About 60 members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization staged a rally Thursday to protest what they said was discrimination against Chinese graduate students at the University.
Displaying banners and international flags, demonstrators assembled in front of the Hall of Graduate Studies and Woodbridge Hall around noon to hear several speakers, including GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 and Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale president Cong Huang GRD ’09. After the rally, students delivered a petition to Graduate School Dean Jon Butler’s office, which demanded an official investigation into a possible case of discrimination as well as the creation of a grievance committee for international students.
The rally and petition focused on the case of Xuemei Han GRD ’09, a third-year graduate student in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology who was asked to leave in August by her department.
“Chinese students, together with GESO, are staring at [the administration],” Huang said. If they cannot solve this case fairly, we will never stop protesting.”
GESO members said the EEB department asked Han to leave not because of her scholarship, but because of her imperfect English. Han said in her complaint that a faculty member told her that other professors spent significant amounts of time proofreading her manuscripts because of her difficulties with English.
Butler, who is the final arbiter of complaints against faculty and administration members, declined to comment on Han’s case or the specific grievance that students presented to his office this afternoon.
“The Graduate School is deeply committed to fairly treating its students, to the sanctity of student records and to the propriety of its long-established grievance procedures,” Butler said. “We would hope that any student who felt that he or she had not been treated fairly would meet with members of their department, with deans of the graduate school and indeed would invoke the grievance procedure if that’s what’s called for.”
The Graduate Student Assembly discussed Han’s grievance at a meeting Wednesday night, but the group is waiting for more information before they decide to take a position, GSA President Julia Azari GRD ’08 said.
“We didn’t conclude anything because we want all the details,” Azari said. “We want to hear it from [Han].”
In her written testimony, Han said she was unable to find a permanent advisor in the EEB department, but arranged to work with Chad Oliver, a professor at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Han said she was then told to transfer to FES to complete her doctoral degree, but she does not know if her scholarship will still be valid. Without funding or the guarantee of a place at FES, GESO members said Han could be forced to leave the country.
“As nearly as I can tell from her, she did everything in good standing,” Oliver said. “There was never a time the department could find that she had failed.”
The complaint will be referred to either an official grievance committee or the Graduate School Executive Committee, according to Graduate School procedure. If the case proceeds to the grievance committee, an investigator, normally a faculty member, will prepare a written brief on the case before a hearing is held with both parties. Butler will then make a final decision about the complaint on the basis of the committee’s final report.
The procedure requires that the matter be resolved within about three months after the complaint is submitted.