These days, the heads of the Asian American Student Association at Vanderbilt University are meeting on Tuesday evening via Zoom. They'd all signed out one night last month when a board member texted everyone else. Did you see the news? A shooter killed eight people in Atlanta, six of them women of Asian origin. This after Months full of news about Asian looking people in America being molested and beaten by those who blamed them for the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I don't think I had time to process it," said Valerie Kim, chairwoman of the association's advocacy group. It was after 9 p.m. in Sylvania, Ohio where she learns for the term from afar. She got ready for bed. “I read it and thought, 'Put the phone away. Check this out tomorrow. “It was just a lot. That only added to the stress we had with the administration. "
The group leaders and other students and faculty members had urged Vanderbilt to provide more support for students experiencing stress and anxiety, but they were not satisfied with the administration's response and had not spoken publicly about the efforts made with their membership. Then, when Kim woke up the morning after the shootings, she saw optimistic government news about Founding Day but no recognition of what appeared to be the worst hate crime against Asian Americans in a generation. (The police have not yet produced any evidence of the shooter's motive.)
"This was just a slap in the face," said Kim.
The group quickly wrote an open letter. The shootings "sent a reverberant message of fear to our Asian and Asian-American communities," it said Explanationthe guides posted on Instagram. "We urge the administration to take these sustainable measures."
They asked Vanderbilt to have discussions about anti-Asian prejudice on campus. Create courses in Asian American Studies and a study program for Asian Americans and Diaspora. Start and staff an Inter-Asian center that runs community events for Asian-identifying students. Hire an Asian-American psychologist at the university's counseling center.
When asked about the group's demands and the timing of the university's statement, a Vanderbilt spokesman, Damon Maida, responded by email. "Although Vanderbilt has made strides over the years in creating a campus environment where all students can feel welcome and included, we know we have more to do as this work never gets completed," he wrote. "We are actively meeting with students and faculties to work together to tackle the ongoing violence against Asians and Asian Americans."
Student groups are now forming at other universities across the country similar requirements. They say they are tired of learning about Asian-American history and educating other students on their own. "It's outside of our studies," said Stephanie Zhang, chief of staff of activists for Asia Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) at Emory University. "We pay to go to college, but they keep using us as advisors or something."
Often times, the letters outlined changes that student groups had driven for years. At Duke University, student group leaders pointed out a petition for a department of ethnic studies. from 2003. But the students knew that the Atlanta tragedy could create a new urgency for the administrators. "I thought," All right, let's go. Let's do this, ”said Wesley Wei, president of the AASA chapter of Vanderbilt.
The Intercollegiate APIDA Coalition has a letter with signatories from 40 four-year colleges, including allied groups such as the Vanderbilt NAACP and the University of Notre Dame's Latinx Student Alliance.
Some parts of the letters corresponded to those of the black student organizations and their supporters written last summerwhen anti-racism anti-black protests erupted across the country in the United States. Some activists recognized their black counterparts. "Much of our organization follows the blueprint created by black transformative justice activists," Grace Bautista, historian with the Asian American Student Association at George Washington University, wrote in an email. "There are also no Asian-American studies without Africana studies."
In other ways, the students' letters and work underscore the unique racist position of Asian Americans in American society and higher education. Lots of activists The Chronicle talked to talked about the feeling of being invisible to their universities. It appeared that some administrators disagreed that Asian American students needed additional assistance due to the number of people entering and graduating colleges as a whole. The exemplary minority myth, the misperception that all Asian Americans are successful unlike other black people in the United States, also raises its head. "It was always like they were fine," said Sharon S. Lee, Ed.D. Online program manager for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied the history of Asian-American student activism in Illinois.
Lee, other Asian American researchers in higher education, and Asian American students themselves claim they are not all well. They pointed to studies in which Asian-American college students report continue to face Racism in predominantly white institutions. At Duke University, students a Timeline of racist and homophobic incidents on campus, including acts in 2019 and 2013 that students of Asian descent found vilified. As long as Asian American students are discriminated against, administrators still have a responsibility to provide support services, even if student numbers are not an issue, argued Lee. “Underrepresentation is really important. We have to start there, "she said," but we can't end up with overrepresentation. "
In addition, some Asian Americans remain underrepresented in higher education. Despite the overall high college ratings of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and some Southeast Asian Americans remain significantly less likely Having college degrees as white people. To counteract this pattern, Duke student groups are grouped together required Administrators split their data on Asian American admission rates based on ethnicity. And Asian Americans as a whole continue to be underrepresented in some college leadership teams and in doctoral programs in education, humanities, and social sciences. In Illinois, some faculty members petitioned the government to count Southeast Asian Americans as underrepresented minorities in a diversity recruitment initiative.
"Asian Americans are believed to be overrepresented everywhere because of the model minority stereotype," said Sam Museus, professor of education studies at the University of California at San Diego. "It's just not true."
The pandemic-related hate crimes and the Atlanta shootings challenged the stereotypes that Asian Americans are not exposed to life-threatening racism and that they are all rich, well educated, and well assimilated. Under the Victims of the Atlanta shootings It was low-wage workers who took on multiple jobs to stay afloat and women who were marginalized for working in massage parlors.
The deaths of these women and the way the public spoke about them afterwards underscored the need for more Asian-American studies on college campuses, Emorys Zhang said. "A lot of anti-Asian violence occurs because people have these false accounts of Asian Americans as strange / sick / tiny / hypersexual / etc.," she wrote in an email. "The importance of Asian-American studies and education in relation to Asian-American history is to demystify these narratives."
Zhang had been following the news of attacks on people of Asian origin during the pandemic. However, many of these stories came from San Francisco and New York City. "I knew the violence was real, but it felt further away," she said. The spa shoots brought her home for Zhang, who grew up in the suburbs outside of Atlanta. "Some of the women who were killed with their children were in high schools in my district," she said. Now, as a college student, she would like Emory to hire more Asian American studies professors in some cases so that students interested in studying the Asian American communities in Atlanta can have them as counselors.
Emory groups have not published a letter of application, but student activists have asked the university for some changes over the past few years. In addition to more attitudes towards Asian-American studies, they sought the creation of an Asian-American alumni association and a student center. They succeeded in the last question: Emory will get an Asian student center next fall.
(tagsToTranslate) Emory University (t) Vanderbilt University (t) George Washington University (t) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (t) University of California at San Diego (t) Student life