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An Open Letter to Universities

Calling for Academic Accommodations and Mental Health Support for Uyghur and Chinese Students

Statesman Editor

December 5, 2022

As faculty at USU and a member of the Chinese diaspora, I write to the Aggie family to draw your attention to an Open Letter to Universities Calling for Academic Accommodations and Mental Health Support for Uyghur and Chinese Students in response to the recent protests in China and across the globe. As one of the authors, I will reproduce parts of the letter below to provide you with context and a call for action. You can read the full letter here.

This latest wave of protest was ignited by the recent fire in Ürümchi, Xinjiang, the provincial capital of the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” or the lands of Dzungarstan and Altishahr. This fire sparked the latest wave of vigils and protests (see reports from Lausan Collective; Bloomberg News; NYU News) and became a particular moment of awakening for many Chinese students and activists. We as a diasporic community are in mourning, mourning the lost lives of these victims, most of them are of Uyghur descent. Although we cannot speak for Uyghur students since we don’t share the same experiences, we want to stress the fact that they have been facing challenges that are even more complex and arduous with additional layers of oppression.

For many Uyghur and Chinese students, their families and friends back home may have been put into lockdowns, participating in these protests, or experiencing heightened police surveillance. Meanwhile, some took the initiative to organize vigils and protests in universities and communities across the globe. Some are participating in these kinds of events for the first time, and some are mourning privately. Many continue to engage in reflections and discussions about the ongoing events. (To learn more about different perspectives, see comments by international scholars at ChinaFile). Needless to say, it is an incredibly difficult time for the Uyghur and Chinese diasporic communities.

As finals approach, these students may struggle more because they are concerned about family and friends back home, or because they are putting a lot of effort into organizing or participating in events. This effort can take an emotional toll. We especially want to urge the Aggie family to give more support to Uyghur students and listen to their needs, since they have been in a more marginalized, underrepresented place.

Faculty and staff who work with Uyghur and Chinese students should offer appropriate accommodations when possible, such as more flexible deadlines and extensions, or simply checking in with them to see how they are doing. These small gestures can mean a lot in this difficult time. We also encourage USU CAPS to offer additional support and resources for Uyghur and Chinese students who seek mental health services.

Members of the Chinese Diaspora

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