This week, The University Times published an op-ed written by two PhD candidates in Trinity on behalf of a larger group of postgraduates in College who have launched a petition for universities to tackle anti-Asian racism on campuses.
The petition provides a harrowing depiction of the issue, from personal testimonies of verbal harassment on the streets, to stories of students on placement experiencing “over-the-counter” racism.
Perhaps most disturbing is the clear evidence of increasing instances of violent attacks against Asian people in Ireland and Irish people of Asian descent – right up to the horrific death of a Mongolian woman Urantsetseg Tserendorj in Dublin earlier this year.
Elsewhere, Moonyoung Hong – a Trinity PhD candidate and one of the signatories of the petition – described how the fetishisation of Asian women follows her into her working life. “We are not taken seriously as competent workers”, she wrote, “but regarded as cheerful objects to boost men’s egos”.
Anti-Asian racism increasingly exists in society and this is something colleges ought to be paying more attention to. Asian researchers or students should be able to teach, learn, attend conferences or do anything else expected in a university environment without having to worry about how their peers will treat them based on their outward appearance.
If this is the lived experience of members of the Asian community in universities, then Trinity – which prides itself on being a welcome place for international students and researchers – should be doing more to address it.
But moreover, Asian students and academics should not have to spend their time and energy fighting to be treated the same as their white peers. This must become the universities’ problem to address.
Universities must listen to the demands of the signatories of the petition. They must outwardly condemn racism and put in place tangible ways to deal with instances of racially motivated hatred – which includes providing support for victims. Ireland’s Asian community has clearly demonstrated what they are experiencing. But the responsibility for fixing the problems they face lies at the higher education sector’s door.