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Fallout of bias incident still relevant on the Hill three years later

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 16:04


Dilys Ong / The Tufts Daily

The 2009 KSA bias incident is still fresh on the mind of senior William Huang, the Asian American community rep for the TCU Senate.

Often touted for the diversity and open-mindedness of its community, Tufts makes great efforts to provide for the variety of minority groups on its campus. But for Asian and Asian American students on the Hill, the university continues to fall short of its goal to be free of discrimination and stereotyping.

Most prominently, the bias incident involving the Korean Student Association (KSA) in 2009 has remained on the mind of the Asian and Asian American communities on campus.

“This drunk fraternity brother was in Lewis, where the Korean Student Association was practicing for a culture show,” senior William Huang, who has served as the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate Asian American Community Rep for the past year, said. “He mocked them, and they asked him to get out, and then they restrained him when he started fighting them. He started yelling ‘you [ethnic slur], go back to China.’”

Although the issue began with that incident, it only intensified after the confrontation.

“The worst part was that the administration did not react right away. They waited a week, even though there were so many eye witnesses, and even though the students performed all the right measures, like going through the RA system,” Huang said. “The students felt disillusioned and that Tufts was trying to protect its reputation.”

Although he was not present when the fight occurred, Huang still felt its effects.

“After the incident, I felt angry and isolated … the institutional response was very disappointing,” he said. 

Huang added that the administration did not immediately condemn the actions of the drunk student but instead conducted a lengthy investigation. The entire situation led Huang to question the university’s efforts to understand the Asian and Asian American communities.

“I definitely think that the campus is missing an educational component when it comes to issues relating to diversity, privilege and marginalization,” he said. “It’s important to put into context that the slurs uttered by the drunk freshman are consistent with the idea that Asian Americans are viewed as ‘perpetual foreigners’ and not authentic Americans.”

Huang said that after the KSA incident, he didn’t feel welcome at Tufts because other students were saying that the Asian community on campus was overreacting.

“After the incident I felt a little threatened, with no one to turn to besides the Asian American center, which was a good resource,” he said. 

Junior Alex Chan, program assistant for the Asian American Center’s peer leader program, also mentioned the far-reaching impact of the KSA incident. According to Chan, sensitive topics like race are often sidestepped on campus.

“The first thing that was really shocking for me when I came to Tufts is that everything has to be so politically correct,” Chan said. “There is some merit to that, but I think that it really shields Tufts from being completely open to a lot of issues, especially race.”

Chan added that being an Asian American on campus is difficult because there are underlying racial issues and struggles that people don’t recognize.

“One thing that was hidden was the KSA incident in 2009 and the fallout from it,” Chan said. “The way the administration handled it reflects how the campus deals with racial diversity.”

According to Chan, the fallout from the 2009 KSA incident is a reflection on the administration and its difficulties in dealing with with issues of diversity on campus.

“We say we embrace [racial diversity], but at the same time there’s so much friction, and I think that’s how it can be different,” he said.

Chan also discussed the impact of an op-ed that recently appeared in the Daily that downplayed issues of race at Tufts.

“There was that Daily op-ed before Spring Break about how no one on this campus [is] racist, and I know from personal experiences that this is not the case,” Chan said. “The feeling of getting on campus and not feeling completely safe, not feeling like you’re home, really points to that.”

Sophomore Samuel Daniel’s March 14 op-ed entitled “No one at this school is racist” set off a flurry of responses from minority groups on campus as well as from individual students.

“The day that people saw that article, we had a meeting of many different communities getting together, brainstorming what is an effective way to respond to an article like that,” Chan said. “Seeing so many people come together so quickly, that they had similar thoughts, that we need to do something about this but in a respectful and well-thought-out way I thought that was a very good way to respond.”

Chan said he found the article so offensive because of how broadly it reached and because it attempted to speak for all communities at Tufts.

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