Just Fashion Now (UK)

University student strips down for her thesis presentation after a professor told her her shorts were ‘too short’

by Murtaza Nasir

A student from the prestigious Ivy league, Cornell University, was presenting her thesis when she chose to strip down to her underwear and bra in front of the entire class. This was in protest to a teacher criticizing the length of her shorts. 

cornell university student

Chai is a student of Cornell University. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

cornell university student

She was presenting her thesis in class. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

The senior student, Letitia Chai, took off her shorts and top during the presentation as an act of public protest because the teacher, Rebekah Maggor, ‘offensively’ commented on her clothing. The teacher told her her shorts were ‘too short’, and that she was attracting male gaze away from her presentation and on to her legs. Chai stripped and continued presenting for half an hour.

Chai stripped down to bra and underwear over the comment of her teacher about her shorts. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

The student then took to Facebook to tell her story and explain why she stripped.

“The first thing that the professor said to me was “is that really what you would wear?”

She, a white woman, continued: “Your shorts are too short”.

The professor proceeded to tell me, in front of my whole class, that I was inviting the male gaze away from the content of my presentation and onto my body.

She said I was making a statement by wearing my outfit. I told her that I sure as hell wouldn’t change my statement to make her or anyone else feel more comfortable.”

Chai said the male students in her class agreed with what the teacher said to her, which is what further enraged her.

cornell university student

She began to strip down during her presentation. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

cornell university student

She continued to present in her underwear for half an hour. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

cornell university student

This was in protest to what her teacher had said. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

Later, the teacher came up to her and asked her what her mother would think about the way she was dressed: in skimpy shorts. Chai told the teacher her mother was a strong believer of feminism. “My mom is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies professor. She’s fine with my shorts,” she reportedly said.

cornell university student

She said her mother was a feminist and would never have a problem with her shorts. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

Maggor, while talking to Cornell Sun, told her side of the story:

“I do not tell my students what to wear, nor do I define for them what constitutes appropriate dress. I ask them to reflect for themselves and make their own decisions.”

Some of Chai’s classmates sided with the teacher, saying what she wrote in her Facebook post was not exactly what happened during the presentation.

cornell university student

The students in her class had agreed with her teacher. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

cornell university student

She said she would never change how she dresses to make others comfortable. (Image source: Facebook/Lchai Thesis)

They said the teacher’s comment had an ‘error in phrasing’; her point was to throw light on the ‘importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations’. They explained she was not commenting on the shorts in general, but insisting that they were inappropriate for a class presentation, which calls for formal clothing.

They further added that Maggor even apologized on her choice of words, and that they didn’t hold her responsible.



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  • Kfir
    May 11, 2018

    Why people just have to mention when the “offender”‘s skin color is white? You just going to make it based on racism, which is not. That makes whoever mentioned that racist by the way.

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  • fwiw
    May 11, 2018

    Who gives a thesis presentation in shorts? It doesn’t speak well of her regard for the institution nor the degree she is shooting for.

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  • Maria Rodrigues
    May 12, 2018

    the thing is: why don’t people just stop giving a fuck about what other people wear and focus on what truly matters – in this case, HER THESIS.

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  • carmen
    May 12, 2018

    good 4 her !!!!!! what she was wearing was fine she just needs to give her presentation … professor is in no position to lecture her on how to dress she just needs to teach .. if she thinks that shorts are fine to give a presentation then that’s her opinion and she can do what she wants.

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  • Michael
    May 12, 2018

    In a professional setting you are expected to dress professionally, eg. formal wear, suit, etc. If you are going to take offense when someone points out that you outfit is not appropriate for a presentation, then strip down to your underwear to protest it, then you aren’t likely to be hired or employed long. Grow up!

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  • Suki
    May 12, 2018

    Reverse racism doesn’t exist because white people invented it.

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  • Dr. Nadine Collins
    May 12, 2018

    I believe that the young lady should have been dressed more suitably to give a thesis presentation. In as much as this incident may want to spike up issues of “feminism” or even “racism”, I cannot see it for any of these. Young people nowadays are too hard to “train” in a sense because I think that the teacher was actually looking out for her and asking a reflective question. If we women want to be respected as professionals, we need to present ourselves also as such. I know I would not present a thesis or any paper in a shorts, nor would I want my students to do it!

