Georgetown University’s Chinese students need President John J. DeGioia’s support.

On Feb. 13, 2018, FBI Director Christopher Wray implied Chinese students and faculty in America are spies in a Senate Intelligence Committee testimony.

Wray’s xenophobia, fearmongering and discrimination run counter to Georgetown’s values of inclusion, respect and intercultural understanding. We implore DeGioia to share his thoughts in the form of a universitywide message on this event that caused great stress and fear in many of our lives, in the same way he has always condemned racially targeted discrimination against other minority groups.

On Feb. 13, Wray claimed China’s “use of nontraditional collectors, especially in the academic setting — whether it’s professors, scientists, students,” is visible in almost every FBI field office around the country.

He also attacked America’s Chinese society at large: “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat, but a whole-of-society threat on their end, and I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us.”

We did not completely understand what he meant by a whole-of-society response. But if he meant mobilization of one part of society against the other, we have deep reasons to fear. Wray’s statement turned us into potential suspects and our friends, roommates and professors into suspicious onlookers.

This paranoia is not new.

During World War II, when Americans launched whole-of-society responses against Japanese-Americans, they called them spies and sent them to internment camps. This moment was one of the darkest in U.S. history. We must be cautious of calls to mobilize society against a specific ethnic group.

Wray was, in effect, calling for a witch hunt fueled by xenophobia and McCarthyist craze. When a society cries out “national security” as an excuse for hatred, civil rights violations often occur. When you judge people categorically based on their race or country of origin, liberty and reason wither in pain.

This problem does not only affect Chinese students. No matter your race, origin or how long you have lived in America, if you look different, you are a target.

DeGioia has been a champion of minorities at Georgetown, and we hope he continues to play that role for Chinese students.

When the Muslim travel ban terrorized our Muslim students, DeGioia made a statement to the student body Jan. 29, 2017: “We recognize the invaluable role that our Muslim and international students, scholars, staff, and faculty play—and the importance of protecting the ability of all members of our community to freely practice their religion.”

These words of inclusivity warmed our hearts and gave us courage.

When the Trump administration launched its attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DeGioia made a statement to the student body Sept. 5, 2017: “We have the capacity, and responsibility, as a nation to provide a permanent legislative solution to support our undocumented students.”

These words of hope warmed our hearts and gave us courage.

When hatred descended on our Jewish population and a swastika was found during Rosh Hashanah, DeGioia made a statement to the student body Sep. 20, 2017: “We stand in solidarity with our Jewish community and strongly condemn this act of hate, anti-Semitism, and sexism.”

These words of solidarity warmed our hearts and gave us courage.

When injustice engulfed the black community in Ferguson, DeGioia made a statement to the student body Dec. 10, 2014: “As Fr. Pedro Arrupe … reminds us, ‘to be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice.’ A just society requires that its members accept responsibilities for one another; that we are prepared to take care of one another; that we are prepared to sacrifice for one another.”

These words of justice warmed our hearts and gave us courage.

This time, the barrel of injustice is pressed against the head of the Chinese students. Just like the words of Fr. Arrupe he quoted, DeGioia must not merely refrain from injustice. He must accept responsibility and take care of his students. He must respond.

Happy Lunar New Year.

The Asian American Student Association, the International Student Association and the Chinese Student Association contributed to this viewpoint.

Yi Bao is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and the Political Awareness Committee co-chair for AASA. Kamar Mack is a junior in the College and the president of the Georgetown University Student Association. Gary Sipeng Xie is a junior in the SFS and a GUSA senator.


  1. What do you propose be done about Confucius Institutes as they are arms of a dictatorial totalitarian government?

    What about those students who are spies or are stealing sensitive tech information?

    All that I am mentioning is happening and the people mostly involved are mainland Chinese. Do we just shrug and say, “Oh well.”

    We didn’t let the Soviets come here en masse. This is no different. It has nothing to do with race. This has nothing in common with Japanese internment. It has to do with allowing foreign national to come here in great numbers from a country with leadership diametrically opposed to all we believe in. With no vetting process to differentiate between CPC Loyalists and people who actually prefer the West.

  2. He said there “could be” spies among them This is silly. And certainly not journalism.

  3. I’m not arguing we should allow spies or to disregard national security.

    What I am against is “whole-of-society” approach as Director Wray suggests. You can’t just believe that since a government believes in something, every single human being living within that government’s borders believe in something.

    I don’t understand how this is different from Japanese internment. We don’t need a societal response.

    There is a fine line between national security and xenophobic paranoia. Wray crossed the line. I’m open to more constructive ways to protect national security.

  4. You don’t understand how this is different from Japanese internment? So just to be clear, in your mind, less-than-articulate wording is the equivalent of rounding up innocent human beings on the basis of their race? Well.

  5. You are focusing on the wrong part of the argument. This has been an issue of concern for the past 15 years. The Obama Administration’s State Department strongly pushed to restrict foreign national students from research related to defense technology such as munitions, nuclear engineering and satellite technology.

    There are several cases of PRC students stealing university intellectual property or research data and transferring it back to the PRC, see the Duke University case. China, like Russia, or Israel, or any other foreign nation look to gain an advantage in tech and the openness of universities are exploited.

    Wray isn’t advocating a systematic exclusion of Chinese students but a vetting process for ALL students of every background if they are going to be working with University intellectual property or government contracts.

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