UBC Vancouver is made up of students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, and is sometimes caricatured as a “University of a Billion Chinese.”
Although one-third of UBC’s undergraduate students identify in some way as “Chinese,” the category is broad. It mixes Canadians of (whole or partial) Chinese-descent with international students from Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong, the USA, Russia and Brazil, among others. But does this cultural mix define our identity? Is “race” really a factor or a helpful category in talking about the modern university? Or are factors like socio-economic class, rural/urban, religious identity, or international or domestic more relevant on an international campus?
A recent Maclean’s article originally titled, “Too Asian?” provoked a storm of responses (some outraged, some humourous), but certainly hit a nerve. As a leading global university, what should UBC’s student body look like? How do concerns about Asian-looking students resonate in a multicultural society like Canada?
Is a conversation about race at UBC even relevant? Can we explore this topic without reinforcing outmoded ideas about race? Can we explore them without offending each other?
On May 9th, 2011, we held UBC Dialogues: Vancouver about the nature of higher education in a culturally diverse society.
UBC Dialogues: Vancouver was held on May 9, 2011 at UBC Robson Square.
Moderator – Margaret Gallagher, CBC Journalist
Panelist – Ray Hsu, BA (Hon)’01, MA’02, PhD’08, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Creative Writing Program, UBC; Author, Anthropy and Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon
Panelist – Tetsuro Shigematsu, BFA ’94, broadcaster, filmmaker, playwright, comedian, actor
Panelist – Erin Millar, BMus’05, freelance journalist; author; formerly editor of Maclean’s On Campus
Panelist – Peter Wanyenya, BCom’10, Outreach Co-ordinator, Facilitator, Child & Youth Worker, Community Animator
Ray Hsu teaches within the Creative Writing program at UBC. He has written two books and had more than 125 poems published in a range of international journals. He has won a number of different awards for his work.
Hsu taught writing for more than two years in a US prison, where he also created the Prison Writing Workshop, and works on a number of collaborative projects. He is also deeply interested in new media.
Tetsuro Shigematsu is an MFA student within UBC’s Creative Writing program, who came up with the idea of a humourous video response to the Maclean’s article originally titled “Too Asian.” He is also a playwright, an actor, and comedian. He has written for the CBC show This Hour has 22 Minutes, and reported for local and national CBC shows.
From 2004-2004, Shigematsu was the host of The Roundup on CBC Radio One. He then served as a pop culture critic for CBC Newsworld, and made an independent feature movie called Yellow Fellas.
Vancouver-based freelance journalist Erin Millar writes for The Globe and Mail, Reader’s Digest, and The Walrus, among others. Her first book The Canadian Campus Companion: Everything you need about going to college and university in Canada was published in February. She formerly worked as an editor of Maclean’s On Campus, and contributed to Maclean’s university ranking editions for the last four years. She was president of Canadian University Press, and has spoken as an expert on university life on radio and television programs across the country.
Millar has a bachelor’s of music in jazz studies from Capilano University and has studied magazine writing and publishing at Simon Fraser University and Ryerson University.
Peter Wanyenya is a M.Ed student within the Human Development, Learning, and Culture program at UBC. Wanyenya is currently involved in the Youth Media Arts Diversity Education and Empowerment project, which aims to make B.C. schools and communities more inclusive, critically aware, and socially just. The tools of choice include critical yet engaging media, art, and heart based anti-oppression workshops in schools.
In the past, Wanyenya has been actively engaged in community education and work with young people in vulnerable and marginalized populations, in both Toronto and Vancouver. He continues to develop his intercultural learning by studying and travelling through North America, Western Europe, North and Eastern Africa.