Story by NHIEN NGUYEN
Just days before Nina Kim began her fall semester at Washington State University, Asian American activist groups supporting Kim’s fight for justice gathered on Aug. 18 to denounce a recent Washington State Human Rights Commission Task Force Report related to race and ethnic relations at the university.
The report was a result of pressure on university administrators from students and local community groups who questioned the university’s response to incidents of racial and sexual harassment experienced by Kim and a student conduct process that exonerated the perpetrators. The Asian American coalition, including groups such as Japanese American Citizens League and Organization of Chinese Americans, said that the report released on July 11 was biased in favor of the university at the expense of students and the community.
“The Human Rights Commission report gives a superficial look at racial harassment, and misses entirely the intersection of race and gender discrimination experienced by the young Asian American woman repeatedly victimized: first by the white male students, then by WSU, and now by the Human Rights Commission,” states Diane Narasaki, Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of King County.
Kim said that the report unfairly judged her perspective. She said, “The Human Rights Commission Task Force did not do justice to the perspectives of the multicultural community on campus.”
Angela Taniguchi, WSU alum, joined Kim and the coalition of community groups on affirming their work on protecting marginalized student populations on campus. Taniguchi says that Kim’s racial harassment echoes the experience of many other students, and what separates her from others, “is that she chose to report them.”
Kim begins her new academic year at WSU with mixed feelings. She is hopeful of changes as far as the university’s treatment of students of color and its response to her situation, though she is “not too optimistic about how quickly they will come about.”
Within the first week or so of classes, Kim says she has already had a “terrible experience” with her anthropology professor who made fun of different cultures that eat dog. After confronting him with the remarks, the professor asked Kim whether she had eaten dog. Kim has since dropped the course and sent a letter of complaint to the anthropology department about the professor’s behavior.
Meanwhile, the Asian American community is demanding greater accountability by the university administration in creating a safe and inclusive campus environment for all students of color. The community calls for 10 specific actions by WSU to improve the campus climate for students of color, faculty, staff, and all students, which includes the administration adopting a policy that clearly articulates that any form of harassment, discrimination, or bias will not be tolerated and will be acted upon.
Kim plans to maintain a 4.0 semester grade point average that she earned last spring, while taking a stronger proactive stance in creating changes demanded by some students in previous campus-wide protests. She said, “There are still many negatives about the WSU campus and I encourage future students to think twice about our campus climate.”
“I ask that everyone be critical of what the University says and to help sustain the pressure to meet student demands,” said Kim.
“I love the students and will do anything to make sure that they feel safe and that they have an environment that is conducive to critical learning.”