Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly referred to as Virginia Tech, was recently called out for a flyer released by the Cranwell International Center (CIC) that depicts its Filipino American students as international students.
Virginia Tech junior student, Rajni Kapania, shared a photo of the flyer featuring several Filipino American students of the university.
VT stays disrespecting minorities when literally NONE of these students are international… when is this gonna end 😪 pic.twitter.com/owqM8SELV8
— rajni (@ratchnikapania) November 6, 2018
“VT stays disrespecting minorities when literally NONE of these students are international… when is this gonna end,” the student wrote in her Twitter post last week.
Kapania found this incident offensive. While speaking to Richmond Times-Dispatch on Nov. 8, she said that she wanted to raise awareness after she received a text about the flyer.
“These are just my friends,” she told the publication. “I’m standing up for them.”
“(The students in the photo) feel like this is another thing that’s making them feel like an outsider,” said Aubrey Medina, a junior majoring in multimedia journalism and international studies and a member of the Filipino American Student Association (FASA), Collegiate Times reported.
“Like even if they were born and raised in the U.S., they’re still being profiled as an international student just because of the way they look. And that’s where … most of the issue came from.”
Executive Director of Communication and IT for Tech’s Division of Student Affairs, Hunter Gresham, issued an apology on Thursday morning.
“I am now aware of the impact, hurt and discomfort that I’ve caused to members of the [Asian/Pacific Islander] community,” Gresham wrote in the statement. “As such, it is with heartfelt sincerity that I say I am truly sorry. I clearly operated from a place of insensitivity, privilege, and haste … despite training, awareness and a personal commitment to be different and do better.”
She also realized that her “apology does not quickly nor simply erase the hurt and harm” that she has “caused” and adding that this incident is just one microaggression among many that underrepresented students face daily as reported in the Collegiate Times article.
AASU Statement: A Community Response pic.twitter.com/1ZpjnQJzdZ
— VT AASU (@vtaasu) November 8, 2018
The Asian American Student Union, an organization in Virginia Tech that umbrellas 13 other student organizations, called the university’s flyer a microagrression that reinforces the perpetual foreigner stereotype, AsAm News reported.
In the letter, the Student Union listed out several solutions to tackle the problem including: “Public acknowledgement from senior administration to the Virginia Tech community;” “Convening a task force to look at how to prevent marginalized student photos being used inappropriately;” and “A review of current practices of how photographs are used within the university for promotion of diversity.”
However, the university claimed that the photo was taken by one of their staff, but in reality, it was taken by Shawn de Lopez, a student in the university majoring in creative technologies.
“The CIC … claimed that at an event, one of their photographers took the photo, but it was our photographer,” Medina added. “They said (the) photo was taken by one of (their) staff photographers, when in fact, one of our photographers took the photo and it was posted on our social media.”
Tracy Vosburgh, a spokeswoman for the university, also told the media that school officials have now reached out to the Asian American student group to talk about the matter at hand.