Emerson College


Emerson College targeted by ad campaign for suspending student group behind ‘China Kinda Sus’ stickers

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit civil liberties group, has launched an ad campaign targeting Emerson College for suspending the school’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter in late 2021.

  • TPUSA caused controversy in October last year for allegedly criticizing the Chinese government by handing out stickers that read “China kinda sus.”

  • For its ad campaign, FIRE has created a mobile billboard, posters on the city’s transit system and a website called “Emerson kinda sus,” among others.

A nonprofit civil liberties group that promotes freedom of speech in schools recently released an ad campaign targeting Emerson College for suspending the conservative student group who handed out controversial “China kinda sus” stickers late last year.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) ad campaign was created to support Emerson College’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter, which said it sought to criticize the Chinese government and its alleged human rights abuses through its stickers, according to National Review.

FIRE’s ad campaign can be seen throughout Boston’s transit system. The group also plans to display its ads on mobile billboards that will go around the city to “call out Emerson’s attempts to censor and squelch free expression on campus” with the message “Emerson kinda sus [slang for suspicious],” FIRE said.

FIRE is issuing a ‘formal warning’ to Emerson,” FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh said in a recent statement.

Emerson violated its own promises by making it clear that speech criticizing foreign governments will not be tolerated if it angers supporters of those states,” Steinbaugh wrote. “Authoritarian censorship should be rejected, not embraced, by any institution committed to freedom of expression — as Emerson claims to be.”

The chapter’s student members landed in hot water after handing out stickers that contained a hammer and sickle, a character from the popular game “Among Us” and the words “China kinda sus,” as NextShark previously reported. 

On September 30, a day after the stickers were handed out, Emerson Interim President William Gilligan condemned “anti-Asian bigotry” and said that the university would conduct an investigation of its TPUSA chapter. The group was subsequently suspended while its “Bias Related Behavior” was under review.

In October 2021, Steinbaugh sent a letter to Emerson College in response to the suspension of its TPUSA chapter that expressed “concern” over the university’s response to the students’ political “free expression.”

Emerson College’s Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) denounced the stickers as “xenophobic weapons” and accused its TPUSA chapter of creating a “hostile, intimidating or offensive working, living or learning environment” before issuing a formal warning on the group’s record. 

Members of the chapter attempted to appeal Emerson College’s decision, but they were reportedly denied on Nov. 12, 2021.

“It has nothing to do with Asians or Asian culture. I am Chinese-Singaporean myself, and I’m offended by people who suggest I have hatred toward my own race,” KJ Lynum, vice president of the chapter, said in a recent statement. I was born in Singapore. So to be called anti-Asian was very strange.”

Featured Image via John Phelan (CC BY 3.0)

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