A graduating student’s update about the University of Colorado’s “War Against Asians” Campus Press article

The email below was sent today by David Chiu, a graduating senior at the University of Colorado. He’s been involved with a group of students, meeting with the CU administration since Feb. 18, when an ill-advised satire column titled “If It’s War that Asians Want, It’s War They’ll Get” was posted on the Campus Press website of the university’s school of journalism.

If you’re not familiar with the controversy, here is an article published by the Pacific Citizen, and my original blog post and an update and a second follow-up.

David’s update, sent almost on the eve of his graduation, is a sad commentary on the frustrations felt by the students who were directly affected by this article. There hasn’t been a lot of progress, although there have been a lot of politically correct platitudes and promises given out.

There are efforts outside the university, within the Asian Pacific American community at large, to keep the issue alive during the summer months. What these brave and dedicated students have started at CU have caused a ripple effect outside Boulder’s insular world, that will hopefully continue outward for a long time.

David has given his permission to forward or post on blogs the full text of his email. I urge everyone to pass along his eloquent and ultimately sad words so that this issue isn’t just summarily swept under the dark, dusty smothering carpet of history.

To whom it may concern,

University of Colorado Chancellor Bud Peterson recently released a letter to the Colorado Daily listing the “progress” that has been made since the Campus Press published two racially offensive and insensitive articles. The Chancellor’s letter, published on April 30, 2008, listed a series of actions the administration has taken in response to these articles.

When I met with the Chancellor on April 3rd, nearly a month and a half after the publication of these articles, I asked the Chancellor what they had done or were planning on doing. More specifically, I had asked for goals, timelines, and progress. The Chancellor responded that it would not be prudent at that time to update the community and myself because these actions were ongoing. The Chancellor now seems to think that April 30th two days before the end of classes when students are the busiest with Senior projects, papers, and the immediate start of finals, is an appropriate time. It should also be noted that this letter was released two days before the In Solidarity event organized by Annie Guo and Kenneth Phi.

If one were to read the Chancellor’s April 30th letter and a letter released on March 5th, shortly after the rally organized by a diverse group of student leaders, they would see that these two letters are essentially the same. Basically, no progress has been made in a two month span with the exception of internal actions within the Campus Press.

The Campus Press carried out some progressive actions following their self-inflicted controversy. These include bringing in minority journalist for guest lectures and a new policy for increased review of opinion pieces deemed controversial. However, they have also failed to implement or grasp some measures and concerns that were proposed by minority students. These are listed below:

-Implement diversity training through resources already available in the University, such as White on White training that explores the privilege of being in a majority group, or other cultural understanding trainings. (They requested that we as minority students with no formal training put on these workshops with no incentive or benefits.)
-The Campus Press was aware of the incendiary nature of the article “If its war the Asians want…Its war they’ll get”, this article was discussed, reviewed, and then published. Cassie Hewlings has even admitted that she would not have published an article that attacked African-Americans. They then sought to justify this article by finding and then publishing an article written by an Asian-American (see “From Conception to Publication,” Campus Press). Two wrongs do not make a right. The Chancellor’s most recent letter has included this policy of publishing two opposing racist viewpoints as a solution.
-Integrate sections that explore the representation of minority groups in media into the curriculum of the Campus Press Class. This should be something beyond a MLK movie in February.
-Lastly, Amy Herdy has claimed to put together a “Student Diversity Advisory Board.” This board is actually composed of the students who have been working on this issue from day one, most notable are: Alexis Smith, Amie Ha, and Chris Choe. It is very offensive that she has tried to take credit for a group of students that had already formed in order to respond to this issue. It should also be noted that we do not even meet with her on a regular basis.

I am very sad to see that the Campus Press will no longer qualify for course credit. It was not our original intention to damage the student run publication. We just wanted to see some journalistic oversight, responsibility, and integrity. If the New York Times had published an opinion piece authored by the leader of the KKK, there would be serious repercussions. We all have the right to voice our opinion but opinions that ridicule and attack ethnic groups should not be funded by our tuition and tax dollars. Even though students will no longer be able to receive credit for this class, the Campus Press will still receive a “modest operating budget” of $100,000.

I had also asked the Chancellor at the April 3rd meeting why significant progress had not been made a month and a half after this incident. He told me that he had listened to the students at the Feb. 27th meeting and he wanted to involve students with the solutions they had put forth. I asked him who he was contacting regarding this and he told me it was through the UCSU and the reason that no progress was being made was because there was no response from the students. After hearing this, I talked to the UCSU representatives the Chancellor had referred to and they told me that they had not been contacted by the administration. Students had met with Vice-Chancellor Sally Mckee to discuss pledges the administration has made in response to previous racist incidents, most notably the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations. However, they told me that she did not present them with any concrete plans.

The administration has made a Flagship 2030 pledge (I’ll be 43 by 2030), but I do not see any actions in the near future. I am proud to be graduating this May with a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering, however, I will also be leaving dejected and disgusted with the false promises put forth by this administration. This is not a new discourse spurred by one event; it is a reoccurrence arising from the failure to address systemic problems with sustainable change. Every time there is a racist incident, students mount a very public response and the administration promises to take action. When the dust settles, they say it is the responsibility of the students, who have no official power or expertise, to make changes within the University.

When I talked to the Asian faculty members, they informed me that there was no mandatory diversity or cultural understanding training for faculty, employees, or students. The university often boasts about the percentage of faculty from underrepresented groups that are hired but there is a disproportionate tenure rate for these faculty members. The Chancellor was forced to address the Campus Press because of the grass roots movement organized by students but many culturally insensitive incidents have occurred since then. The College Republicans were recently allowed to host speakers on the Campus who were self-proclaimed Palestinian ex-terrorists who only found redemption through converting to Christianity. These types of speakers reinforce the terrorist stereotype forced upon people of Middle Eastern descent and this type of culturally insensitive propaganda is rooted in a medieval-crusader-like mentality which has historically put the West and Arabic world at odds. Incidents that make minority groups feel persecuted, ridiculed, and unwelcome at CU still occur and will continue to occur. It is time for the Administration to listen to suggestions that have been put forth numerous times and enact concrete, systemic, and sustainable change.

Thank you,
David Chiu

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