University/college may be regarded as one of the best times of a person’s life, but it also comes with a lot of hardships. In between deadlines, moving away from home, making new friends and the endless studying, every student is also attempting to either reinvent themselves, establish themselves as the adult they want to become, or force people to finally start taking them seriously.
For many students, it’s all three.
I can certainly remember experimenting with different styles to try and find the new “me”, but one moment that really stands out during my time as a student was when I had to give a marked presentation. After weeks of lectures establishing myself as a “joker”, I had to hold the attention of an entire room and make a serious point about 18th-century literature.
In fact, anybody who has ever had to speak to a room full of people and attempt to get a serious point across knows how difficult this can be.
Therefore, when this student was preparing to get up to speak to her class, she was left rocked when her Acting in Public professor Rebekah Maggor said to her: “Is that really what you’re going to wear?”
Writing in a Facebook post, Ivy League senior college student Letitia Chai, of Asian heritage, explained how she was “wearing a long sleeve button-down shirt and denim cut-offs,” but her professor, a “white woman”, stated how her shorts were “too short”.
The professor proceeded to tell her that by wearing that particular outfit, Chai was inviting the men in the room to stare and her, and distract them from the content of her presentation.
To any person with common sense, you’d know that this is utter nonsense, and certainly not Chai’s problem.
Despite the fact two of Chai’s fellow classmates spoke up for her, one man agreed with the professor, and asked her to dress more conservatively to show some respect.
As this point, Chai decided to make a very brave and bold statement during her presentation, and actually stripped down in order to prove her worth as a human being, and that it was what she had to say and provide that was important.
Check out the powerful presentation in the video below, and watch Chai invite others to join her in stripping. But most importantly, listen to her amazing talk:
Continuing in her Facebook post, Chai explained why she decided to strip:
“This is for every Asian woman who has been told to speak up lest others think she’s submissive. This is for every POC man who has been told to pull up his pants to be taken seriously, and every POC woman who was told to straighten her hair to seem intelligent.
This is for every gay friend who was told to dress more ‘straight’ so that others didn’t feel weird around him / her / them. This is for us.”
But whilst many people do condone Chai’s actions and her message, other students have spoken out in defense of the professor mentioned in Chair’s post.
Writing in an open letter to the Cornell Sun, other students of color and international students, argued that:
“While we do agree that there was an error of phrasing on our professor’s part, her intent, to us, has always been incredibly sincere. For us, because she mentioned the social role of attire on multiple occasions to other students… we do not believe this instance occurred with malicious intent.”
Something tells me there’s more to this story than meets the eye…