Alleged bias incident against Korean students prompts widespread reaction
Published: Friday, April 10, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 01:04
A late-night scuffle in a downhill dorm has led to allegations of racism and an orchestrated response on the part of dozens of members of culture houses and student groups on campus.
Members of the Korean Students Association (KSA) alleged that a drunken freshman started a fight with and shouted racial slurs at members of the KSA around 2 a.m. Thursday morning as the group practiced in Lewis Hall's main lounge for an upcoming culture show. The freshman said that the KSA members started the fight.
The administration has opened a judicial investigation into the incident. The Daily is withholding the freshman's name because the administration has not taken any action against him.
Over 50 students gathered at the Asian American Center Thursday afternoon to discuss a response to the incident. Meanwhile, the freshman and a friend of his who helped break up the fight said the freshman had been outnumbered by a group of KSA members who showed aggression toward him, punching and choking him.
Beginning early Friday morning, members of the KSA and students involved with different culture houses and student groups on campus helped to distribute an e-mail message from KSA members detailing the incident and alleging bias.
KSA members at the scene, some of whom were involved in the fight, told the Daily that the freshman refused to leave the 13 members of the group alone as five of them rehearsed a dance for Saturday's KSA Culture Show. A short scuffle ensued between the freshman and the dancers. KSA members said all five dancers were involved; the freshman said that those involved in the fight numbered six or seven.
Both the freshman and a KSA member sustained injuries.
The KSA members said the freshman started the fight, but the freshman said in a statement given to the Daily by two of his friends that one of the dancers first grabbed him. He said he shouted obscenities after the fight but did not mention uttering any racial slurs.
An emotional meeting at the Asian American Center convened Thursday afternoon to discuss the incident and figure out ways to move forward. Dozens of people packed into an overflowing room at the center, exchanging ideas about ways to inform the larger Tufts community about bias incidents that many said occur unsettlingly too often.
The incident occurred in the early-morning hours on Thursday when the freshman approached the KSA members and asked them to teach him the dance five of them were rehearsing. The students said the freshman was visibly drunk and distracting them; the group was running late and told him no.
The freshman proceeded to remain in the back of the room for a few minutes, watching them practice their dance. KSA Vice President Jennifer Kim, a sophomore who was at the scene, said that he mockingly imitated the dancers.
Tensions quickly rose. KSA members said that ongoing verbal exchanges between the freshman and those practicing came to a head after a couple minutes. The threats, KSA members said, bothered them.
"I heard him say, 'Oh, this dance is the gayest s--t ever,'" said freshman Doug Kim, one of the students -- all of whom were male -- rehearsing the dance.
One of the dancers approached the freshman and asked him to leave. At that point, according to the e-mail sent by members of the KSA, the freshman said, "F--k you. F--k you, I could take all of you. I'll kill you all." According to the e-mail, "He then threatened to get his fraternity brothers to help him retaliate."
The freshman said in his statement that the dancer who approached him grabbed him first; KSA members at the scene say the freshman pushed the dancer first.
Then, violence broke out.
The dancers and the freshman immediately started fighting. The freshman said that he tried to move toward the exit, but that a member of the group punched him in the face. KSA members attempted to pin the freshman to the floor, they said, putting him in a headlock.
The fight ended quickly when the freshman indicated to them that he was having trouble breathing.
"At a loss for air, I repeatedly pleaded to them, informing them that I was having trouble breathing," he said in the statement. "I was nearing asphyxiation and scared for my life."
The dancers immediately let go, KSA members said in the e-mail.
But at this point, the KSA members said, as the freshman's friend brought him away from the scene, the freshman began using racial slurs.
"'Go back to China. You guys are a bunch of chinks; you don't even belong here,'" Kim said the freshman shouted at the group. KSA Co-President Tom Moon, a senior who was in the lounge at the time, said that the freshman said, "'[F--king] chinks, go back to your country; you don't belong here.'"
The group members also allege that the freshman spat at them a number of times.
In his statement, the freshman said he shouted obscenities in the heat of the moment.
"Severely physically hurt, highly emotionally charged, scared for my life, I yelled obscenities at the group," he said. He said that the group tried to "attack" him again, but his friend stepped in to prevent violence from breaking out; KSA members said that the freshman's girlfriend also witnessed the incident.
At least one KSA member's shirt was ripped in the fight, and one member's face was cut. The freshman said in his statement that he received "bodily injuries."
The freshman then left the scene, and the KSA members reported the incident to a residential assistant (RA), who interviewed a number of students involved and submitted a report. The KSA members did not call the police, and the Tufts University Police Department on Thursday said that it was not aware of the incident.
"A lot of the KSA members ... who were part of this ... did not know how to react," Kim said during the gathering at the Asian American Center. Many KSA members were crying and in shock, she said. "I read about this all the time, and it's never been so personal."