Members of the Asian American Students Alliance sent a letter to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel on Saturday expressing concern regarding allegedly racist content in the most recent issues of the Yale Herald and the Rumpus humor magazine.
AASA members registered offense regarding articles in the April issue of the Rumpus portraying Asian women as promiscuous and Asian men as emasculate, as well as a cartoon in last Friday’s Herald suggesting that students might vote against Yale College Council presidential candidate Emery Choi ’07 because he is Asian, AASA co-coordinator Priya Prasad ’08 said. Prasad, who is also the treasurer-elect of the YCC, said the letter was deemed necessary in light of the impression such pieces could give potential students during Bulldog Days this week.
“We sent it to Dean Brenzel because we thought it was particularly alarming that the Rumpus issue was the prefrosh issue,” she said. “If I had picked up this issue when I was a prefrosh, I probably would have thought twice about coming to Yale. I think it undermines a lot of the diversity recruitment.”
Prasad said the article in the Rumpus — which ran under the headline “Me Love You Long Time” — was hurtful and promoted misleading stereotypes.
“We don’t expect everybody to be offended by everything, [and] some of things my peers are offended by I’m not really offended by,” Prasad said. “We just feel that because it’s so prevalent, something is wrong with the climate on campus.”
Rumpus co-Editor in Chief Sam Heller ’08, who spoke with Prasad this weekend, said he thinks AASA’s response was overblown.
“We weren’t necessarily [politically correct] about it, but I think that you have to have a sense of humor,” he said. “You shouldn’t take it so seriously. We’re not trying to tear down the Asian community here.”
Although a decision about whether to publish an apology or a retraction will be left to the incoming Rumpus editorial board, Heller said he stands by his decision to print the article. He said Rumpus did not intend to target Asians as a racial group and that the publication could have just as easily focused on other stereotypes about groups on campus, such as what he called the “insularity” of the Afro-American Cultural Center.
The Herald cartoon features two students talking about which candidate they will vote for in the YCC presidential runoff between Choi and Larry Wise ’08. To one of the student’s remarks that “it doesn’t matter, ’cause YCC doesn’t do jack s–,” the other responds by asking, “And plus, isn’t Emery Asian?”
Herald Editor in Chief Tamara Micner ’07 said the cartoon was not intended to be racist; it was merely meant to raise awareness of some of the characteristics students take into account when voting in YCC elections, she said.
“I think the comic was provocative with a point behind it,” she said. “The comic was parodying the absurd choices that students sometimes make when they’re voting in the YCC elections. … I can understand the comic can be viewed as racist, but it’s really supposed to parody racist thoughts that people have.”
But Prasad said that regardless of the way views like those in the cartoon are presented, she thinks they are offensive and insensitive.
“I think that’s a very common view people have — that ‘we’re not espousing these values, we are pointing out their existence’ — but I don’t think it comes off like that,” Prasad said.
Although she said she understands some students’ reaction to the comic, Micner said she was not expecting such a strong response and that several Asian students on the Herald staff told her before she decided to publish it that they did not find it offensive.
“I would reconsider publishing it again because we don’t want to alienate people,” Micner said. “We don’t want to hurt people, certainly.”
The letter AASA sent to Brenzel also complained about a January issue of the Herald advertising the Asian American Film Festival with the headline “If You Have Yellow Fever” and the description “Where can you find the largest gatherings of Lees, Wangs, and Kims on campus this weekend? For once, the answer isn’t ‘at the library.'”
Prasad said AASA has arranged a meeting with Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg Thursday to discuss Yale’s continued funding of the two publications in light of the content in question.