A conservative student group at Emerson College in Boston received a formal warning for distributing stickers that read “CHINA KINDA SUS” at a tabling event in September, according to a letter the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent to Emerson’s interim president on Wednesday objecting to the sanction.
Emerson previously suspended the campus’s Turning Point USA chapter pending an investigation into allegations it had violated the college’s bias policy in distributing the stickers. The group’s leadership said the stickers, which feature a slang word for “suspicious,” intended to criticize the Chinese government, not Chinese people.
According to the letter from FIRE, Emerson’s conduct board agreed that members of Turning Point USA intended to criticize the Chinese government. But the board still found that in distributing the stickers, the group engaged in “discriminatory conduct on the basis of national origin.”
“Although the Board found that the members of the Emerson chapter did not intend to target anyone other than China’s government, handing out the sticker nonetheless had a discriminatory effect given the pervasive environment of anti-Asian discrimination that has developed over the past several years particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic,” Emerson’s director of community standards said in a letter to Turning Point USA’s leadership quoted in the FIRE letter.
An Emerson spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
FIRE, which opposes restrictions on speech on campuses, argued that the conduct board’s finding “is inconsistent with Emerson’s erstwhile commitments to its students’ freedom of expression.”