Students respond to Suburban Express controversy

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

Over the weekend, transportation company Suburban Express sent out a controversial advertisement that made discriminatory comments directed at Chinese international students at the University.

The advertisement was followed by two “apologies,” the first of which was deemed “offensive, bigoted, insulting and in direct opposition to the values of the University” by school officials.

Another apology message was sent by owner Dennis Toeppen to The Daily Illini and three University officials who condemned the company on Sunday afternoon. He called the remarks made in the advertisement “ill-advised statements to make, because it upset the very people we were sad to have lost.”

Jaidah Statham, junior in LAS, said Suburban Express could have used a different approach to get more people to use their transportation instead of saying something racist.

“I feel that it was very discriminating,” Statham said. “It was directed to a different race, but if it were directed to me, I would’ve taken it very personally. That’s something that you don’t say.”

Ivee Che, graduate student in accounting, said she feels surprised and shocked by the statements.

I feel like Suburban Express is not doing good,” Che said. “I’ve heard since my freshman year they had some racist things, but I didn’t realize they still had that now.”

Hannah Gutierrez, senior in LAS, said the statement was really disgusting to read about, and she would never want to ride with them after reading it.

“I don’t really think there’s any going back, because their subsequent apologies have been worse and worse,” Gutierrez said. “They don’t really feel bad for what they said.”

Gutierrez said she thought the University responded because the students put pressure on them, and they wouldn’t have done so on their own.

Ruchi Amin, sophomore in computer science, said the apology was more like an attack.

“In my opinion, a better apology would have been if they owned up to what they did and they genuinely meant it, but I don’t think they genuinely meant their apology,” Amin said. “They sent another one just sending out a coupon code, basically, and then saying sorry all over again, as if that would make things better, but it didn’t.”

Amin said she wasn’t expecting the University to release a statement on the incident, but she thinks it is really great that they did.

“I feel like that’s really needed, considering a lot of the U of I population consists of international students, people of all different types of races, backgrounds, cultures,” Amin said. “They first attack (Chinese students), we don’t know who they’re going to attack next. I think it’s really unfair that they did that.”

Amin said she’s probably only going to take Peoria Charter from now on.

The controversial emails are receiving attention from across the country. Since this afternoon, a petition has over 850 signatures from, calling on Congress to speak out against Suburban Express. 

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