Ruoxi Ouyang (pseudonym), a freshman Electrical Engineering bachelor’s student and Zihan Yang (pseudonym), a freshman Applied Physics bachelor’s student are friends and study at TU/e were they walk around campus regularly. Ouyang: “On May 26, me and two other girls were walking to Atlas. In front of Zwarte Doos, a group of drunk males started to harass us. They were shouting in our faces.” Yang: “It seemed gender-focused, as they let males pass them but not us.” Ouyang: “They tried to frighten us.”
Ouyang: “I have seen discrimination before, as well as bullying. I decided to not let them get away with it and asked them: ‘Do you think this is funny?’. They told me ‘yes, for sure with this reaction you give’.” Yang: "We walked off and they called us ‘black dicks’. I was shocked. It was my first racist experience here (in the Netherlands, ed.), but I did experience racism in Hungary before, where I was told to ‘fuck off back to China’ and was spitted at during Covid because we Chinese were guilty for the virus spreading.”
Ouyang: “I talked to a TU/e confidential counselor about the incident after and I also felt the need to talk to Cursor and discuss the topic and encourage others to speak up as well. We should not accept racism, gender discrimination or bullying in any shape or form. We want to tell our story anonymously because we don’t want this story to be about us personally, it should not be about me or Zihan, but about the general problem: racism, bullying, discrimination.”
Role of the university
Ouyang: “I think the campus is fairly safe, and I feel more sure to fight back on campus than on a deserted street.” Yang agrees and also feels the Netherlands is quite open: “Other than this I like it here. But if it happens to me – or you! – again, I would say ‘stand up for yourself’. Preferably directly in the situation if it’s safe enough to do so, otherwise speak about it after, to your friends, family and the TU/e if it happens on campus. Most Chinese people are quiet and modest and don’t speak up. But it’s useful to speak up. Then we can address the problem.”
Ouyang: “I personally think it would help if the TU/e would take the gender discrimination a bit more seriously and be more vocal about it. The problem is real and it’s really out there, as well as racism. We need to stop denying this. Students who have experienced bullying, racism or discrimination should report it, but where is not too clear. Because for sure pretending that all is fine, doesn’t help.”
Afraid for the consequences
Ouyang: “I hear from more Chinese people here in Eindhoven that they get discriminated. They speak about it within our community, but don’t follow up outside of it much. Sometimes they are afraid of the consequences and they prefer to stay out of trouble. But that also makes them numb. And when an unfair thing like discrimination or racism becomes the usual, we soon forget it’s unfair.”
Ouyang explained that for her, traveling abroad already includes a certain preparation for racism. “We are prepared it will happen. But that doesn’t make it right. I have already experienced quite some bullying at school because I was a bit more chubby than the rest. It makes me feel angry, but I try to deal with it, sometimes with a bit of humor. And I post about it on Wechat (the Chinese Facebook, ed.) for example, and chat about it with friends. I can’t change how other people approach me, but I can only control how I deal with it.”
Regardless of that Ruoxi Ouyang feels relatively safe here on campus, she doesn’t feel comfortable anymore after this incident and has decided to leave TU/e and continue her studies at another university.
Have you also experienced racism, discrimination or other undesirable behaviour? Patrick Groothuis, director of Education and Student Affairs (ESA), informs Cursor that there are various TU/e websites on this subject and that you can use the 'Social Safety Guide' which states what to do for each type of incident. There is a guide for students and one for employees.