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  • warriormale
    May 12, 2018

    rly bc last time i checked yalls sweaty balls and asses in suits reeked of real professionalism let the queen wear shorts ya fucking pigass

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  • Daniel
    May 12, 2018

    Sure in the context of a class room who gives a shit about shorts or not heres the question,
    Was the Teacher really just giving her shit for something she didn’t like,
    Or was the comment from classmates true and it was a miss-phrasing and was intended to help her in a professional setting later down the road,

    When i read the headline and the first part of the article i was siding with you, but after reading the entire thing and realizing that in a professional setting, shorts wouldn’t have been seen as appropriate. If the student miss-understood what the teacher said, and took it as ‘ don’t dress like a whore etc” then i can see why she did what she did,

    Due to college students drastically taking things out of context and blowing them out of proportion, and how ‘social justice’ and ‘feminism’ are in the for front of most collage students minds
    i think it was a miss-understanding, but consider it a bold move on her part either way,

    The reason i put quotes around feminism and social justice is because both are so far away from their intended goals that referring to these as such is an insult to what the original goals were and or should be today

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  • E. J.
    May 12, 2018

    You should look up the word racist before using it.

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  • Rawnald Gregory
    May 12, 2018

    If a male did this the police would promptly be escorting him to jail in the name of feminism and he would receive zero community support. Ivy League student acting like a child.

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  • Janet Dudley
    May 12, 2018

    This happened in America, which is a significantly racist society, so mentioning the races of the people involved gives us a better picture of the power dynamic between student and teacher, just as mentioning the sex of the teacher does, since America is a sexist society.

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  • Janet Dudley
    May 12, 2018

    The planet is warming. We need to redefine what formal means, when dressing for the new weather conditions. But the teacher did not couch it in these terms, and that wasn’t what caused the problem. Mentioning male gaze is sexist. Mentioning what your mother might think of you is sexist. It makes you into a sex object, not an informally dressed student. Saying that bare skin is automatically sexual, is sexist. If the teacher had said that short shorts are too informal, that wouldn’t be sexist. Impractical perhaps, in hot weather, but not sexist.

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  • Janet Dudley
    May 12, 2018

    It was not couched in terms of formality, it was couched in terms of bare skin equating a sex object instead of a presenter. It was not a protest against formality, it was a protest about sexism.

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  • Charles
    May 12, 2018

    I teach public speaking and I don’t think I would ever, ever comment on a student’s outfit or body. If dressing up to certain standard is expected of a thesis defense, then it should be made aware and a part of the defense. There is a difference between asking a student to dress to a certain standard–like business casual or formal business–and telling a student that her outfit is “distracting” the male students. This is like saying a woman is responsible for being sexually assaulted or objectified because of what she is wearing. Why should women be expected to adjust their outfit to men? The teacher is way out of line here. No offense, but any male who is too distracted by a woman’s outfit to pay attention to her presentation is an idiot. If dressing to a certain standard is so important then make it a part of the thesis defense.

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  • Todd
    May 12, 2018

    @carmen She was teaching. Teaching her that it was unprofessional to dress that way during a thesis presentation.

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  • Marc
    May 12, 2018

    Obviously never been to uni if you think students wear suits

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  • Shawn Lance Pavlik
    May 12, 2018

    Actually, the professor IS in a position to lecture her on what to wear for a presentation. The professor is doing her job. If this was some type of final presentation, the student should be in more formal attire. I say this as a 20 year teacher.

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  • Yo
    May 12, 2018

    Stripping may have been a bit extreme (also funny), but I don’t get the problem with the shorts. If she is at Cornell I think she is smart enough to know when she can get away with wearing shorts or not and doesn’t need to be lectured on it. She is doing a student presentation, not applying for a job – give me a break. And not all “professional” settings are the same. In some professional / public speaking settings this would be totally acceptable. Case in point – at a sex ed conference. Blaming a girl for the “male gaze” is just bizarre and inappropriate. Not to mention she is a mere student and maybe she can’t afford a suit right now or hasn’t had time to go shopping for fancy clothes! I’m 29 and my only “business clothes” either are old and have nonfunctional zipper or don’t have pockets thanks to the patriarchy. Unless she was informed ahead of time that shorts were outside of the dress code this is inappropriate commentary.

