International Students condemn tutor after leaked racist messages
WORDS BY APARNA BALAKUMAR & NOAH VAZ
A tutor at the University of Sydney has come under fire after a series of racist messages he allegedly sent about Chinese international students was released on social media overnight.
Yesterday evening, several international students came forth with screenshots of racial comments on social platform ‘Weibo’, a China-based microblogging service. They allege the account belongs to a tutor at the University of Sydney Business School.
The leaked messages on Weibo reveal a plethora of anti-Chinese sentiment. English translation comments include, “It is shameful to be Chinese,” and “luckily I can block all the Chinese email by the spam function”, while others express dismay at having to tutor “international student pigs” who have a “low IQ”.
One of the leaked Weibo messages calling Chinese students “international student pigs”.
Since the screenshots were leaked, most of the Weibo comments have been removed and the profile picture linked to the account in question has been changed to avoid identification.
The Chinese international student who first released the screenshots against the tutor in a Facebook post at 7:50pm last night, wrote that the tutor’s actions made his peers and himself feel unsafe in class.
“As a Chinese student, I feel very insecure in his tutorials and lectures because of how clearly he shows his HATE towards China and the Chinese people. He makes me wonder, if he hates the Chinese so much, how could he possibly teach Chinese students without any prejudice? Is there any chance that he could hurt us in his tutorial? How can we pay $4750 tuition fees per unit to get this kind of "tutor"?! WE DO NOT ACCEPT IT”.
After the screenshots were widely circulated on social media (the original post has been shared over 150 times), the SUBS Executive were approached by international student representatives to see what direct actions they would be taking to hold the tutor accountable.
A online petition to “put an end to his racism, disrespect, and insulting remarks” was subsequently created by students in the Faculty.
“This petition is to condemn the racist and humiliating comments perpetrated by [name redacted], towards International Students studying at the University of Sydney Business School,” it reads. “[His] continual disrespect for Chinese International Students through frequent, abusive and xenophobic remarks on social media networks ‘Weibo’ and ‘Wechat' are appalling, shameful and unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for the organisers of the petition (who asked for their name to be withheld) said they hope it causes the university to hold the tutor accountable. They confirmed to Pulp that they are hoping for his immediate suspension.
“These comments have been extremely hurtful towards the International Student community and are in direct violation of the University of Sydney’s Code of Conduct for staff members,” the spokesperson said.
“We are currently still discussing our demands with the Business School... however, we would hope for an immediate suspension as his comments have created a large extent of controversy, which can damage the Business School’s reputation”.
International students commenting on the leaked images said they were “humiliated” and feel “uncomfortable” that they may have to cross paths with the tutor to complete their studies.
International Students react to the leaked screenshots
Section 4 of the ‘University’s Code of Conduct’ states that all staff and affiliates must “act fairly and reasonably, and treat students, staff, affiliates, visitors to the University and members of the public with respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity”. Section 11 of the University’s ‘Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy (2015)’ also classifies harassment as “making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race or religion, gender or sexual preference”.
If the allegations against the tutor in question are substantiated and proven to be true, his comments could be in breach of these policies, which could in turn provide grounds for termination of his employment.
“We have always been proud of our diverse student body and give respect to individualism,” an involved student representative told Pulp. “We expect fair and equal opportunities from our educators and were extremely disappointed by the comments”.
International Student Officers of the Student Representatives Council, Jasmine Yu, Angel Zhao and Alexander Shu, and the 2014 International Student Officer, Emma Liu, have said they are confident the University will conduct a fair investigation and provide a satisfactory response. They told Pulp they have contacted the Chinese Embassy and approached a lawyer in regards to pursuing the claims.
“We would like to remind everyone to stay calm when dealing with this situation. We understand that it is difficult being a victim of racism and racism is definitely not allowed in Australia,” a statement released by the group said.
“As this is an extraordinary case of discrimination, we would like ask anyone who does not identify themselves a part of the victim group, to refrain from making any irresponsible comments on this incident.”
Lamya Rahman, an Office Bearer for the Autonomous Collective Against Racism and Ethnocultural Officer for the University’s Student Representative Council, said it was disappointing to see such blatant racism being perpetuated-- especially by an educator.
"Racism towards Chinese students, especially those studying here as international students, is an issue seen time and time again on our campus. But to potentially have that racism committed and perpetrated by someone who is given a position of authority and academic power in this university, as alleged by the leaked screenshots, is particularly disconcerting - all students deserve the right to study without feeling that their academic work and safety in tutorials is compromised due to their race".
A WeChat group has been established for the affected international students to discuss their demands for the University. It currently has 341 members.
This is not the first time a staff member has come under fire for racist slurs uncovered in their personal communications. In 2014, University of Sydney Professor Barry Spurr was suspended (and later resigned) after racist emails of his, which included the terms “bogans", "fatsoes", "Mussies", “Abo-lover” and "Chinky-poos", were leaked by website New Matilda.
More to come.
Note: At the time of publishing, neither the University or the Business School had released an official statement.
All Chinese to English translations in this article were verified by Noah Vaz.