Over two dozen people stripped to bras or boxers, with about half the room remaining in states of undress for the entirety of Chai’s thesis. She also hosted an informal roundtable with students and teachers on methods of diversity and inclusion training for faculty.
During Letitia Chai's practice run on May 2, Chai told the paper she was wearing a blue button-down shirt and jean shorts. According to her, performing and media arts professor Rebekah Maggor asked her "Is that really what you would wear?"
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.”
Soon after the professor went out to talk to Chai and then asked her student what her mother would think of her clothing choice. “My mom is a feminist, gender and sexuality studies professor. She’s fine with my shorts,” Chai answered.
When Maggor then asked Chai what she was going to do, she replied, “I’m going to give the best damn speech of my life.” Chai stripped down to her bra and underwear and walked back into the room, and presented her thesis in those clothing.
Later, taking to Facebook, she invited public to her final presentation, however, not taking any names of fellow students or professor. During the introduction of her thesis on Saturday, Chai walked into wearing the same clothes she had worn in class. “Strip, everybody!” a teary Chai said she stood in solidarity with people who have been asked to “question themselves” based on others’ perception of their appearances, stripping down to her underwear again in front of the room.
Her presentation was live-streamed on Facebook and has garnered a lot of attention online.
However, 11 of the 13 other students that were in class that day wrote a joint statement to the daily that they supported Chai’s protest but not her public account of the incident. “The majority of us are students of colour, 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 read. “We do not want to discredit [Letitia’s] narrative.”
“[Maggor] is a gift to Cornell,” the statement read, stating that the students felt Chai’s post did not “adequately represent [Maggor’s] past and continued advocacy for women and minorities” and that Maggor had “apologized on more than one occasion,” the Cornell Sun added quoting the joint statement.