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  • William
    May 12, 2018

    Thank you, Dr. Collins. I also think that the professor was making a relevant comment. The way I see it, what would the audience think if a male student made this presentation in short-shorts? Millennial seem sot believe that any criticism against them is based upon racism or misogyny. They are unwilling to hear criticism based upon experience or common sense.

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  • William
    May 12, 2018

    The ‘journalist’ obviously had an agenda, as evidenced by the harass ‘offensively commented on her clothing…’

    Seriously, the mental weakness of these overprotected ivy league children is stunning.

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  • William
    May 12, 2018

    *the phrase

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  • Jessica Tabarovsky
    May 12, 2018

    I am really a radical feminist, but I am also a coach in presentation and interpersonal communication. I must say that for an academic presentation, there is still a dress code. Like it or not, in a public presentation, verbal messages need support in non-verbal messages and visual cues, and consistency with the verbal message. If there is no such consistency, the effect is counterproductive and damages our presentation. If I want to have an image as an academic, as a researcher, this image must be reinforced by the signs and visual hints, which have to be consistent with the image I want to achieve. That is all. Also, these codes, signals and visual cues are extensively studied in social psychology. The way they work is of utmost importance for communication, and the understanding of the message that the spokesperson wants to pass on.

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  • Makoto
    May 12, 2018

    This young lady is currently trying for the appeal to popularity fallacy by bringing up two popular discussions: feminism and racism. The former is when she keeps bringing up her so called feminism (by wearing anything she wants regardless of the occasion) and the latter when she tries to prevent sympathy for the professor with how she mentioned the professor’s “a white woman”. (As if the professor’s gender and skin colour had weightage over her comment). Perhaps she’s under the impression that considering how everything is painfully PC, by trying to hardsell her behaviour as feminist-friendly and vilify the professor (the “evil white woman”), she’d gain support. If this article were posted in a group with heavy millennial readership, she may though.

    It’s hard to see who may have said what because currently it looks like a “he says, she says” scenario unless someone has a video of the full presentation. The professor could have been indeed commenting on her dress code being short, or the young lady could have been triggered based on the word “short skirt” and thought immediately that the professor was being sexist (and reacted well…like an impulsive teenager rather than a mature one). Then there are her classmates who also mentioned that the professor was talking about dress code in a professional setting, but again, will still need some form of a video to verify that.

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  • Savvy
    May 12, 2018

    Was it in the rubric for the presentation? No?…. Then the comment was out of line. Period. And appealing to the “male gaze” and “what [her] mother would think” being an error in phrasing? This professor said what she meant. If it was about professional dress she would have said something about professional dress. Again if it wasn’t in the rubric, then this professor is simply making a case for the hound dog “boys” she apparently has in her class.

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  • boojhee
    May 12, 2018

    Janet are not American, because you’re wrong to state such sweeping Generalizations , America is not inherently Sexist society and you must not know about True Racist societies , such as middle East and India, south Africa etc. S T F U

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  • Aaron
    May 12, 2018

    Oh please, could you squeeze sexist in there again maybe it will be true. Global warming is a myth

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  • realfeminism
    May 12, 2018

    This girl would never make it in the real world. Try dressing in shorts when giving a business presentation… if a supervisor told her you need to wear a suit, and she strips down even further, she’d get fired on the spot.

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  • Ani
    May 12, 2018

    Lmfao you’re dumb as hell

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  • Jake
    May 13, 2018

    My issue is that the professor could have said something…after the presentation and to the student directly. What was the professor going to get out of saying it to the student in front of the class? Was she suddenly going to say, “Hold on, I’ll run home and change right now?” The intent was to shame her and to make an example of her, not to teach her a lesson about dressing professionally.

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  • Kevin
    May 13, 2018

    Your right reverse racism doesn’t exist. Racism is discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Who’s doing the discriminating and who the target is have no relevance. If a black person beats up a white person for being white its still just racism.

