Friday, September 23, 2005

Story Hits Detroit Free Press

Asians harassed at U-M, says letter seeking officials' aid

University officials asked to step in

September 23, 2005


Two incidents involving ethnic intimidation of Asian students at the University of Michigan have provoked several faculty members to demand action from school officials.

In a letter obtained by the Free Press that was sent to President Mary Sue Coleman and other top U-M officials Thursday, the professors said the incidents, including a case where a white student allegedly urinated on two Asian students, "unmasked more pervasive ethnic and racial discrimination that remains undocumented."

The professors, who teach Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, asked Coleman to marshal the university's resources to end race-based bias and intimidation and to sanction students perpetrating such incidents.

Late Thursday, Coleman responded in a letter to the professors, saying she would "not tolerate actions that target or intimidate members of our community based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity ... or other personal characteristics."

Coleman also pledged to do more to address incidents of ethnic intimidation. Two incidents last week involving Asian students sparked the controversy. About 13% of U-M students are Asian, according to U-M data.

On Sept. 15, two Asian students were walking in the 600 block of South Forest Avenue about 11:15 p.m. when they looked up and saw a white male urinating off of his apartment balcony onto their arms, said Ann Arbor Police Lt. Chris Heatley. When the Asian man asked the white man what he was doing, the white man allegedly shouted an obscenity and began throwing things at the couple, Heatley said.

The Asian man told police the white man then told the couple "you don't have your green cards and you need to learn English," Heatley said. The Asian couple called Ann Arbor police, who arrested the white man. He was taken into custody and later released pending further investigation.

Heatley said the man could face charges from misdemeanor assault to ethnic intimidation, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison upon conviction.

Heatley said the man denied the allegations and said he was pouring beer over the balcony.

Last Friday, Cindy Chuang, president of the U-M's Taiwanese American Student Association, said she was walking down South University Avenue with two female Asian students when they were confronted by two white males, who allegedly told them "you speak good English and you speak with a white accent." She did not report the incident.

"I think it's absolutely necessary for people to recognize that these things still happen," said Chuang, 21, a U-M senior from Troy. "With as much diversity as we have on this campus, we are not as culturally accepting as we should be."

Contact MARYANNE GEORGE at 734-665-5600 or


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