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Cornell student presents thesis in her underwear to combat ‘oppressive beliefs and discrimination’

she wore her underwear
The student studies at one of the US' most prestigious universities, Cornell. Source: Lewis Liu/Shutterstock.

A senior at Cornell University stripped to her underwear during her thesis delivery after being told during a test run her ‘shorts were too short’.

Letitia Chai’s presentation was streamed via Facebook live as she protested the “oppressive beliefs and discrimination” she felt she faced after being told her clothing had anything to with how her presentation was received.

Chai alleged she was asked “Is that really what you would wear?” by her professor when conducting a mock presentation in a shirt and shorts.

Chai’s actions were met with a mixed response. She reported many students rallied in support, also removing their own clothes but others sided with the teacher, feeling dressing “inappropriately” is disrespectful.

According to Yahoo, one international student was particularly taken aback, claiming Chai had “a moral obligation to dress more conservatively” out of respect.

Chai wrote in a Facebook post her professor had told her “in front of [her] whole class” that she was “inviting the male gaze” onto her body and detracting from her presentation.

“I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being,” Chai said while removing her clothes during the presentation.

“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.”

She implored the audience to join her in an act of “solidarity”.

“This is for every Asian woman who was told to speak up lest others think she’s submissive,” Chai wrote on Facebook.

“This is for every POC man who was told to pull his pants to be taken seriously, and every POC woman who was asked to straighten her hair to seem intelligent. This is for every gay friend who was told to dress more ‘straight’ so that others didn’t feel weird around him/her/them. This is for us.”

Ironically, Chai’s protest was during the class “Acting in Public: Performance in Everyday Life”

The Cornell Sun reported 28 of the 44 people in the room joined Chai by removing their clothing.

Many students have clarified the professor who allegedly made the comments is an “outstanding member” of the university and her comments were “unfairly represented”.

In a statement made by 11 of the students present it was detailed how the professor may have made “an error in phrasing” but had “apologized on more than one occasion.”

“The majority of us are students of color, from multi-ethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia’s frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country,” the statement continued.

“We do not want to discredit her narrative. However, we feel it is important and our obligation to share our impression of Wednesday’s events to provide a fair representation of the situation.”

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