Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ann Arbor News article on town hall


Asian-American bias alleged

U-M administrators agree racial incidents more common than reports indicate Tuesday, September 27, 2005 BY DAVE GERSHMAN News Staff Reporter

Asian students and faculty at the University of Michigan will push for changes to the campus climate after a report of alleged ethnic intimidation prompted an outpouring of concern that it may represent an undercurrent of bias against Asians attending U-M.

More than 40 people gathered at the William Monroe Trotter House on Monday, days after the Sept. 15 incident that has roiled the Asian community.

An Asian couple reported to police that a white man on the balcony of an off-campus apartment urinated on them as they walked past. They said the man, along with a roommate, yelled derogatory remarks about their ethnicity. All involved are believed to be students.

Police said today that they are still investigating. Police interviewed both men and they denied the allegations and said they had poured beer off the balcony.
The men could face charges of assault or ethnic intimidation.

Several speakers Monday said they were shocked, but not surprised, by the most recent incident, because they had endured racial epithets and derogatory or insensitive remarks on and off campus. The incident, they said, highlighted the need to change attitudes.

Initial suggestions for action include holding an anti-racism rally and asking U-M to include more ethnic studies courses. Another idea is to require freshmen to receive racial sensitivity training.

Jennifer Yim, a graduate student, said she had been yelled at repeatedly while walking in Ann Arbor near campus. " 'Go home, we don't like foreigners,' '' Yim said, recounting some of the comments. "Or, 'Hey, baby, teach me some karate.'

Stephen Ahn, a leader of the United Asian American Organizations student group, said some students have a misperception about making the remarks. "There's this attitude that it's all right to do that because it's not real racism,'' said Ahn.

Speakers said such comments made them feel like outsiders at their own school.
Asian-Americans make up about 12 percent of the student body.

"I just have this sickening feeling that if my kid goes here, the same thing will happen again,'' said Linh Song, an alumnus who is expecting a child. "As a mother, you have so much hope. You don't want this to happen to your children.''

Before the meeting, Amy Stillman, an associate professor and director of Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, said victims often don't report the incidents, which needs to change.

In each of the past two calendar years, the U-M Department of Public Safety has received fewer than a dozen reported hate crimes or incidents, said spokeswoman Diane Brown. But university administrators agree that incidents of racial bias are more common than official reports would indicate.

"It's hard to put a number to this, but it is common knowledge that anti-Asian bias is pervasive,'' said Stillman. "The kind of bias that many Asian-American students experience is subtle and in some cases unintended - just ignorant and uninformed.

"But what compounds the problem tremendously is that there is also a long history of these incidents being brushed off when they're reported,'' she added.

In a letter sent last week to U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and other administrators, Stillman and seven other faculty members decried "that a public incident such as this has once again unmasked more pervasive ethnic and racial discrimination that remains undocumented.'' The letter called on the U-M administration to "marshal the necessary resources to ensure that the wider university community can collaborate collectively to end such race-based bias and intimidation.''

Coleman responded that U-M won't tolerate those actions, and will address them promptly through education and through discipline, when appropriate.

In appearing before faculty representatives Monday, Coleman was asked about the incident. She said that U-M may look at how reports of bias are handled and the training given the Department of Public Safety. "It's just not acceptable,'' she said of racial incidents. "We're not that kind of place.''

Stillman said the university's response so far has been inadequate. No policies have been altered, she said. She also asked whether there is a glass ceiling for Asians working at U-M, and questioned why there are no Asians working as professional administrators in the Fleming Building.

Andrew Guzman, speaking before the meeting, said he hopes the outrage becomes a catalyst for change.

"A lot of things have happened,'' said Guzman, president of the Filipino American Student Association, who said he has had derogatory comments yelled at him while downtown.

"There's just been a lot of build-up among our community and I feel like we've kind of programmed ourselves to take it in a sense,'' said Guzman. "And that's a huge problem.''

News Staff Reporter Amalie Nash contributed to this report. Dave Gershman can be reached at (734) 994-6818 or dgershman@annarbornews.com.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The low quality and atrocious leadership of UM administrators is a scandal.

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having worked for the AA News, I am not surprised by this publication. Not surprised that it takes a Supreme Court to tell UofM that white people have rights, too. Not surprised that - once again - this cry of racism remains UNDOCUMENTED. Cry racism all you like, but if you're illegal, you're gonna get your free trip home sooner or later. If you're here legally, I ask you why on earth did you come to such a country anyway? I wonder if maybe your country was just not up to your standards, where our racist hell hole.... is? How interesting. And by the way, Drew and Mike ROCK.

7:25 AM  

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