At issue: Students treat cultural communities with disrespect
Our take: Chinatown is more than a food court
When Emerson moved from Back Bay to the Theater District in 1987, the new location presented students the opportunity to explore an area with vast historical and cultural significance. Sadly, this narrative of enlightenment and exploration did not come to fruition. Students treat Chinatown like a hot spot for a late-night drunk snack instead of a neighborhood full of hardworking people and vital businesses.
Because Emerson’s population and location strays away from the conventional college or university image, many students have reimagined the city of Boston as their own campus. Emerson students have used the school’s lack of a physical campus as a way to claim certain spaces, such as City Place and the Common, as their own. The same phenomenon has transposed into Chinatown—where students often treat the neighborhood like an extension of the school.
While it is easy to justify frequent visits to Chinatown as a way of supporting small businesses, this is pointless if we aren’t treating these places with the respect they deserve. The residents are already threatened with eviction from their homes by short-term rental companies like Airbnb, and the last thing they need is for their home and community to become a commodified social space for college students who don’t value or understand the local culture.
The neighborhood offers students much more than dumplings and bubble tea. Yes, the food is nice for students on a budget, but these businesses are not a secondary dining hall for Emerson students. Shop at one of their grocery stores and try branching out with new foods besides fried rice and lo mein, or visit the historic Hayden Building at 681 Washington Street. Chinatown isn’t here for your midnight romps and college shenanigans—would you stumble into an Italian Bistro in the North End wasted at 2 a.m. demanding spaghetti and meatballs?
Emerson students, lacking a true campus, are often tempted to lay claim over the entirety of downtown Boston. Remember when a class actually made a petition to change the name of the Boylston Street MBTA station to Emerson College Station? We have the privilege of proximity to great Boston locations, but this does not mean we are entitled to overtake them.