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  • Rachel Madhouse
    May 13, 2018

    Abuse of Title IX protects spoiled Millennial college women. If a male whistled at her, she would go straight to the dean and have him expelled or fired. They’re not progressive. They objectify themselves in order to catch the biggest fish in the gene pool. Revolting, spoiled brats, all of them.

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  • Steph
    May 13, 2018

    No dear, Global Warming is NOT a myth. However, the concept of a “God” IS considered myth. You should open your mind to truth and recognize the difference between PROVEN FACTS and faulty fantasy.

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  • Steph
    May 13, 2018

    Just an f.y.i., the word is ‘misunderstood’, not “miss-understood.” Also, your punctuation is fault.

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  • Anonymous
    May 13, 2018

    Nadine Collins, please don’t generalize all “young people.” Since you are addressing sexism and racism, we might as well discuss ageism. Saying young people are “too hard to train?” Seriously? Are we animals? You sound completely ignorant in your comment. Have you considered reflecting on your skills as a professor rather than pointing all the blame to the students?

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  • Aaron is Dumb
    May 13, 2018

    Global warming is a myth? lmao WOW Go back to school.

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  • Fu H1b
    May 13, 2018

    you’re an !diot. Like people of non-shite skin colors never hated on anyone else in all of the history of humans. You know what, non-white people hating other non-white people because they are white, that’s also racism you d*mb#$$

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  • Jeremy
    May 14, 2018

    The teacher was teaching and the girl got offended. Maybe the teacher should have posed her question better and maybe the girl shouldn’t have been so aggressive with her claim. At the end of the day, it was a battle of egos. One on the teacher’s side, for posing her question as such (she could have said it differently), and one on the student’s side, for wanting to go to the extent that she did.

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  • roxy
    May 14, 2018

    so who’s is the other bare leg in the picture and why are they allowed to wear shorts?

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  • John Don
    May 14, 2018

    11 of the 13 students who were actually there (were you?) thought it necessary to pen a 4 page letter to say that Chais depiction of the events in question were inaccurate and yet here you are demonizing this poor professor because of the sanctimonious actions and account of one person who was clearly looking for attention. Very disturbing how quickly people today are willing to carpet bomb the reputation of someone who has worked their entire life to reach where they are in the blink of an eye for something so petty

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  • Florence
    May 14, 2018

    Right or wrong, people will always accept you for what you project. Unless the advanced degree she was seeking was in the art of strip tease, her reaction was inappropriate and uncalled for. The issue seems to be a disregard for some type of decorum when delivering a presentation. I agree with a previous comment, “who gives a thesis presentation in shorts?” Shows a lack of respect for your goal and yourself. Also read Dr. Nadine Collins comment in this thread. She hits the nail on the head.

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  • kb
    May 14, 2018

    According to the full letter written by the 11 other students, that isn’t even what the professor said.

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  • D.C Jackson
    May 15, 2018

    Kevin you clearly do not know the true definition of racism but frankly it’s quite understandable. You see the true definition has been watered down, modified and redefined over the years just so someone like you could make the kind of statement you just did. You see racism today has been equated with discrimination and prejudice based on race. That actually is partially true. The reality is that back in the 60s and 70s dictionaries such as the Oxford unabridged and various versions of Webster’s including their were more precise. They said, quite accurately that racism was “institutionalized” prejudice or discrimination based on race. You see the difference between your definition and the one I just shared is that if that black person beat up a white person because he was white, If the police were summoned and responded and were white but even accompanied by a black officer they would beat the living crap out of the black guy, while the black officer stood by, before taking him to the station, and then beat the living crap out of him again. He would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    But if the roles were reversed, the white guy would most likely say the black guy attacked him. I have seen this scenario unfold numerous times from beginning to end including with me. Do you know who the police believed in every one of the situation even though it was the white guys word against the black guy who also said that he was attacked by the white guy? In that white men not only beat unarmed black men but shoot and kill them without any criminal penalty being suffered by them and black men under the same circumstances doing the same thing are prosecuted to the full extent of the law should illustrate that.

    Look it up. In stand your ground states where white men shoot unarmed black men because they say they were afraid, 36% get off with no criminal penalty. In those same states when the roles are reversed and black men do the same exact thing, only 3% are exonerated. This is racism. There is no government institution in America where people of color are favored over white people. This is also true of most private institutions. Numerous studies have proven this time and time again. There is no such thing as reverse racism in the U.S., Europe or Australia, NewZealand, Canada, .

