Being among the few Big Ten universities that lack Asian cultural centers, it has been very difficult for the many student organizations of Purdue to come together and educate the campus on Asian cultures.
It is imperative now more than ever for a platform that would facilitate culturally meaningful programming.
To address this, 20 Purdue Asian student organizations, led by the Asian-American Association and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, have taken initiative to organize a festival to celebrate Asian food, culture, and the enriching diversity of Asian heritage students on campus with an end goal of starting a fund for an Asian Cultural Center using the event proceeds.
The Taste of Asia, a food festival and cultural show, will take place on Sept. 29 from 1-7 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas, 535 W. State St., as part of continuing efforts of student organizations to educate their peers about unique Asian cultures.
Similar to the annual Taste of Chicago, the Taste of Asia will offer myriad booths serving both entrees and samples of different Asian cuisines and will offer cultural performances in the latter part of the day. The support has been generous with sponsorship from P&G, Boston Scientific and West Lafayette’s Echo Karaoke. For more information, please visit http://tasteofasia.net78.net/.
In addition, many feel that the administration has failed to fully and positively represent this population. Now students are hoping for increased efforts on the administration’s part toward better resources, such as a center, for Asian/Asian-American students.
According to the 2009-2010 Purdue University Data Digest, Asian-Americans made up the largest population of undergraduate ethnic minorities as well as professional minorities, and the second largest group of minority graduate students. But unlike the black, Latino and Native American communities, Asian/Asian-American students do not have a center where they can go to seek literature, art, history, etc. on their cultures.
Kate Agathon, Purdue alum who received her master’s in education at Northwestern University before receiving her Ph.D at Purdue, is a very active force in the Asian-American community and serves as the commissioner for the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission. When asked why she thinks Purdue still has not established a cultural center, she said, “There is no single reason that can be attributed to Purdue not having an Asian/Asian-American Cultural Center. Some factors include: …the misconception that as the ‘model minority,’ Asians/Asian-Americans excel academically, or have large enough numbers they don’t need the institutional support to excel that other minority groups do.
“Regardless of the reasons, it is clear that Purdue is woefully behind peer institutions within the Committee of Institutional Cooperation.”
As for the impact on the Purdue community, Agathon adds, “Without a cultural center, Asian/Asian-Americans on campus risk isolation. … we are doing a disservice by not offering the same quality experience that other students have at peer institutions that do offer cultural centers.”
This long-awaited goal has set a large group of students to start a campaign to grab the University’s attention and begin plans on an Asian cultural center. And in support, part of the profits from this festival will go toward this campaign. In the words of Agathon, “This is 2012, why are we still fighting?”