‘Joke’ issue of student newspaper riles many

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PRINCETON BOROUGH, N.J. (AP) – The annual joke issue of Princeton University’s student newspaper has left some people accusing its staff of racism.

The Daily Princetonian issue published Wednesday included a column with a byline that closely resembles the name of Jian Li, an 18-year-old Livingston man who filed a civil rights complaint against the university last summer after he was denied admission, accusing it of bias against Asian students.

Li, who now attends Yale University, said his complaint against Princeton remains under investigation.

“I think the article was extremely distasteful,” Li told The Associated Press on Saturday night. “Whoever decided to publish it showed an extreme lapse of judgment.”

Under a byline of Lian Ji, the article used broken English and spouted racial stereotypes to bash the school for his rejection.

“Hi Princeton! Remember me? I so good at math and science. Perfect 2400 SAT score. Ring Bells?” the article begins. “Just in case, let me refresh your memories. I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me.”

The article ran with a disclaimer informing readers that it was part of the joke issue, but that did not stop students and alumni of the Ivy League school from accusing those who wrote it of racism.

“Many angry Asian-American alums are circulating this article like wildfire.

I consider myself an easygoing person, but guys – this article doesn’t even try to use humor to hide the underlying hate,” Andre Liu, who identified himself as a 1991 graduate, wrote in a letter to the editor. “Real bad call.”

An article on the controversy was published in Friday’s editions, as was a note from The Daily Princetonian’s managing board that stated its members “sincerely regret having upset some of our readers,” but defended their intentions.

“Using hyperbole and an unbelievable string of stereotypes, we hoped to lampoon racism by showing it at its most outrageous,” the note said. “We embraced racist language in order to strangle it. At its worst, the column was a bad joke; at its best, it provoked serious thought about issues of race, fairness and diversity.”

Members of the newspaper’s managing board did not immediately return a call seeking comment Saturday night.

Li said he quickly recognized that the article was satire, but said it wasn’t an excuse.

“It’s so outlandish that it can’t be anything but satire,” he said. “But I think in any case, this shouldn’t have been published.”

In a letter to the editor that appeared in The Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s Asian American Studies Association said the column was “offensive to Asian American students” and “reflects poorly on Princeton’s reputation as a diverse and informed university.”

Meanwhile, Janet S. Dickerson, vice president for Campus Life at Princeton, told The Times of Trenton that the controversy had become an “opportunity for an educable moment on campus.”

“The Prince exercised poor judgment in including offensive material in this year’s joke issue,” she added. “Its student board has apologized and in doing so, recognized its responsibility to the campus.”

At least one student, though, said he was not offended by the article.

“I thought it was sad that people were so offended by it, because it shows that racism still exists,” Felix Huang, a senior from Texas whose parents are from Taiwan, told The Times. “But I think the column was a joke and I took it for the satire that it was meant to be.”

AP-ES-01-20-07 1834EST

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