    People of color can be prejudiced against white people or even discriminatory but there is no institution that will automatically, take the side of that person over a white person in any of those listed places.

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  • Moi
    May 16, 2018

    We would love to do that until she blew it out of proportion,making her appearance more important than her thesis. Truely, people with that much education in such prestigious college, you sort of think they would act less impulsive and be able to find other more respectful ways to solve the problem. Could she not have talked to the teacher after class about it?

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  • LadyMagnus
    May 16, 2018

    Wow. Seriously, shorts are an entirely unacceptable clothing choice for a presentation. I as a minority woman, would not allow my students to wear shorts to a presentation—and that’s at a community college! If I taught at Cornell, you can bet that I would have had a clearly defined dress code for both men and women.

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  • LadyMagnus
    May 16, 2018

    Yes! And I love that your username is “realfeminism”. It’s about time these neo-feminists ended their charade and that we go back to true, classical feminism—where we can be proud of who we are as women without tearing apart and degrading men, and society in general.

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  • Ann James
    May 17, 2018

    If she wanted the students to be dressed professionally, that should be stated beforehand. Expectations need to be established to avoid situations such as this, and that is part of teaching young people. It’s bad form to interrupt a thesis presentation just to discuss her attire in front of her peers. Now what do you bet that the professor does not make that mistake again. She will establish expectations from now on.

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  • Percy
    May 18, 2018

    I saw the picture and the woman on the right would be more distracting if she went up there was she wearing formal clothes or was she wearing a very short skirt

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  • Kim
    May 18, 2018

    Even if the comment was directed as dressing professionally, the minute u say “attracting male gaze” you are attacking her on a personal level. Its reinforcing the male perspective and status quo in terms power dynamics. If she really wanted to helpbe with reflection she could have spoken to her afterwards, in private. Not in front of everyone before she presents. Big up to the student for not letting her ruin your swag.
    As far as the guys agreeing with the teacher thats bullshit! This is the same country where men believed being rebuffed or rejected is the same as someone throwing a punch at you first; its a sign of violence.
    I call bullshit! What did the other female students think?

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  • Kim
    May 18, 2018

    Did it have to be done in front of the whole class and right before or while she was presenting?
    If it were aa guy in shorts and flip flops would if had been mentioned? The observation was about bare skin and sexualisation masked as professionalism.

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  • Kim
    May 19, 2018

    As a teacher too I can say humiliation in front of your peers while doing something so important is unacceptable. More so than her short shorts. The lecturer should have been mature enough to know how to handle the situation correctly.
    Students must learn not humiliated.

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  • Kim
    May 19, 2018

    Thank you. My thinking exactly. Why do u want to mentally break her before or during her presentation. Shit! Mark her down for being unprofessional, but not in front of others an then to involve other students and their opinions too. Disgraceful for a lecturer. That is the most.unproffesional thing.

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  • TruthfulDog
    May 20, 2018

    boojhee your not educated enough that you forget to mention how some of those societies were colonized by white people, the founding fathers of America were slave owners so you should be the one to shut up. Third world countries which use much less resources per person and ones that were also colonized don’t have any garbage to answer to from first world neocolonist resource exploiters. Societies in the African countries, Middle East, and Asia are mostly homogeneous just like Japan which is also perceived as racist through idiotic reasoning such as yours.

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  • Gerry Lopez
    May 20, 2018

    (sarcastically) If the student really wanted to be edgy and protest, why didn’t she just to the presentation naked? Wimp.

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  • Kevin Sweeney
    May 24, 2018

    Tell yourself, Jackson. Maybe it will come true. If there were reverse racism it would consist of going out of our way to find people that do not have our privileges and forcing them to have them. Making women and non white people take promotions before they are offered to white males in the USA. Paying attention to and respecting women and white people in Japan or China. Spending infrastructure funding on First Nations infrastructure first and let urbanites fend for themselves without government help. Reverse discrimination should be helping rather than harming people. Giving and offering any person more rather than less. Actually building a table rather than a wall when we experience good fortune. Given time, I bet you could come up with many more of these. If you cared to

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