A Korean-American professor is accusing the University of Illinois at Chicago of forcing him to teach math — despite the fact that he was not qualified to teach the subject — because of the stereotype that Asians are naturally good at math.
International relations professor Seung-Whan Choi filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming that he was “systematically harassed,” The Huffington Post reports.
He alleges that the political science department mistreated him, denied him fair raises, and made him teach classes that were not in his area of expertise.
“They don’t like Korean-Americans,” Choi — a retired Army officer who was born in South Korea — reportedly told The Chicago Tribune. “I’m supposed to be very submissive to the department head, who is white-American.”
Choi’s lawsuit claims that department heads made him teach a statistics class because, “Asians, especially Koreans, are very good” at math. He alleges that he was also forced to teach a Korean politics class even though he has no formal training in the subject.
Choi has even accused former political science department head Dennis Judd of telling him that, “as a foreigner,” he must “keep in mind who he is dealing with and what he is wishing for,” and that Koreans are “stubborn and do not understand American culture of compromise,” after Choi confronted him about changing one of his student’s grades.
Choi said he thinks the root of the mistreatment is related to a complaint he filed back in 2010 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after he had been terminated for an undisclosed reason. Following the complaint, the university settled with him and reinstated him with a promotion.
He said he believes his colleagues’ attitudes toward him were in retaliation from that incident.
In addition to being ostracized from the rest of the department, Choi said he has suffered physical illness, severe anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure as a result of the harassment he endured.
“It’s frustrating, and sometimes I just don’t want to go to work because of ... the bad and dirty politics within the department,” Choi said.
Although Choi’s claims are disturbing, they aren’t far-fetched. The tense state of race relations and toxic political climate show us that racism and prejudice are still very much alive and well in America and have simply been covered by a veil of false unity and progressiveness.
The more that people of color and their allies stand up against this disparity and bring these instances to light, the sooner we can start reforming the culture at these institutions and in society.
Banner Photo Credit: Flickr, Antonio Zugaldia