“Heartbroken”: Chinese students responds to Coronavirus party

More than 150 sign petition seeking undergraduate trustee’s ouster

Chinese students respond to the Coronavirus party.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

“We all make mistakes and it is important to acknowledge them.”

These were the words that Summer Chen, incoming ASUS senator, said in an interview with The Journal on Tuesday in response to the Coronavirus-themed party that took place on Feb. 1.

After The Journal reported on Monday that a Coronavirus party had taken place, it garnered more than 100 comments on the popular Queen’s Facebook group, Overheard at Queen’s. While the post has since been removed from the page by its moderators, there were comments on the article like “To be fair, your country’s poor hygiene practices are to blame for this outbreak and you know it.”

In a series of interviews with The Journal, Chinese international students at Queen’s described difficulty coping with both the party and the community’s subsequent response. Overwhelmingly, they’re demanding action from the University.

“I feel disappointed and heartbroken,” Chen said. “This isn’t the first time that these parties have been organized.”

While she said she recognizes attendees of the party didn’t go with malice, she said the party still demonstrated “total ignorance and lack of respect.”

Chen said not only was the party horrifying, but it also evoked racist comments and amplified hatred toward the Asian community, and especially the Chinese community.

“People who got infected by the virus are not only numbers, they are human beings.” Chen said. “This is not a war between Asians and everyone else.”

Chen also said that since the increase in annual international students’ tuition, those students are now paying 5.25 times more than domestic students, and yet, not enough support and services are provided to them.

“[International students] face so many barriers, such as languages, homesickness, and culture shock,” she said. Chen added that, with all these barriers, it’s unfair for international students to not have a basic sense of security.

“They don’t see Queen’s as their second home because they’re being called ‘chink’ or ‘Chinese virus’ when they are wearing masks on the bus,” she said.

Queen’s students Natasha (Si-yi) Zhang (ConEd ’20) and Serena Geng (ConEd ’20) share some of Chen’s feelings. In an interview with The Journal, the two fourth-year students said the Coronavirus party was largely due to a lack of cultural education. The two still noted the University isn’t doing enough to address the problem.

“The action itself really highlights the underlying potential mentality of the Queen’s Community,” Geng said. “A lot of the comments under the post became evidence of how the broader Queen’s community feels towards this event.”

“The fact is that these kinds of parties have happened twice in our whole university career. It shows that this issue isn’t addressed at its core,” Zhang added. “This will potentially continue to happen if nothing is done.”

In the wake of the party, students have brought a renewed focus to other racist and discriminatory incidents reported over the last year, like the Chown Hall incident and the torn-down Chinese couplets in Victoria Hall.

“We’re not trying to blame anyone, it easily could have been any one of us,” Zhang said. “But I think the fact that [the party attendees] didn’t think twice really shows the segregation of students.”

As an example, Zhang said the elected undergraduate trustee is supposed to represent the entire Queen’s undergraduate body. She said Macintyre’s actions show he’s “disconnected from international students.”

“I think what we really want to get across is to pop the bubbles on campus through exposure and highlighting our voices and our stories,” Geng added.

As a solution, Zhang proposed the University try to bridge the students and help them gain more cultural education, such as highlighting the stories of marginalized students.

“Whether that be with The Queen’s Journal or with a Humans of Queen’s page, so that people who are in their bubbles realize that in their community, there are people who have different lived experiences,” Geng said.

According to her, a collaborative approach like the partnership between the Peer Support Centre (PSC) and Committee Against Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (CARED) would allow students to feel more integrated with one another.

The petition

Upon reading The Journal’sreport on Monday, Xiaochuan Yu, a Queen’s student currently on exchange in the Netherlands, drafted a letter to petition for the removal of Tyler Macintyre from the position of undergraduate trustee.

“His behaviour as the public endorsement of racism and indifference to the lost lives clearly suggests that he is no longer capable of being a student trustee,” Yu wrote in a statement to The Journal.

Yu gathered 160 signatories from students who were impacted by the incident, and had it sent to the AMS and the Human Rights and Equity office.

“He has lost the trust from people who have been deeply hurt and affected by this party. That’s why I decided to reach out to those who have been affected by Tyler’s misconduct and start a petition,” Yu said.

The Queen’s Asian Students’ Association (QASA) responds

In an interview with The Journal, Yaxuan Li, ConEd ’20, said she felt confused. She didn’t understand “how people [could] be so insensitive and ignorant.”

Hedi Zhou, LifeSci ’21, shared similar sentiments.

Zhou herself has family currently living in Wuhan, a city in quarantine following the Coronavirus outbreak. She called the Overheard comments “inappropriate.”

“We as Chinese students, from the country which is being affected the most, don’t really feel comfortable.”

Days before news broke about the party, where students used medical masks as decorations, Zhou and Li started a fundraising initiative to collect medical supplies to send back to Wuhan. 

Li said Queen’s students should realize their privilege living in a safe environment. “People back [in Wuhan] are still struggling to stay away from infection,” she said.

The Queen’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association

In an interview with The Journal, the Queen’s Chinese Students and Scholar’s Association (QCSSA), urged students to consider the impact of their actions on those directly impacted by the Coronavirus.

Cherish Fan, CompSci ’22, QCSSA’s marketing coordinator, said the virus is “not about race.”

“97 per cent of affected people are locked up in the province. It’s a lot of sacrifice. We hope that the AMS and the Queen’s community can take this affair more seriously,” she said.

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