When your fed up! A Cornell University student stripped down to her underwear while giving her presentation. She did this after a few days prior, her professor told her the shorts she was wore were too short.
Cornell University student Letitia Chai stripped down to her underwear while delivering a presentation this week after a professor reportedly told her that her shorts were “too short” just days earlier. About two dozen of Chai’s fellow students joined in.
“This topic transcends all of our social identities and taps right into the heart of who we are,” Chai, a fourth-year student, said to a room of nearly 50 people while presenting her thesis paper on May 5, as seen in a livestream of the event.
Chai began undressing as she held back tears, first removing her shoes, then her pants and, lastly, her shirt.
“I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being,” she said while undressing. “And I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step, or rather this next strip, in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and to seeing each other for who we truly are — members of the human race.”
Then 28 of the 44 people in the room also took off their clothes, The Cornell Sun reported. Although Chai’s protest happened last week, her story didn’t hit national news until Thursday.
The protest came just days after Chai was presenting a trial run of her thesis in her class “Acting in Public: Performance in Everyday Life” on May 2. When Chai went to give her trial run presentation, professor Rebekah Maggor questioned the student’s outfit choice.
Cornell student Letitia Chai strips while giving her senior thesis presentation on May 5.
“Is that really what you would wear?” Maggor asked Chai, according to a Facebook post the student wrote later that day.
Chai, who was wearing a long-sleeve button-down shirt and jean cutoff shorts, said she was “shook” by Maggor’s alleged comments.
“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 wrote on Facebook, noting that her professor is a white woman. “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.”
According to Chai, a male international student then made a comment that a presenter has a “moral obligation” to the audience to dress conservatively, at which point Chai fled the room in tears.
“I am not responsible for anyone’s attention because we are capable of thinking for ourselves and we have agency,” Chai told The Cornell Sun, referring to Maggor’s alleged comments that her outfit would invite the wrong type of attention.
Maggor responded to Chai’s protest in an email to the Sun.
“I do not tell my students what to wear, nor do I define for them what constitutes appropriate dress,” she said. “I ask them to reflect for themselves and make their own decisions.”
After Chai gathered herself, she came back into the classroom, stripped down to her underwear and gave her full thesis presentation. In a Facebook post, Chai said she would do the same for her actual thesis presentation and encouraged others to attend and do the same.
According to a statement written by 11 of the other 13 students in Maggor’s class that day, the situation may have gone down a bit differently than Chai wrote on Facebook.