The Bruins United slate took a campaign video geared toward the Chinese international community off of YouTube, after it garnered negative student reactions over the weekend.
The video, which has since been put back on YouTube by a user named “Bruin Sterzz,” was meant for Chinese international students who lived in China before coming to UCLA, said Kenny Chen, a first-year business economics student and Chinese international student who approached Bruins United about making the video.
“We intentionally made the video really interesting, funny and appealing to Chinese students,” Chen said. “The only way we can catch (Chinese students’) eyes is by making it interesting.”
The video, which was just under three minutes in length, featured Undergraduate Students Association Council presidential candidate Carly Yoshida and internal vice presidential candidate Avi Oved with current USAC internal vice president Andrea Hester – all members of the Bruins United slate.
Chen is on Oved’s campaign team.
In the video, the three students discuss Oved’s platform for a mobile panic button application and encourage students to vote for Bruins United on MyUCLA in the USAC elections that will take place this week.
Chen was also in the video along with Edward Li, a first-year business economics and Chinese international student.
Chen said he approached Oved several weeks ago with the idea for the video to reach out to the Chinese international community to encourage them to get more involved in USAC elections.
Oved and Chen met when they were participating in the Global Siblings program, housed in the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars, which aims to connect domestic and international students.
“Basically this group is not as involved in the campus, in USAC or student elections,” Chen said. “Their voices are not really heard because they are not as involved.”
Chen said he conceptualized the idea, wrote the script and produced the video. He said he chose to use popular Chinese songs and the introduction to CCTV, a popular Chinese news broadcast, to connect with students who lived and grew up in China before coming to UCLA.
He said he thinks the Chinese-American students might not be as familiar with the recent Chinese culture and might not understand the point of the video. The video was posted on the YouTube channel for the International Student Film Association at UCLA, which does not endorse any slate, Chen said. It was then sent to Chinese international students through an email list, he added.
[UPDATED at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday: The Association of Chinese Americans at UCLA released a statement Wednesday about the video, stating that its members thought the video was “tactless and insufficiently (addressed) the diverse populations present within the entire Chinese community on campus.”]
After some of the Bruins United members shared the video on Facebook, several students posted comments and spoke against the video in the form of Facebook statuses.
Jenny Chhea, a second-year history student who is of Chinese descent, was one of the students who took to Facebook to express her concerns after watching the video.
“As someone of Chinese ancestry, I find it offensive when people who haven’t done anything for the Chinese community claim to be representative of the community,” she posted as a status.
In the video Oved said, “You’re just one click away from representing the Chinese community,” a line that struck her the most.
“Racial tokenism came to mind when I was watching the video,” she said. “A lot of people were just questioning why they chose the Chinese community to reach out to specifically.”
Ariel Hou, external vice president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and a second-year philosophy and psychology student, said she thinks the video should not have been uploaded on YouTube because it was created for a specific audience.
The association provided Chen and Li with resources for the video and helped send it out to international Chinese students, Hou said.
She said the organization does not support a particular side of USAC elections, but wants Chinese international students to become more involved in campus activities like USAC.
The Bruins United candidates involved in the video, as well as slate leaders, have since said they apologize for offending students with the video.
“Unfortunately it was perceived very wrong, which honestly was our fault for not having that foresight,” Yoshida said. “I think we were just so excited that the population wanted to be involved.”
Oved said the intention behind the video was not to offend anyone.
“The intent was good, I can tell you that,” Oved said. “I feel terrible that it was taken in the wrong way. I just really wanted to make sure we were doing our part in reaching out to communities that were not engaged in USAC.”
Hester echoed the sentiments of Oved.
Ken Myers, chair of Bruins United, said the slate decided to take the video down after they found out it was making people feel uncomfortable.
“That was not at all what we were trying to do,” Myers said. “But, even if we had the best intentions, if people reacted against it we knew we should take it down.”