Conservative club hit with violation for criticizing Chinese government

Emerson's TPUSA chapter was found to have engaged in discriminatory behavior towards Asian students for giving out stickers that displayed a message critical of the Chinese government.

The college did end the club's previous suspension.

Emerson’s chapter of Turning Point USA was temporarily suspended earlier this semester for distributing stickers which read “China Kinda Sus” and featured a character from the popular video game “Among Us.” 

The sticker, according to organization leaders, was intended to criticize the Chinese government, not Chinese people generally.

In a letter obtained by Campus Reform, Julie Rothhaar-Sanders, the Boston college’s director of community standards, details the charges levied against Emerson TPUSA and the administration’s rulings.

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Per the letter, Emerson TPUSA was found guilty of bias related behavior but not invasion of privacy as “there was insufficient evidence” to support the charge.

In explaining how the club violated college policy, Rothhaar-Sanders stated that the club “engaged in discriminatory conduct on the basis of national origin” which “unreasonably interfered” with the wellbeing of the student who had reported them. 

“Although the Board found that the members of the Emerson chapter did not intend to target anyone other than China’s government,” the letter continued, “handing out the stickers nonetheless had a discriminatory effect given the pervasive environment of anti-Asian discrimination that has developed over the course of past several years particularly in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As punishment for violating college policy, the club was issued a formal warning. But Emerson also lifted the interim suspension that had been placed on the club during the investigation, allowing them to return to conducting activities and meetings.

The letter also mentions that Emerson TPUSA had the right to appeal the decision if they feel it to be inappropriate. Grounds for appeal include “a lack of fairness in the procedures” and the discovery of “significant new information”.

Emerson College did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time for publication. 

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Sam Neves, president of Emerson TPUSA, told Campus Reform that he had unsuccessfully appealed the decision. Neves criticized the university for admitting that they only intended to target the Chinese government and still punishing them. 

Neves is also a Campus Reform correspondent. 

“This decision sets a very dangerous precedent,” Neves said, “[it] empowers the bullies to get rid of anyone they don’t like.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote a series of letters to Emerson College criticizing them for their handling of the case and demanding that they reverse their decision.

Adam B. Steinbaugh, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, told Campus Reform, ”We have frequently seen anti-discrimination regulations utilized as a justification for investigating or punishing students, organizations, and faculty.”

”Emerson’s justification is particularly weak because it acknowledged that the stickers were not intended to offend or criticize Chinese students, but instead intended to criticize China’s government,” Steinbaugh continued, “That means that at Emerson, you can be punished for accidentally offending someone else, and criticism of China -- whether by students or faculty -- can be punished if students who support China’s government complain that it is offensive.”