Bus company faced investigation after sending out discriminatory ad in midwest US

Alicia Farmer
December 6, 2017

The Saturday ad sent via email publicized shuttle services from Urbana-Champaign to various Chicago suburbs throughout the university's holiday break.

Suburban Express, an Illinois based bus company, was subpoenaed for discriminatory ad against Chinese students, according to a statement made by Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Computerized ticketing, automated ticket machines, and then Internet ticketing were introduced - before other companies even considered them.

An apology email sent shortly after only dug a deeper hole, as the company slammed U of I for enrolling too many foreign students. "You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses", the ad read.

A short time later, Suburban sent a second email it titled "Apology" - but the message didn't sound apologetic.

In a follow-up email entitled, "Apology", the second message referencing the University of Illinois' global student population was ridiculed as potentially more offensive than the initial ad itself.

The subpoena requests all pertinent documents, records and information that will help determine whether the company's policies and practices violate the Illinois Human Rights Act which precludes denying accommodations to a person or group of people based on age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. "The remark is being interpreted as a slap in the face of all non-caucasians for some reason, and that was not how it was intended", the email read.

"We are looking forward to working with all students, organizations, and IL officials on this matter", the company states. U of I is a state school that is funded by taxpayers and is built on land granted by the people of the State of IL.

The U of I also says they can't stop the business from operating on public roads, including those that run through campus, but the university has banned them from advertising on campus.

Student senator Sam LeRoy on Monday praised UI officials for their quick response and for calling out Suburban Express "not just for this incident but what truly is a long history of harassing students".

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An Illinois bus company is being investigated after it posted what some have called a "racist" ad. "These types of racist and bigoted statements attacking any members of our community deserve nothing but condemnation from all of us", the university said in a strongly worded statement.

"We are looking forward to working with all students, organizations, and IL officials on this matter", the statement read.

Pawar, who sits on the council's joint committee for aviation and budget and government operations, said the city could exercise some regulatory authority over the company because it provides shuttle service to O'Hare International Airport. It is the gateway to Chicago.

In the Suburban Express's apology email, the company admits that the line was a remark "based on the fact that our competitor mostly handles Chinese worldwide students". For years, the company has adopted an aggressive stance in criticizing customers it says violated its policies and toward competing bus companies, which it has disparaged on its website.

Suburban Express could not be reached for comment.

"We agreed that the comment was inappropriate and we promptly apologized", the company added.

Suburban Express has courted controversy in the past.

It concludes: "In any event, we did not intend to offend half the planet".

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