On Monday Oct. 21, a joint statement was sent out to the student body by members of SA leadership and UR administration. Despite some of the efforts toward communal healing outlined in that statement, students have indicated that they still felt uncomfortable and unheard on campus.
Specifically, students came to the Senate meeting later that day to protest SA’s joint statement and overall inaction regarding recent incidents, including the incident which occurred outside the Starbucks lounge on Sept. 23. At this incident, a group of students was meeting with Lamas, Tibetan religious figures, who were invited to campus. The Lamas, and the accompanying group of students, ultimately felt compelled to leave the premises by another group of students. Despite the varied reports between the groups of students and bystanders on what exactly occurred during this encounter, the SA Senate acknowledges that a multitude of students felt hurt as a result.
While we do not intend to pass any judgment on where culpability should reside, we do wish to speak about the events preceding and following this incident. Leading up to this incident, individual students placed posters that recharacterized the event on Tibet planned by the College Republicans. Although placing posters around campus is an act of free speech, the content of these posters should have been more carefully considered; there exist alternative, respectful ways to communicate a difference of opinion without suggesting these students promote insurrection. To this extent, we regret the poster’s suggestion as an especially harmful mischaracterization of beliefs held by a group of students on our campus, where these students now feel unsafe on campus as a result.
Additionally, after the interaction outside the Starbucks lounge, we regret the stereotypes many students made of Chinese students. To be clear, we cannot conflate the actions of individual students with the identity of an entire population or student organization. The online memes created about both Chinese students and the Chinese Students’ Association perpetuated stereotypes, making the hurtful assumption that all Chinese students have a single perspective. This could not be further from the truth. CSA, as an organization, and an entire group of students should not be held responsible for the actions of individuals.
On all sides, students have been harmed and felt targeted. Moving forward, we all need to do better, including us as your student representatives. The delay within our student government is regrettable, and we are holding meaningful discussions on how to more proactively address issues in the future. And as students, we all need to respectfully communicate ideas in ways that do not denigrate someone because of their identity, whether a shared ethnicity, religion, nationality, culture, or any other identity. Moving forward, we encourage everyone to consider how your words (whether online, in person, or on posters) can affect someone else and the emotional toll that can result.