Friday, June 10, 2011

Common Decency: It's the Law.

Because I've been to China several times, Asian students on campus often find their way to my office to talk over problems.  In the fall of 2009, a young Asian graduate student arrived my door in tears.  In one of her first classes, a professor remarked that Americans needed to work harder so that the world economy wouldn't be taken over by "little yellow people."  Maybe this was an awkward attempt to motivate his class. I doubt he realized his comments were racist.

I told the student that racial slurs by any member of faculty are illegal in the US, and we have procedures to deal with such problems. Fearful the professor might retaliate, the student pleaded with me not to tell anyone. I agreed, but I encouraged her to report the incident when she graduated. To his credit, the professor was impartial in grading, and the student did well in the course.

But it's important not to let such incidents go.  Not that we want anyone punished; but such problems continue unless they're addressed. There are those who still think our "Basic Student" is an able-bodied Heterosexual, Christian Caucasian who was born in the US and will graduate at age 22. Older students, students of color, disabled students, students with varying religions and lifestyles, along with international students are somehow an afterthought. It's obvious that we need more faculty education.

I kept track of the sudent,  and she graduated a few weeks ago.  Yesterday we went to see Ms. Mary Jordan, ETSU's Special Assistant to the President for Cultural Diversity and Equal Opportunity. With meticulous care and the supreme tact that comes of long experience, Ms. Jordan inquired into the situation and promised to follow up.  Then, she apologized to the student on behalf of ETSU.

There were tears in the student's eyes as we left Dossett Hall.  She was stunned by how careful Americans are to correct such problems, and because Ms. Jordan's office is close to President's Stanton's, she felt the apology had come from someone important.  In her home country, those in a lower status have little opportunity for redress of grievances.

At times, I've complained about mandated  Diversity and Anti-Harrassment training. But there's a reason for it. Respect for all persons is embedded in American law. It makes me proud. 

Below: Dossett Hall, ETSU.
Second Below:  Mary Jordan, Special Assistant to the President for Cultural Diversity and Equal Opportunity

No comments:

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...