Earlier this afternoon, we received a tip that name tags on the doors of Asian students living in EC, Schapiro, and other dorms had been ripped off. Students affected were both Asian-American and international, but the perpetrators seemed to focus on name tags appearing distinctly non-Western. This vandalism began earlier this semester in EC as the vandals ripped down the students’ name tags multiple times. The wave of barbarity then expanded to include Schapiro over the Lunar New Year.
The incidents enjoyed heavy publicity today when Melinda Aquino, Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs, sent out an email to students in the CU Asian American Alliance and other Asian identity-based groups on campus. This email affirmed that “primarily doortags of students with non-Western names, particularly East Asian names” were torn down. She sent this email in order to “offer any support needed from Multicultural Affairs and other colleagues in Undergraduate Student Life.” Dean Aquino also invited students to come forward with more information regarding the vandalism, either by emailing, calling, or filing a bias incident report via the EOAA website.
After Aquino sent this email, more and more people came forward with reports that these incidents had affected them as well. The AAA later put out a statement condemning the vandalism as “xenophobic efforts to divide and incite fear among Columbia’s Asian and Asian American community.” These students state that “these actions have deeply disturbed the international student communities on campus,” and call back to previous dorm vandalism at Columbia. Last year, for example, a bulletin board in Carman dedicated to Trans Awareness Month suffered from multiple bouts of vandalism.
“As a group that has East Asian members, these incidents remind us of our larger, shared struggle for racial justice and against antagonism directed at minority groups,” the AAA writes. The statement as a whole “represents our rejection of acts of bigotry and intimidation both on this campus and in the larger world today.” It also includes a list of resources for students affected by the vandalism. Signatories include the Vietnamese Student Association, the Korean Students Association, the Taiwanese American Student Association, the Chinese Students Club, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Columbia Japan Society, Global China Connection, and Kiran Aida.
“It’s just super offensive because our Chinese names literally take so long to figure out,” said Joanna Zhang, SEAS ’19. “Because each individual character in Chinese means a word, and you have to piece it together to mean something…I imagine it must be even rougher on the international students.”
“It’s honestly just so fucking disrespectful,” she said. Joanna, as well as other students with English names who were not personally affected by the violence, has pledged to put up a new nametag displaying her Chinese name.
The Chinese community is currently working on other measures in response to this violence, including a Spec op-ed, a compilation of information on incidents, a short video interviewing affected students, and a report to the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office.
Dean Aquino’s email to leaders of Asian identity-based groups:
Dear AAA, APAHM, CJS, CSC, GCC, HKSSS, KSA, and TASA
My name is Melinda Aquino, Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs with Undergraduate Student Life. One of my roles is responding to and helping to coordinate efforts to address bias incidents on campus. My colleagues on the Bias Response Team for CC and SEAS and I take each report seriously in efforts to best offer support to individuals and community who are impacted, effectively address who may be responsible and why this is happening in our community, and strategize any needed next steps.
I am sorry to reach out in these circumstances. Recently, we have received reports in several residents halls that doortags have been taken down on multiple student doors. From what we know and can assess at this time, it is primarily doortags of students with non-Western names, particularly East Asian names. As you can imagine, the growing climate of xenophobia furthers the impact of this action and the anxiety felt by many of our students.
I am reaching out to your groups to inform you of these reports (if you are not aware already) and to offer any support needed from Multicultural Affairs and other colleagues in Undergraduate Student Life. Since we do not have access to your membership lists, please kindly extend this support to your members. (We are also reaching out to other groups across campus.)
Also, if you or your members have more information that may help us better understand the scope and impact on students as well as any information you may have on responsible parties, please let me know. I can be reach at this email, via phone at 212-854-7152, or in our 510 Lerner office. If it is more comfortable for you and members to share info, bias incident reports also can be made via the EOAA website.
Please let me know if I can be of further support for this or anything else.
Statement from AAA, signed by other groups:
This afternoon, Asian American Alliance (AAA) and other Asian student organizations, learned that the door tags of primarily students with East Asian names have been taken down in multiple student residence halls across Columbia University’s campus. AAA, as well as the below signatories, condemn these actions as xenophobic efforts to divide and incite fear among Columbia’s Asian and Asian American community. By focusing on “foreign names” as a marker of difference, these efforts echo the actions of the Trump administration that target people of color, specifically black and brown bodies with non-Western names, as unwelcome. These actions have deeply disturbed the international student communities on campus. This incident is also not the first time that residence halls have been used to target marginalized students on campus.
As a group that has East Asian members, these incidents remind us of our larger, shared struggle for racial justice and against antagonism directed at minority groups. We also recognize that the these incidents reflect a sense of uncertainty and threat that our South Asian/Southeast Asian peers disproportionately struggle with. As a result, we, the Columbia University Asian American Alliance, and the below signatories, condemn these recent incidents as a racist and unacceptable attempt to alienate this school’s international and domestic Asian and Asian American community. This statement represents our rejection of acts of bigotry and intimidation both on this campus and in the larger world today. Please sign below at the bottom of this page if you stand in solidarity with our statement.
If you have been affected by these actions, please feel free to make use of any of the following resources:
Columbia Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS): (212) 854-2878
Columbia Health: (212) 854-7426
Office of the University Chaplain: (212) 854-1493
Berick Center for Student Advising (CSA): (212) 854-6378
Director of Student Wellness: (212) 853-1369
NightLine: (212) 854-7777
Rosemary Furman Counseling Center: (212)-854-2092
RA on Duty: http://housing.columbia.edu/housing-options/residences/ra-duty
Additionally, if you have any further insight or information about these events, please reach out to Dean Aquino (the Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs) via phone at (212) 854-7152, or in Lerner 510. Bias incident reports can also be made via the EOAA website.
Vietnamese Student Association
Korean Students Association
Taiwanese American Student Association
Chinese Students Club
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Columbia Japan Society
Global China Connection