Two signs with anti-Asian slurs were posted on Harvard Undergraduate Council President Michael Cheng’s door Monday, according to the Harvard Crimson. The signs also carried a political message, saying, “Save the UC.” It’s unclear exactly what the slurs were.
Cheng speculated the signs came from political opponents who object to his disruption of the status quo of student government. He once called the council “a racket for politically ambitious students to accrue résumé lines and titles.” During his campaign, he argued that the council was full of waste and ran on a promise to “Defund the UC.” As a result, student council mainstays have loudly complained about his administration.
Cheng noted that the signs were posted soon after the student council midterms and said, “There are some people that are frustrated by decisions we’ve made.” He called for the person who put up the signs to apologize, saying, “I don’t care about punishment, I would just appreciate a personal apology.”
Notably, Cheng wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last November about facing what he called “dirty tricks” during the election. Ten days prior to his election, the council members passed new rules that gave greater power to the election commission to disqualify candidates, including allowing disqualifications for those who violated the “spirit” of election rules. Cheng said he only just “dodged” disqualification. Then the checkbox next to his name on the election ballot was obscured. When he complained to the election commission, it said that all the votes cast while the error was present would count. The commission later backed down after backlash and restarted the voting.
Cheng says the mainstays of student government have continued to do everything they can to stop him from disrupting what they have built. After he was elected, the council’s leaders created a bill that would prevent students from changing the student government constitution without a supermajority. Cheng said they did “everything they could to undermine the election results.”
The anti-Asian signs on the door of the student body president come alongside broader controversy over whether or not Harvard engages in acts of racism against Asian students. Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, in which the plaintiffs allege that Harvard discriminates against Asian and white students in its admissions decisions. Admissions data show that of applicants in the top decile of academic achievement, Harvard accepts 56.1 percent of black applicants and only 12.7 percent of Asian applicants.
In response to the anti-Asian signs, Harvard’s College Democrats put out a lengthy statement denouncing the signs in the strongest terms. “This is appalling and unacceptable,” they said. “We the Harvard College Democrats stand in support of Michael and anyone who was targeted.”
The signs could be an effort to make Cheng’s political opposition look bad or they could be a demonstration that some establishment student government types are not as tolerant as they claim to be.