MFA in Visual Arts

Kyle Blair, Music Department

Noni Brynjolson, 3rd year PhD in Art History

Brie Iatarola, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication

Other Allies

Jennifer Devries, UCSD School of Medicine, MD Candidate, Medical Students for Justice

Peggy K. Lee, PhD Student, University of Michigan

Brian Whitener, University of Michigan

Laura M. Herbert, University of Michigan

Denise Ferreira da Silva, University of British Columbia

Amy Sara Carroll, University of Michigan

Sarah Hendy-Jackson, former UCSD Literature graduate student, undergraduate alumna, UC San Diego

Megan Kaminski, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas

Catherine Knight, Student, Mount Saint Mary’s University

Thea Quiray Tagle, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (PhD Ethnic Studies, UCSD)

Lauren Berliner, Assistant Professor, University of Washington Bothell (PhD Communication, UCSD)

Paola Rodelas, undergraduate alumna, UC San Diego

Adam Rabuy Crayne, undergraduate alumnus, UC San Diego

David Stein, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Mary Renda, University of Michigan

Noor Ahmad, University of Michigan

Taryn Marcelino, University of California, San Diego, undergraduate alumna

Román Luján, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles

Jhonni Carr, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles

Sandra Chavez, University of California, San Diego

Iván Ottaviano, concerned partner of PhD Candidate in UCSD Literature Dep.

Alexandra Holmstrom-Smith, PhD Student, UCLA Sociology Department
Paige Hancock, undergraduate alumnus, UC San Diego

Gracelynne West, undergraduate alumnus, UC San Diego

Yesenia Padilla, undergraduate alumnus, UC San Diego

Daniel Gutiérrez, PhD Student, Free University Berlin

Tina Milz, UC San Diego

Emily Gorbaty, friend of UCSD Literature graduate student

Joyce Kim, former UCSD Literature Department staff, UCSD Literature Department undergraduate alumna

William Dawley, UCSD

Emma Stapely, UC Riverside Department of English

Tammy Bendetti, friend of UCSD student

Miguel Mariano Alatorre, student of Population Studies in El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef)

Michael Reyes, Program in Comparative Literature, University of Texas Austin

Bart Star, Program in Computer Science, Misc University

Ricardo Parada, Occidental College (‘18)

Beezer de Martelly, UC Berkeley Music Department

Jonathan A. Valdez, PhD Student, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Karen Liou, UCSD

Shivani Das, UCSD

Ana Laura Martínez, UCSD alum

Myrna García ,  Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies and Latino Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington (Ph.D. Ethnic Studies, UCSD)

A. Naomi Paik, Assistant Professor, Asian American Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Beatrice Choi, UCSD undergraduate alumna and PhD Candidate at Northwestern University

Erica Fretwell, Assistant Professor of English, SUNY Albany

Ariana Padilla, Undergraduate, Department of Structural Engineering

Raquel Calderon, UCSD Undergraduate, Department of Computer Science

Mark Wallace, Associate Professor of Literature and Writing, California State University San Marcos

Elizabeth Sparks, concerned spouse and friend of graduate students of Literature at UCSD

Adam Stutz, concerned friend of graduate students of Literature at UCSD

Katerina Lahr-Pastor, undergraduate of Literature UCSD

Chris Pedler, concerned partner of graduate student at UCSD

Christina Wood Martinez, MFA in Creative Writing, Washington University

Brenda Iijima, Independent scholar, poet

Dylan Ponzio, UCSD Undergraduate, Cognitive Science

Karissa Black, UCSD Undergraduate, Chemistry

Paloma Sat-Vollhardt, UCSD Undergraduate, International Studies - Economics

Allison Reiss, UCSD Undergraduate, Cognitive Science

Nicole Bedross, UCSD Undergraduate, Economics

Amy Moran, UCSD Undergraduate, Chemical Engineering

Hannah Flaig, UCSD Undergraduate, Recreation

Savannah Hansen, UCSD Undergraduate, Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies

Joia Herbert, UCSD Undergraduate

Christianna, UCSD Undergraduate, HDP and Biology

Allison Salter, UCSD Undergraduate, Psychology

Erin Epstein, UCSD Undergraduate, Education Studies, TA

Amanda Petersen, PhD, USD Assoc Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature

Monica Alcasid, UCSD Undergraduate, Biology

Courtney Chen, UCSD Undergraduate, Physiology & Neuroscience

Tanya Ngo, UCSD Undergraduate, Neuroscience and Physiology

Monica Leung, UCSD Undergraduate, Biology

Chrissy How-Volkman, UCSD Undergraduate, Biological Sciences

Selena Friedman, UCSD Undergraduate, Political Science

Jaden Hoots, UCSD Undergraduate, Psychology

Yecenia Arellano, UCSD Undergraduate, Cognitive science

Jacqueline Hartono, UCSD Undergraduate, Biology

Macie Cossette, UCSD Undergraduate

Nicole Werline, UCSD Undergraduate, Communications

Mariana Jimenez, UCSD Undergraduate, Literature

Thomas Finn, UCSD Undergraduate, Psychology and Anthropology

German Octaviano, UCSD Undergraduate, Ethnic Studies

Andrew J. Mackay, UCSD Undergraduate, Sociology

Midori Schardein, UCSD Undergraduate, History

Adán Chávez, UCSD Undergraduate, Department of Political Science and Department of Literature

Eduardo Marin, UCSD Undergraduate, NanoEngineering

Laura Castro, UCSD Undergraduate, Political Science

Codi Vierra, UCSD Undergraduate, Political Science

Liz Kim, UCSD Undergraduate, International Studies

Julia Terrwyn, friend of UCSD Literature graduate student
Tracy Maurstad, family of UCSD Literature graduate student
Chengze Shen, UCSD Undergraduate, Bioinformatics

Yucheng Bian, UCSD Undergraduate, Math & Computer Science

Bonnie Luu, UCSD Undergraduate, Structural Engineering

Yeon Soo Kim, UCSD Undergraduate, Communication

Uday Govindswamy, UCSD Undergraduate




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