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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Campus

UH professor receives ‘disturbing’ voicemail regarding background, citizenship


Karen Fang, an associate professor in the English Department, received a ‘disturbing’ voicemail June 18 regarding another professor’s Chinese background, citizenship and loyalty to the United States. She posted the voicemail along with her opinion June 19 on Twitter. Fang later reposted the voicemail June 22 without the other professor’s name. | Screenshot of Karen Fang’s Twitter

An English professor at UH received a voicemail meant for another professor June 18 in which the caller questioned the other professor’s Chinese background, citizenship and loyalty to the United States.

“I think that, sadly, minorities are so frequently subject to this casual racism,” said Karen Fang, the associate professor in the English Department who received the voicemail. “Nothing is really that surprising in the message from the perspective of a minority.”

Fang posted the voicemail on her Twitter June 19 and reposted it June 22 without the other professor’s name to conceal their identity. In her tweets, Fang details her experience and opinion on the situation.

Fang declined to release the caller’s contact information and the professor’s identity. The professor targeted didn’t respond to emails asking for comment before press time.

‘Disturbing’ voicemail

According to Fang’s recording, the caller raised her concern over the professor’s citizenship and education in China. The caller questioned the professor’s loyalty to the United States multiple times throughout the recording. She also asks whether the professor pays taxes.

“This is America, and we’re going to remain free and independent nation, not part of a new world order,” the caller said. “I don’t see many people of Chinese descent at H&R Block.”

The caller said she also voiced her concerns about the professor to the president’s office.

Mike Rosen, UH spokesperson, said he’s not aware of any further contact from the caller with the University. But she may have called or emailed somewhere other than the president’s office, he said.

“It’s ignorant and unfortunate,” Rosen said. “UH is the second-most diverse research institution in the country, and that diversity is essential in preparing our students to succeed in a global economy.”

The professor and Fang have the University’s support, he said.

Common stereotypes

Fang said this experience is something a lot of minorities recognize.

“A lot of stuff in that message were not things that were new to me or any other Asian American,” Fang said. “I think many Asian Americans will probably acknowledge this idea that people assume that we’re not citizens.”

Various assertions in the voicemail are false and disturbing, she said.

UH faculty do pay taxes, you don’t have to be a citizen to teach at the University, and studying abroad or having a foreign background doesn’t mean you can’t be a loyal citizen, Fang said.

This sort of limited view “dooms the nation to be less progressive and competitive,” and it restricts the pool of faculty and intellectuals at the country’s disposal, she said.

Her goal in publishing the voicemail was to show that these things do happen, Fang said. University faculty, whether immigrant or not, help each other by not ignoring these situations, she said.

“It’s important to publicize this, because it makes obvious the difference between the experience of minorities and people who don’t have to hear these kinds of things,” Fang said. “If we simply ignore them, then not only do we not acknowledge the kind of aggression that we encounter, but it also allows people to ignore the larger problems that we see.”

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