Tuesday, January 22

Bruins United removes controversial campaign video directed toward Chinese international community

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.”

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  • Drew

    While I respect BU’s attempt to reach out to a community that has been historically underrepresented during USAC elections, I honestly can’t believe this video went through as many channels as it must’ve without anyone speaking out against it.

    • another BU boop

      This should be grounds for a huge sanction.

    • agreed

      lol yeah, like how was no one offended by it before they decided to put it up? idk who could watch that and think it wouldn’t possibly offend anyone…

  • Still a little hurt

    i appreciate them apologizing and that they had good intent, but the fact is that intent and impact are two separate things… no matter the intent, the impact is still there =/

  • Ken Myers

    First and foremost: I would like to apologize to Jenny and anyone else who may have been offended by the video. I can promise that the intentions were pure. However, as has been mentioned in both the article and comments section, pure intentions do not necessarily condone action. As a leader within the Bruins United Community, it is ultimately my responsibility — and I take responsibility. I truly and honestly apologize. My number is (805) 450-0045 if you have any questions I would welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone who has concerns.

    Secondly, I would like to post a statement from the filmmaker, Kenny Chen:

    “My name is Kenny Chen, and I am the creator of this video. Several weeks ago, I approached the Bruins United candidates in hopes of making a video that I could present to the Chinese Student Scholars Association, a student group that encompasses many people from my community. As a freshman, I wanted to find a way to connect the Chinese student groups at UCLA with USAC–especially with elections season around the corner.
    Prior to this year, there haven’t been many attempts to reach out to my community, and I thought this would be a creative way to do so. This wasn’t meant to generalize the needs of the Chinese students at UCLA but to appeal to students who are familiar with Chinese culture, specifically CCTV (a popular newscasting station in China). As someone who lived in mainland China, I wanted this to be a fun, creative way to connect other students from there to our student government here.”

    Once again, I understand that as a leader within this community, ultimately the buck stops here. Please feel free to contact me at the number listed above or at my personal email [email protected] with any comments, questions, or concerns.

    Ken Myers

  • CHS Cartographer

    The video disgusted me.

    The only part of the BU platform that was discussed in the video was safety…. ONLY safety. Tell me now, if you wanted to engage the international community (which by the way consists of way more than Chinese) wouldn’t you have picked different topics and not just safety?

    Oh right, Chinese foreigners are afraid of their safety ever since that awful event at USC last year when two foreigners were shot and killed, so BU decided to make their entire platform based on alluding to that.

    So hmmm… Exploiting fear in order to gain control of a political machine. Wasn’t that what Stalin did?

  • JX

    I respect this effort of Bruins United to reach out to the Chinese student community and I give them props for trying it. Although Chinese (and Chinese American) students constitute a very large part of the UCLA community, they’ve generally been less active in USAC politics and have been somewhat overlooked so I think it was a great idea to try to get them interested and involved. But BU completely failed at it. The video did bring up important safety issues and BU’s ideas, but this video was supposed to be for outreach and the BU candidates themselves said nothing relevant to the Chinese community. “You’re one click away from representing the Chinese community” was especially jarring because they did absolutely nothing to show how they represent the Chinese community. In the end, it just made them seem out of touch and the video a political gimmick just to garner votes.


    It seems like Bruins United has good intentions and a good idea, but they just completely failed at it.

  • Confused

    Hey BU, what’s the point of this video? Was it to push Chinese students to get involved in campus politics, or was it to enlighten everyone about BU’s mobile panic button platform? Either way, was speaking English at a snail’s pace and throwing around some Chinese phrases your way of saying you support global outreach towards the Chinese community? Or was it using one of China’s most substantial news channels and two Mandarin speaking students to generalize the international Chinese population at UCLA? Tailor your campaign videos towards an issue that’s actually relevant to the Chinese community (i.e. hate crimes), but don’t exploit the affiliation in vain. What a poor, insipid attempt to expand your platform.

  • onmyown

    Does this mean that if BU wins, I will have to fight off the “bad guys” on my own because I can’t afford to own a smart phone to get access to the mobile app?

  • disappointed in BU

    What some of these comments reflect is the lack of historical understanding of USAC. Chinese-American students have played an integral role in developing student government through a rich history of activism outside of USAC and within USAC. The Asian Pacific Coalition, but specifically the Association of Chinese Americans, have always aligned themselves with the progressive slate, historically that being Students First! In this election, APC endorsed the Lets Act! campaign.

    One of the most powerful council members with a legacy that is still relevant today was Susan Li, the EVP between 2009-2010. Susan Li, is Chinese American, and perhaps one of the most respected community organizers in the city of Los Angeles.

    The video is not about outreaching to a community that has been historically underrepresented in USAC, the video just shows Bruin United’s lack of USAC knowledge, and most importantly it shows BU’s desire to appropriate a culture it clearly does not understand for votes. I understand that the intent was not to be distasteful, but the fact that while they were working on this, they never though to themselves “gee, maybe this might be a little problematic?” So much for their “think before you act” tagline.

    Every year, BU finds a new way to embarrass itself. And every year, all they do is apologize for their wrongdoings. The student body is tired of apologies from these student leaders. We need leaders to actively engage with historically marginalized communities, and to be proactive about bringing communities together.

    • UCLA2013

      I’d rather BU apologize and own up to unintentionally hurting individuals and/or a community, rather than ignore their concerns, or even worse, make repeat offenses. At least BU doesn’t claim that certain student groups and student populations don’t have the *right* to feel marginalized.

      Not that I’m pointing fingers, but…