Dear Campus Community,
Here at the University of California, Irvine we are proud of our distinction as a minority-serving institution several times over. We celebrate and actively seek to increase the diversity that creates an environment where Arts, Humanities, and STEM can all thrive, nurturing one another through sharing the varied perspectives of the students and faculty we bring to campus. But celebrating diversity is not sufficient in times of crisis. The Covid-19 outbreak has once again shown us just how close to the surface the centuries-old racism is throughout the world. The increased violence, hate crimes, and hate speech being experienced by members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community are a disgusting testament to how easily society can backslide into open bigotry if decency is not diligently guarded by those who strive for better. This virus does not discriminate based on race or ethnicity, and the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 is not from ethnicity. Instead, it is from prolonged exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Asian and Pacific Islanders account for 37%, 26.7%, and 23.4% of UCI’s undergraduate, graduate, and faculty populations, respectively. They are vital members of our community involved in all aspects of university life. They are the single largest minority group on campus, and that fact sometimes leads to the misconception that these individuals are no longer at risk of discrimination, racism, and violence. Yet the subtle and overt actions taken on this very campus, and statements shared throughout our community over social media, show that this is not the case. UCI is not immune to the dangerous groupthink mentality that has arisen during this global crisis. Two-year-olds are being stabbed for “spreading the disease,” people are being beaten and spit on in the streets, and hate fills social media.
The World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic is a call to action to protect our collective public health, as well as remind us that we must stand together in times of despair and uncertainty. As student leaders, we urge every single individual on this campus to make it their mission to speak up for our colleagues in the coming days, weeks, and months. Don’t allow off-handed comments to linger unchallenged. Use what power you possess in your various social circles to actively break down the dangerous stereotypes being circulated regarding COVID-19. We understand how uncomfortable it can be to call out a friend or stranger for being insensitive or bigoted, but we urge you to do so in whatever way you safely and effectively can while understanding that not every fight is yours to take on alone. Find others who can help to keep us all accountable. Hate thrives in environments of low resistance.
This is not just about identifying and stopping negative behavior. To effectively fight the hatred and ignorance spreading alongside the infections, we must also raise our voices in support and praise for our Asian and Pacific Islander friends, family, and colleagues. We must remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to live and work at a university that brings such diverse perspectives and experiences together, the inclusive spirit that fuels our ingenuity and continually propels UCI into the highest-ranked universities in the world. It is not always an easy task, but it is an essential one. When hatred and misinformation are spewed, we must fight to defend the truth and hold up our cherished community members. This is how we will continue to uphold the values of diversity that UCI holds so dear.
Shane K.M. Wood-President, AGS Randy Yan-President, ASUCI