Xuemei Han GRD ’09 will be allowed to transfer to the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies without giving up her fellowship funding, after that Graduate Employees and Students organization rallied on her behalf last week, charging Yale with discrimination against Chinese students.
Han, who was asked in August to leave the ecology and evolutionary biology department, met with graduate school officials Tuesday morning, five days after GESO members submitted a grievance petition accusing the University of discrimination against Chinese students. During last week’s rally, Han said she wanted to transfer to the environment school, where professor Chad Oliver — her academic advisor — teaches, but did not know if she would lose her funding.
During the meeting, Assistant Graduate School Dean Thomas Burns told Han she can transfer to the environment school without losing the funding she receives from the Fan Fellowship.
“I’m happy that finally I have been offered a solution,” Han said. “I also want Yale University to really do something, to take some action to make sure that other Chinese students and other international students won’t have to face similar things to what happened to me.”
Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky confirmed that Han is in the process of transferring to the Ph.D. program in the environment school.
“We have a policy of protecting students’ privacy and we do not disclose the details of a student grievance but I can say that the University has responded positively to the concerns expressed by Xuemei Han,” Klasky said in an e-mail.
Both Burns and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler declined to comment on Han’s case.
The rally and complaint received considerable attention from press outside of Yale, including media outlets in Hong Kong and China, GESO spokeswoman Mandi Jackson GRD ’07 said. Han said she was interviewed Sunday afternoon by a Hong Kong television program and she believes the coverage was instrumental to her case.
“I think that’s the main reason why Yale could resolve my problem so quickly,” Han said.
Yale President Richard Levin said he was informed about the rally and grievance, but press coverage was not the impetus for resolving the case.
“Bringing the petition to my attention and the attention of the officers was probably the most compelling reason that things were resolved quickly,” he said.
GESO chair Mary Reynolds GRD ’07 said the agreement to admit Han to the environment school was a “victory” for both Han and GESO. But there is a pattern of discrimination against Chinese students that must also be stopped, she said.
“It’s a victory for GESO because we are a union that works to protect the rights of its members,” Reynolds said.
Cong Huang GRD ’09, president of the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale, said he was surprised by the University’s swift response to the rally and petition. But he said he hopes Yale also creates a new grievance procedure for international students, one of the demands in the petition submitted last week.
“Of course it is great news, both for Xuemei and for all of the people that were working on this issue,” Huang said. “I hope the University can establish a real mechanism in the future to prevent Xuemei’s case from happening again.”
Reynolds said GESO will continue to demand a new grievance procedure to resolve similar cases because funding concerns can jeopardize visa status for international students.
Klasky said Butler is looking into the other concerns raised about discrimination against students.
“The Dean of the Graduate School will investigate the concerns registered about several other students and, if necessary, take action to ensure compliance with all University policies,” she said.
Han said she expects her transfer to the environment school to be completed this semester.