Renee, a sophomore at DePauw, came home to Mason Hall last Tuesday to find a sign harshly warning residents: “CAMERA INSTALLED. DO NOT PLACE FOOD OF ANY KIND (INCLUDING SOUP) IN THIS SINK!” However, the message did not end there. Below the first sign, a poor translation of the message into Mandarin, likely using the help of an online translating site, followed. As an international student from Beijing, Renee shared that this message was not only hurtful and offensive to her, but to the entire Chinese community.
The fact that the message was translated into Mandarin suggests two things; firstly, the assumption is made that those clogging the drain are Chinese students. Secondly, the translation presumes that the Chinese residents of Mason Hall cannot read English. As all DePauw students take the majority of their courses in English, this is an absurd and offensive assertion.
One student responded with a note that read, “Don’t understand Mandarin? Don’t write in Mandarin,” referencing the numerous errors in the translated text.
While Renee is unsure of who left the message, she does not think that it was a Resident Assistant. Nevertheless, she said that Mason Hall residents and Chinese students, in particular, are “angry because the Chinese translation doesn’t make sense at all, so we just feel it’s ridiculous.”
Racial micro aggressions of the like are anything but nonexistent on our campus. Renee expanded on this reality, saying, “Asians who come to America want to feel that this is their new home, but how others treat them makes them feel that it is not home. I think this is what’s happened at DePauw. We came here as international students and we want to see here as home… but sometimes we feel it is difficult to talk with others. Most foreigners feel that Chinese are quiet and that [non native English speakers] are somewhat not well educated. We are really not, so that stereotype really hurt us.”
Renee said that she believes that certain efforts and organizations on campus, like The Movement, Student Services, AAAS and CLC, are doing a good job working to address these issues. However, said Renee, “it’s hard to change a person’s perspective, so if you don’t want to change that perspective you can’t force change… I think it’s a normal thing that at the hub Chinese people will sit together, and white people will sit together and African American people will sit together… but we are separated to some extent.”
Many often attribute acts of discrimination to ignorance. However, the message left for Mason Hall residents was anything but thoughtless. It intentionally and purposefully targeted a certain group of individuals. Related instances reveal a need to unlearn and transform a current concept of community. Cultural, class, gender, and racial divides should not fundamentally characterize the general understanding of community on our campus. While the existence of smaller communities can be extremely empowering for any individual, an overall feeling of inclusivity seems to be lacking, with some feeling the effects of this absence more than others.
Anna Butz, a DePauw alum and former International Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing a Fulbright in Colombia, commented on the issue. Butz said, “I think this [message] is representative of DePauw as an institution, and the lack of support felt by many students who do not identify as part of DePauw’s ‘majority’ (white, heterosexual, middle to upper middle class). Unfortunately, many of those at DePauw who are in positions of power (like the person who put up this poster) are those who are not aware of the struggles faced by many DePauw students… What is worse is that I know that somewhere on DePauw’s campus someone is thinking: ‘Why the hell is this such a big deal? It’s just a poster!’ and that right there proves that our campus has a long way to go to become inclusive.”
Renee has not yet reported the incident but says that she will not remain quiet about it.