A group of students at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have joined together to protest an upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama to their campus for a June commencement ceremony in which the Tibetan spiritual leader would be the keynote speaker. According to Quartz, Chinese students are outraged by the school’s choice of commencement speaker, calling the Dalai Lama an “oppressive figure” that divides the Chinese community by working to make Tibet more free, despite the region being under control of China’s Communist government.
Quartz reported that within hours of UCSD’s announcement on February 2 that the Dalai Lama would be the June ceremony’s speaker, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) issued a statement in Chinese on the free messaging app WeChat, expressing their outrage and that the actions of the school have “dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students.”
“UCSD is a place for students to cultivate their minds and enrich their knowledge,” the statement read. “Currently, the various actions undertaken by the university have contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness—the ethos upon which the university is built. These actions have also dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students and scholars.”
“If the university insists on acting unilaterally and inviting the Dalai Lama to give a speech at the graduation ceremony, our association vows to take further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior,” the group continued. “Specific details of these measures will be outlined in our future statements.”
Students took to social media and expressed similar concerns about the Dalai Lama coming to their school. The UCSD Shangai Alumni Group also stated that if the Dalai Lama, referring to him by his true name Tenzin Gyatso, gets political and states his oppressive opinion under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” that the Chinese would be offended. He said:
As Chinese alumni, we are proud to be part of the growing UC community because of its diversity and inclusiveness. When addressing such a diverse community, there is a greater responsibility to spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. If Tenzin Gyatso expresses his political views under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.
Despite the protests to his upcoming speech, UCSD released a statement standing by their decision to invite the 14th Dalai Lama to speak at the commencement ceremony.
“We are honored to host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at UC San Diego and thankful that he will share messages of global compassion with our graduates and their families, as well as with a broad public audience,” said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “A man of peace, the Dalai Lama promotes global responsibility and service to humanity. These are the ideals we aim to convey and instill in our students and graduates at UC San Diego.”