As a community, we are all struggling with the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, we are concerned for the safety and well-being of our students, whose access to education has been compromised, graduation ceremonies canceled, and career paths altered as unemployment skyrockets. All the while, with future enrollments potentially on the line, U.S. institutions are wrestling with increased financial pressures as campuses remain closed and refund demands increase.
But even as we are all struggling to adapt, it is imperative for senior university leadership to proactively address and denounce the xenophobia and the anti-Asian sentiment that has become as rampant on college campuses as it has all across this country.
On March 26, 2020, NBC News reported over 650 acts of verbal, online and physical harassment targeting Asians within the span of a single week, including incidents of individuals being coughed at or spit on, being told to leave stores, and refused Uber and Lyft services.
Sadly, much of this harassment - recorded or otherwise - happens on the university campuses across the United States, and occasionally comes from official sources. Just recently, a UC Berkeley Health Center Instagram post about managing coronavirus anxiety drew heavy criticism for listing xenophobia against Asians as a "normal reaction."
It is therefore not surprising that universities, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are reporting a surge of racial bias against Asians on their campuses. As a result, both Asian-American students and international students of Asian descent are increasingly likely to experience racist comments, harassment, and ostracism.
On March 24, 2020, Duke University's President wrote on the importance of inclusion, directly addressing bias incidents targeting Chinese, Chinese-American, and Asian individuals throughout the United States. On March 26, the University of Wisconsin-Madison held a virtual town hall in response to the racist messages on its campus. On March 27, the University of Notre Dame swiftly denounced a series of racist social media posts and took appropriate action. These reactions were warranted and necessary, and we applaud these attempts to address the problem. However, we believe that senior higher education administrators should be taking a proactive, not a reactive stance to the anti-Asian bias.
As the leaders of independent thought and innovation, it is imperative that institutions of higher education denounce any and all hate before it manifests on their campuses. Now is the time to take preemptive action as we serve our communities as leaders and educators. The NAFSA China MIG leadership is hopeful that our message of proactive inclusion resonates with you, as we stand in solidarity with our Asian and Asian-American students, colleagues, family and friends.
NAFSA China MIG Leadership Team
- Joaquin Lim, NAFSA China MIG Chairperson, American International Education Foundation
- Alice Yang, Saint Mary's College
- Andrew Hang Chen, WholeRen Education Group
- Huan Roholt, University of Pennsylvania
- Karen Wu, The Intern Group
- Katerina Roskina, China Credential Services LLC