AIT issues apology after MRT incident causes online furor

SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT?:According to a witness, a foreign AIT employee refused to give up a spare seat to old people, while flashing her staff ID card

By Chen Wei-tzu, Chen Hui-ping, and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - Page 3

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has apologized over an incident earlier this month allegedly involving discourteous behavior by a staff member on an MRT train in Taipei.

A woman surnamed Shen (沈) said that while traveling on the MRT’s Tamsui line on June 5, a female foreigner took up two seats in the carriage, occupying the seat next to her with tote bags and other personal belongings.

Shen posted on her Facebook page that when an elderly couple boarded the train at Zhongshan Station, she got up and offered her seat to the pair and asked the foreign woman to free up one of her seats so that the couple could both sit down.

“However, the woman refused and rudely admonished me for not having said ‘please,’” Shen said.

“While berating me, she said she was an American and flashed her AIT employee card. It was as if she was implying that Americans can take up extra seats and do not have to give up those seats to anyone,” Shen added.

A passenger took a photograph of the woman — who had wavy red hair and was pictured trying to shield her face from being photographed — and posted it online. Netizens then began to circulate the story and condemn her behavior.

Shen’s son and other netizens repeatedly posted demands for an explanation on the “Ask AIT” section of the AIT’s Facebook page, and asked the institute to verify if she was a staff member.

Shen’s son said he received a letter of apology from the AIT on Monday last week.

Content from the letter was also posted on the AIT’s Facebook page, and read: “We have identified the person in the picture as an AIT employee, and appropriate action is being taken. We will not provide the name of the person or the actions taken because of our obligations under the US Privacy Act.”

“We regret that Mr Hsiung’s mother was inconvenienced during her MRT ride. We are investigating the incident internally and will handle it appropriately. In the meantime, please be aware that the American Institute in Taiwan strongly believes in encouraging personnel associated with AIT to abide by local regulations governing public transit,” the letter added.