Pierson College Dean June Chu apparently has an aversion to “white trash” and “sketchy” or “low class folks” and everyone at Pierson College – a residential college at Yale – is taking issue with it.
Chu, who’s been with Pierson since May 2016, has been quite busy writing Yelp reviews and lambasting many of the local establishments for their food, service, patrons, employees or anything else that doesn’t strike her fancy, and students at Pierson have been circulating her reviews amongst themselves for months.
“To put it quite simply:” a review of Koto Japanese Restaurant states, “if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you! This establishment is definitely not authentic by any stretch of the imagination and perfect for those low class folks who believe this is a real night out.” Koto got a single star from Chu.
Another single star loser is The Mochi Store. She writes she is Asian and knows her mochi and not only did she not like the mochi, but they were overpriced. She closes her review with, “I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you.”
According to Yale News, Pierson Head Stephen Davis told Chu to remove two reviews he had heard about from students who were offended by them. At that time, she removed the reviews from Koto Japanese Steakhouse and Criterion Cinemas. She had praised the cinema for not having a “sketchy crowd.”
Fast forward to May, and screen captures surfaced showing the extent of her controversial and condescending reviews. In fact, Chu is such a frequent Yelp reviewer, she’s earned the title “Yelp Elite” on the site. Her reviews have since been deleted.
Bethany, the front desk person at Retro Fitness, got a good “Chu-ing” out. Apparently “Bethany” was the “rudest person and just full of attitude” and Chu couldn’t care less if Bethany were to lose her job because she’s sure “McDonalds would hire” her. The trainer didn’t fare any better in Chu’s review because “he looked frail and totally out of shape.”
The employees at Entertainment Cinemas were incompetent idiots and “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese” and can’t add $7 plus $7. And everyone in line was an “idiot” and she had to stand with them.
Yale Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar informed Dean Jonathan Holloway about the Yelp reviews that had surfaced. Holloway then spoke with Davis. According to Holloway, Chu, Davis and other administrators together decided last week that Chu should email Pierson students about the incident on Saturday after “wrestling with how to do the right thing.”
Chu sent an apology email to the residential college community last Saturday apologizing for the two Yelp reviews brought to her attention by the college head and deans.
“I have learned a lot this semester about the power of words and about the accountability that we owe one another,” Chu wrote. “My remarks were wrong. There are no two ways about it. Not only were they insensitive in matters related to class and race; they demean the values to which I hold myself and which I offer as a member of this community.”
“I am concerned about the shadow that my actions have thrown on my efforts to create an environment in Pierson that respects everyone, and I am especially concerned that it could prevent anyone from coming to me for the support that I offer to all Pierson students,” Chu wrote. “I see that I now have work to do to repair the trust you have all shown me.”
Holloway praised Chu’s email for being “very honest” and said he hopes students will be able to recognize that people make mistakes and can learn from them.
“I’ve not asked for her resignation, and neither has Head Davis,” Holloway said. “She’s terribly sorry, and I think she’s doing exactly the right thing by saying ‘I’ve learned from this, I want to stand by all of you and I hope that you’ll stand by me as well.’”
Pierson students have had mixed reactions.
“It is always so refreshing to see an Asian American woman in leadership positions, and many of my female and POC (persons of color) friends were eager to see what she would do for us,” student Kelsang Dolma said. “I look forward to continue having [Chu] as my dean, but this incident has left me and other Piersonites disillusioned.”
Ring Wang was surprised when she read Chu’s email and believes making amends will likely be a big challenge considering Chu has only been with the college for a year.
A group of friends in Pierson and other residential colleges all agreed Chu used “demeaning and offensive” language that was inappropriate for someone in her position.
“These reviews make it clear how Dean Chu thinks about people who are different from her, and how she feels about New Haven, the city all of us call home for a few years,” a student in the group said.
Other students found her reviews inappropriate, particularly the one of The Mochi Store in New Haven, in which Chu wrote that the establishment would be acceptable only to a “white person who has no clue what mochi is.”
“I will never be able to look at her in the same way. She needs to formally apologize in person to the college,” the student said. “Dean Chu is trained in human development and psychology so should clearly understand the gravity of her actions, yet the fact that she would put such things on the Internet shows that she really should not be in a position of advising students.”
One Pierson student, who requested anonymity, said Chu’s comments convey a bias against certain groups of students who call Pierson College home. He added that the remarks jeopardize Chu’s capacity to properly execute her job as a steward of the college community.
“If I had heard these comments upon arriving to Yale as a freshman, the first thing I would have done is walked to Pierson College and demanded a residential college transfer form,” the student said.
UPDATE: It was announced in June that Chu will not return to Yale for the Fall semester and is being replaced.