Elaine Lin waited two days for UB to issue a statement about the racially motivated Atlanta spa shootings that left eight people dead and millions more rattled last week.
When, on Thursday, UB issued a statement on its Instagram account, Lin was disappointed that the school didn’t send it as an email to the university community.
“When [UB] finally posted, it was only an Instagram post [and] the whole message isn’t displayed,” Lin, a senior mechanical and aerospace engineering major, said. “The entire message is in the captions and it’s not that noticeable.”
Three hours later, following a slew of negative Instagram comments, President Satish Tripathi copied-and-pasted the statement and sent it as an email, but without UB’s letterhead, which also upset Lin.
“We stand in sorrow and solidarity with our students, faculty and staff of Asian descent,” Tripathi wrote in the 320-word statement. “Moreover, as a global community of scholars grounded in ideals of social justice, we condemn, in the strongest of terms, anti-Asian harassment, hatred and violence — just as we condemn the ignorance, prejudice and bigotry at their root.”
Many students felt UB’s email was inadequate and hasty. UB says President Tripathi’s statement condemning anti-Asian crimes and harassment was appropriate and such acts will not be tolerated on-campus.
UB spokesperson John DellaContrada said in an email that President Tripathi does not take this issue lightly and displayed genuine concern in his statement to the UB community.
“All students at UB — particularly UB’s Asian and Asian American students — can be assured of the seriousness, urgency and sincerity of President Tripathi’s statement on Anti-American violence,” DellaContrada wrote.
DellaContrada says the message was shared through all of UB’s communication channels including its website, social media accounts –– which he said are popular among students –– and in a community-wide email.
Still, many students were upset they had to ask for an email in the first place.
Yvonne Weng says she doesn’t feel seen or supported by the university as an Asian student. She says UB responded to the anti-Asian crimes too late and even then the messaging fell short.
“UB’s attitude or the president’s attitude really disappointed us, and we felt neglected,” Weng, a senior business administration major, said. “The president did not send any official email to the whole community until we commented and protested under the post.”
Weng says the email didn’t contain the UB seal, wasn’t appropriately formatted and was copy-pasted from the social media post, unlike all other official emails sent out by the school.
“After we received the ‘official’ email from the president, the first reaction [that] came up to me and all my Asian friends are ‘what a perfunctory email,’” Weng said.
Many students also feel that UB’s actions don’t reflect its words.
Ally Herrnson, a senior psychology major, says she emailed Tripathi’s office on two separate occasions in November and December 2019, and again in June 2020, regarding hate symbols on campus. She emailed his office multiple times over the summer about a video and other posts highlighting “racist acts” on campus that were circulating on social media.
But Herrnson says she never got a response.
Herrnson says she saw hate symbols etched on the desks in Lockwood Library and other on-campus locations which made her feel “unsafe.”
“I expressed that I felt endangered as there were no cameras in that area or in many libraries on campus,” Herrnson said. “I still, to this day, have never received an email back.”
Jennifer Gaynor, a research fellow at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, wrote in a March 19 email to Tripathi and other campus officials that the university has historically neglected the Asian studies department and the Asian community. She says UB has a track record of denying adequate funding and support for research, hiring faculty and declining tenure to experienced professors in the Asian studies department.
In the email, Gaynor says she was denied tenure with “no explanation.”
“I join [President Tripathi] in this vital call to refuse any place for hate at UB against Asians,” Gaynor wrote.
But Gaynor says she finds it “extraordinarily hypocritical — at the institutional level — that UB stakes a claim to countering Asia-related xenophobia.”
Herrnson says UB sends messages and shares solidarity posts when hate crimes occur but the school doesn’t take the necessary steps to make its students feel safer. She called the university’s emails impersonal and “generic.”
“Hate symbols aren’t removed from desks, safety measures aren't properly installed and messages aren't heartfelt as they aren't true, there is hate on this campus today,” Herrnson said. “I believe this school can always do more. I truly believe listening and responding to students who express concern would be the first step.”
Vindhya Burugupalli is the senior engagement editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vindhya Burugupalli is the engagement editor for The Spectrum. She loves traveling and documenting her experiences through mp4s and jpegs. In her free time, she can be found exploring cute coffee shops and food spots.