ASUC Senate approves bill seeking apology from Daily Cal for controversial advertisement

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The ASUC Senate passed a bill Wednesday criticizing The Daily Californian for publishing what the bill claims is a racially insensitive advertisement.

The bill, SB 17, was drafted after many members of the campus community expressed offense at the Sept. 17 publication of an advertisement in the Daily Cal that referenced Asian-specific plastic surgery. With its passage, the bill asks the newspaper to apologize for running the advertisement and asks ASUC President DeeJay Pepito to create a task force to investigate the campus climate for students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

“The issue from the view of a lot of folks was that (the advertisement) was defining forms of beauty,” said CalSERVE Senator Sevly Snguon, the bill’s author.

The advertisement for Dr. Chase Lay, a Bay Area cosmetic surgeon, ran multiple times and emphasized Lay’s specialty in “Asian Facial Plastics & Eyelid Surgery.” The advertisement featured images of Asian women who have undergone eyelid surgery.

Lay noted in an interview shortly after the bill was originally introduced that he generally turns younger patients away if they come in wanting to look “dramatically different.”

“Nobody in my office comes in and asks to look Caucasian or Western,” Lay said.

At the senate meeting, Sarah Burns, editor in chief and president of the Daily Cal, reiterated the newspaper’s policy of screening potentially controversial advertisements. The Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board can review such advertisements prior to publication and determine whether to publish them. Although this advertisement was not reviewed before publication, the board decided not to let it print again after receiving criticism from the campus community, Burns said.

Burns said in an interview that the Daily Cal has not decided whether to issue the apology called for by the bill but that the senate “was doing what they thought was the right thing to do.”

While some campus community members said the advertisement did not offend them, others expressed concern over its implications.

“Senator Snguon and I worked very hard on making sure that the bill itself really focused on not defining what beauty is in the academic culture that we’re in,” said Student Action Senator Karen Lee, who co-sponsored the bill.

After the Sept. 17 printing of the advertisement, Pepito posted a photo of the advertisement on Facebook, calling it “very triggering and problematic.”

“I deplore the pressure on Asian women with regard to plastic surgery and appearance,” said Elaine Kim, a professor in the campus ethnic studies department, in an email. 

Some Asian students, however, said they were not particularly offended or surprised by the advertisement. Although undergoing eyelid surgery may seem unusual to some in Western culture, it is common among young girls in some parts of Asia, including South Korea.

“It’s sad to acknowledge that I don’t really feel anything towards (the advertisement), because I’m very used to it,” said Rachel Lee, a UC Berkeley sophomore of Korean descent.“It’s a very sensitive topic for girls … I’m just not a huge fan at all.”

Contact Jennie Yoon and Jessie Lau at [email protected].