Asian-American students are petitioning to increase their academic representation once again.
At an Asian American Cultural Center event on Friday evening entitled “Asian-American Identity and the Black/White Binary,” conversations allowed roughly 40 attendees to voice their opinions on four topics: structural racism, interpersonal relations, inter-community solidarities and intra-community politics. The event was also meant to provide a setting for academic-level discussion, as there are no classes offered this semester with an Asian-American focus, according to the AACC’s Asian-American studies coordinators Karen Zheng ’17 and Cassie Tarleton ’16.
Austin Long ’15 — current head of the Asian-American Studies Task Force — said academic representation of Asian-Americans is an important goal for their community.
“We have a great cultural house and a thriving community, but Yale is an academic institution, and we’d like to see the student representation within the curriculum as well,” Long said.
Zheng, who helped organize the event, said that her desire to host this conversation was inspired by the racial violence that was happening throughout the nation over the summer.
On a retreat she attended with other Asian-American student group leaders, they discussed Ferguson and its relevance to the Asian-American community. Zheng said she wanted these discussions to continue back at Yale.
The event was held in the style of a fishbowl discussion, inviting attendees to share personal stories and discuss means for change. Students shared the stereotypes attached to being Asian-American and some of the issues this has led to both on campus and in their own home communities.
Tarleton said that although most attendees identified as Asian-American, the event was intended to be inclusive.
“These are conversations for both within the Asian-American community and for all groups,” she said.
Mary Lui, a tenured history professor, is the only professor who teaches Asian-American studies at Yale. In previous years, she has taught “Asian-American History: 1800–Present,” “Asian-American Women and Gender 1830–Present” and “Asian-American History and Historiographies.” However, Lui is on leave this semester, and due to lack of replacement, there is no class offered. Liu and AACC Dean Saveena Dhall could not be reached for comment.
The Asian-American Studies Task Force was formed in 2008 to try and combat the discrepancy between student representation and academic representation, Long said. Despite the fact that it was established over five years ago, he said, the Task Force has struggled to reach its objectives. The lack of collaboration from the faculty and administration has been a major obstacle, Long said.
“The administration tries to conflate Asian studies with Asian-American studies, refusing to acknowledge the differences between the two,” he said.
As a response to the dearth of courses, undergraduate students have taken to independently studying an Asian-American curriculum.
Lili Johnson GRD ’19 said she is setting up a reading group that will allow students to study Asian-American studies.
“The reading group is meant to provide a safe and generative space for students to explore Asian-American studies and identity. All ideas, identities, backgrounds, subject positions are welcome.” Johnson said.
The Asian-American Task Force will host the first Asian-American Studies Conference in the spring (Feb. 26–28), Long said. The conference will spark further discussion on the issue of Asian-American under-representation in the Yale curriculum and generate more exchanges with faculty and administration.
The Asian American Students Association was founded in 1969.