The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

USC "Casting Insult Toward the Chinese Language"

More on the Mandarin "neige" controversy.


[UPDATE: I have posted what appears to be a copy of the letter, which strikes me as very effective.]

From the L.A. Times (Nina Agrawal), also echoed in (un-paywalled) Newsweek, based on a (paywalled) L.A. Times article, about the controversy I mentioned here:

This week a group of nearly 100 USC alumni, most of whom are Chinese by ethnicity or nationality, wrote to the school's administration in support of their professor, saying his use of the Mandarin word for "that" was accurate and "an entirely appropriate and quite effective illustration of the use of pauses."

The alumni said they were "deeply disappointed that the spurious charge has the additional feature of casting insult toward the Chinese language, the most spoken in the world, and characterized it and its usage as vile."

"We feel Marshall should be open to diversity in all areas," they wrote..

I haven't seen the alumni letter; if anyone can point me to it, I'd be much obliged. My personal objection here isn't to the "insult toward the Chinese language" as such; it's to USC's treating some students' objection to hearing the word as a sound criticism and a reason to apologize. Instead, USC should have recognized this as the students' error—an error USC, as an educational institution, should strive to correct—stemming from lack of understanding about how people should perceive speech in foreign languages.