Coronavirus and Racism on Campus

Columbia University’s Office of Student Life stated in an email to the community on January 3 that it prioritizes “treating all in our shared community with respect and recognizing the dignity and humanity of each individual here.” However, recent anti-Chinese messages in Butler Library and the School of Social Work, where the message “Fuck Chinese” was written in a bathroom stall, demonstrates that Columbia University continues to foster an environment in which racism can thrive. This recalls Columbia’s long history of responding to racism with lukewarm gestures of admonishment or not responding at all. 

These incidents take place in an environment of rising xenophobia, including the Trump administration’s travel ban on all incoming travel from China for foreign nationals—a policy that the ACLU notes “flies in the face of considerable evidence that travel bans and quarantines can do more harm than good,” and flouts WHO best practices. This ban has led to significant delays in students returning to their work and academic responsibilities. We appreciate all of the individual university staff who have supported students at this difficult time. However, as an institution, rather than supporting affected students in good faith, Columbia University has chosen to implement dehumanizing and confusing policies. 

Some students who have returned to campus from China have actively chosen to self-quarantine, which can often be a difficult and humiliating experience. As a result, they have generally missed classes and work for a fourteen-day period. These students should receive support, rather than inappropriate threats of discipline, as in the case of at least one Barnard student.  

Given this, we demand that the university not just condemn on-campus anti-Chinese racism but actually support students who have been affected both by the novel coronavirus outbreak and the racist response to it. We demand concrete measures to support affected students, including: 

  • An explicit condemnation of on-campus racism (including the above-mentioned incidents) 
  • Reimbursement of costs associated with self-quarantine, and proper, free food delivery
  • Guaranteed arrangements to assist in completion of academic responsibilities, such as remote learning, recorded lectures, and alternative assessment options
  • Guaranteed arrangements to assist in the completion of work-related responsibilities, such as the option of remote work, including from abroad
  • Counseling or other forms of social and emotional support in the language of choice, with the option of remote access, including from abroad
  • No penalties, administrative or financial, of any kind
  • An emergency fund for additional related costs
  • The option of deferral of studies, including tuition refunds (included on a pro-rated basis for weeks missed due to university policies) where applicable
  • Maintenance of enrollment, employment, and immigration status in all cases

Additionally, we demand that the university immediately accept the Graduate Workers of Columbia’s proposed International Student Worker Rights article in our contract negotiations. This article protects against exactly situations such abuses of power. As stated on our website, our position is that SAs unable to return to the U.S. due to immigration issues may perform duties outside of the U.S. We also propose that CU establish itself as a sanctuary campus, reimburse costs of legal assistance and immigration fees related to admission to the program, and provide affordable housing and appropriate tax/visa assistance for international workers.

This is an extremely difficult moment for many student workers. For some it is a matter of life and death. At this time, what we need is solidarity, not suspicion. Columbia University is failing its students. Do better.


哥大校园生活办公室在一月三号的邮件中写道,哥大会“尊重哥大所有人,重视每个人的人性和尊严”。 然而,最近Butler图书馆里的反华涂鸦和社工学院洗手间内 “Fuck Chinese”的留言表明哥大持续纵容一个种族主义猖獗的环境。这与哥大长期以来应对种族主义的不温不火、甚至不闻不问的态度一脉相承。

这些事件并非孤立,而是发生在排外反华情绪持续升温的大环境中。特朗普政府的中国入境禁令,不仅罔顾世界卫生组织的建议,而且被ACLU认为 “与旅行禁令和疫区弊大于利的大量证据相抵牾”。该禁令导致了大量中国留学生返工、返校推延。尽管我们感谢在这一艰难时期积极支持学生的个别大学员工,但是,作为一个机构,哥大不仅没有为受影响的学生提供任何真正的帮助,而且还出台了一系列有损学生人格的不透明政策。



  • 对校园内的歧视行为(包括以上事件)表示明确谴责;
  • 为实行自我隔离的学生、职工提供各方面补助,以及妥当的免费餐饮配送;
  • 通过远程学习、课堂录像等其他方式,为学生提供应有的学习条件;
  • 通过远程工作、国际办公等方式,保障应有的工作条件;
  • 提供心理咨询等其他社交方面和情感方面的疏导和支持,并保证能够提供多种语言、且允许远程进行(包括国外);
  • 不得对学生或职工进行任何形式的行政处分或经济处罚;
  • 允许学生推迟项目完成时间,在必要时返还学费(根据缺课时长所占比例);
  • 在各种情况下必须保证为学生保留其合法身份、雇佣状态和移民/签证状态。