Saturday, February 13, 2010

University of Washington: Taiwan, Province of China

Saw this on Facebook via my friends being tagged on this note (thanks to a Spencer Chen who posted it originally). Basically the University of Washington's transfer student admissions website lists Taiwan as, "Taiwan, Province of China." As an alumnus of UW, I was deeply troubled and of course, had to send off an e-mail to UW to notify them of this error. I hope all my UW friends, will take 5-10 minutes out of their day to do so also. It is something that we should not simply say "wtf," and proceed to go on with the rest of our day.

There is a reason we have Taiwanese student organizations on campus, because we have our own distinct culture and country. Take this opportunity to raise up this issue to your own university by sending an e-mail here, and marking it "Other questions, error reports." Even the shortest one paragraph will do. Feel free to take words from my letter (below), but I believe that we each have our own opinions and should speak freely as such. Please remember to be respectful and courteous in your letters. I will likely also fire off an e-mail to the UW Daily, and see if they will write an article on this as well, you can help by letting them know about this issue as well.

Lastly, this is not a one-time issue. If you've been reading my blog for any sort of time, I've likely highlighted a similar problem where a company or website lists Taiwan as a Province of China. It is an uphill battle, but that does not mean we should take a back seat and let the world run over us. Our parents or grandparents are from Taiwan, or even you were born in Taiwan, or perhaps like me, parents from Taiwan, but born in the U.S. Regardless, We are Taiwanese. Don't let anyone ever tell you what you are or aren't. You and I both have the right to decide for ourselves what we are or aren't, what we can and cannot do, what we believe and do not believe in.

This e-mail is in regards to a recent finding among a group of Taiwanese, University of Washington students. It has come to our attention that on the UW's website for transfer applications, during Section 4 of the Application Progress (Address & Residency), it lists the country of Taiwan, as "Taiwan, Province of China." This is a problem for many Taiwanese, including those that are students at UW. As an alumni of the UW Electrical Engineering department, and as an alumni of the UW, I find it hard to believe that the UW would like to promote this kind one-sided view on Taiwan. If I recall correctly on my undergraduate admission application to the UW, there was a question on diversity - how I may have experienced diversity/differences and how it has applied to my life. Therefore, I believe it is also the UW's goal to attract, pursue, foster, and teach students in a way that promotes independent thinking and diversity.

One aspect of diversity is respecting the differences between countries, as well as differences in people's opinion. While it is certainly some peoples' opinion that Taiwan is a province of China, I assure you, there are a great number of those (Taiwanese and non-Taiwanese included), that would say that Taiwan is not a part of China. It is for this reason that the University of Washington has a couple student associations that exist to help promote and spread the word about Taiwan's distinct culture and country- the Taiwanese Student Association (TSA), as well as the Taiwanese Overseas Student Association (TOSA).

I know that there are many bright and smart Chinese students that also attend the University of Washington, and while their upbringing may cause them to believe in error that Taiwan is a part of China, it should be the University's goal to help create an environment where they question what they've "grown up with," and learn to think independently. I find it unfair to them, as well as those that may not be too knowledgeable about the Taiwan issue, for them to glance at some application page and see, "Taiwan, Province of China" and reinforce a common misconception that should be corrected.

In parting, I know that the University is a public institution, and that may mean adhering to certain laws and certain regulations that we may not know of. But, may I remind you that the current position of the United States is that it simply acknowledges China's position on Taiwan, but does not bring that position into their own. The US position is that Taiwan's status is undetermined, and as such, I believe it should not be difficult for the University of Washington to maintain even that position (If you check the US Department of State website, for countries and regions, it lists Taiwan, simply as "Taiwan"). To say that Taiwan is a Province of China in your application process is wrong and forcing an identity on a group of people that may not identify with that position.

I hope this e-mail finds its way into the right hands (until it does, please keep forwarding until the person who is in charge of this can make a decision), and this error will be corrected to that of just, "Taiwan" rather than "Taiwan, Province of China." At the very least, I hope that a review of this issue will be conducted. I believe the Taiwanese students at UW (and elsewhere) deserve this at the very least, and for everyone else who may not have knowledge of this issue. Higher education is here for us to reason, question, and think critically. Give the students the opportunity to examine and fact-find for ourselves, rather than giving us this one-sided erroneous view of Taiwan.

Thank you,


Michael said...

Did UW conduct any reviews yet?

Richard said...

Don't think so. I received an initial reply from the people that handle all questions and comments from that link, and they said they have forwarded it to the UW admissions department - and I have not gotten a reply from them yet.